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Graphic Novels in the Classroom? Why Not!

I found myself at the Baltimore Convention Center recently, attending the annual two-day Maryland comic book extravaganza known as the Baltimore Comic-Con, where I attended a panel on using comics in the classroom.

John C. Weaver, an English teacher at Williamsport Area High School in central Pennsylvania, was one of the panelists. He said using graphic novels in the classroom provides significant advantages: They appeal both to strong and reluctant readers; they encourage students to better understand "visual grammar" (how sequenced images relate to one another); and they can help students develop strategies for analyzing text and images, which he noted supports the English/language arts common-core requirement of understanding text complexity.

Weaver has had success using elements of James Joyce's classic tome Ulysses in conjunction with Ulysses 'seen,' an online graphic novel by Robert Berry and several collaborators. Berry created the comic with a group of like-minded people as a first foray (among many planned) to foster "understanding of public domain literary masterworks by joining the visual aid of the graphic novel with the explicatory aid of the Internet," according to an explanation on the comic's website. The aim is to help preserve the vitality, and proliferation, of masterworks for the future. Weaver said the lesson has led some of his students to become Joyce fans, which is no small feat for such a difficult text as Ulysses.

As a side note, during the panel Weaver also summarized methods that he's used in his 12th grade English class to teach Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen, a graphic novel set in an alternate reality in 1985 where the world is on the brink of nuclear war and superheroes are either outlawed or government agents. Watchmen is not your run-of-the-mill graphic novel. In 2005, it made Time magazine's list of top 100 English-language novels written since 1923. According to Weaver, Watchmen's complexity and literary merit make it a rich text to study and explore inside the classroom.

—Catherine A. Cardno


Index Rates 'Parent Power'

The "Parent Power Index," a new interactive online tool from the Center for Education Reform, is designed to show parents how much influence they have over certain aspects of their children's education in their state.

To create its index, the Washington-based organization used a select group of indicators that reflect its pro-charter position. The criteria include: charter schools, school choice, teacher quality, and the availability of online learning.

Indiana is ranked No. 1 and Montana No. 51.

The index highlights whether a state has a "parent trigger" law or a "pro-reform governor."

Each state summary includes "Fast Facts," such as the graduation rate, average sat and act scores, national assessments results, per-pupil funding, transparency, and public school enrollment.

"The Parent Power Index represents the first time someone has quantified for parents how much power they do or don't have over their child's education," CER President Jeanne Allen said in a statement.

—Michele Molnar

Vol. 32, Issue 05, Page 12

Published in Print: September 26, 2012, as Blogs of the Week
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