Reading & Literacy

Comics in the Classroom

By Rich Shea — September 29, 2006 2 min read

When he first saw The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, the “comic book version” of the almost-600-page 9/11 Commission Report, on a bookstore shelf, Dan Tandarich was shocked. After flipping through it, however, the 5th grade teacher at Public School 124 in Brooklyn decided that condensing and illustrating the commission’s findings was a great idea. “I wouldn’t pick up a non-graphic version of the report,” he says. “You could have a whole new set of 9/11 [report] readers.”

The readers he has in mind are middle- and high-schoolers, not his own students. (They’re too young.) But Tandarich is among a growing number of educators nationwide using comic books—and their full-length siblings, graphic novels—as literacy tools.

See Also

Read the accompanying story,

Making Spidey Sense

For many reasons—parents weaned on comics, Hollywood adaptations, growing acceptance in literary circles—illustration-based volumes have grown in popularity over the past decade. They warrant their own sections in bookstores and libraries, where picture-heavy takes on classic novels, biographies, and history books proliferate. Critics, however, argue that the content found in such works is either too inappropriate or dumbed-down to use in classrooms.

Tandarich, who helps kids transition from picture and chapter books to full-length prose, disagrees. Reading, in the long run, “has to be something they’re going to want to do on their own that’s not teacher-directed,” he insists. The first step is to rid them of the notion “that reading’s not supposed to be fun.”

A comic book reader since age 4, the 32-year-old is still a big fan of the Marvel classics of the ’60s and ’70s—X-Men and Spider-Man, especially. He says, however, that there are innumerable contemporary publications (superhero- and history-oriented alike) aimed at young audiences, making for a plethora of age- and content-appropriate materials.

Once kids are hooked on characters and their stories, the opportunities to make “teaching points” are endless, according to Tandarich. (See his Spider-Man analysis, left.) The visual cues—facial expressions, dialogue balloons, sequential panels—enable kids to follow narratives while inferring the meanings of words they’ve never seen before. “Distress,” for example, pops up—and is immediately defined—in a graphic treatment of the Titanic disaster. “You’re attaching something [concrete] to an idea,” he explains.

Other Resources

These Web sites specialize in the ways that comic books and graphic novels can be used as literacy tools.

Curriculum and Lessons:
www.comicbookproject.org
www.comicintheclassroom.net
www.teachingcomics.org

History and Background:
www.humblecomics.com/comicsedu
www.scottmccloud.com

Tandarich first made educational use of comic books in the late ’90s, when, as an Americorps member, he helped run an elementary-level after-school program. That experience led to his getting a master’s in education, followed by his gig at PS 124 in 2001. The following year, he authored an eight-lesson curriculum commissioned by the New York City Comic Book Museum. Although the museum is now defunct, Tandarich says more than 75 schools and libraries across the country have used the curriculum. Next, he’d like to write a book on the subject. Meanwhile, anyone with questions on comic books as literacy tools can e-mail him at yellowjacket74@hotmail.com.

Tandarich, by the way, was one of those kids who got hooked on comics but didn’t stop reading there. As a teen, he moved onto sci-fi novels, mythology, and the classics—all of which he still reads today. “Comic books,” he says, “can spark that imagination and create the foundation for a love of reading.”

A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 2006 edition of Teacher as Comics in the Classroom

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Benefits to All of Education
Join Dr. Susan Brady for an enlightening discussion about why and how this has happened and steps to bring the gains from science to teac...
Content provided by Voyager Sopris Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Using Data to Inform Writing Instruction: Addressing Learning Loss Caused by COVID-19 Disruption
Discover how a new writing achievement tool provides a benchmark to measure students’ writing progress.
Content provided by Texthelp
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor More Books, Not More Phonics
Reading in areas of interest can help improve reading comprehension, writes a researcher in a letter to the editor.
1 min read
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Los Lunas Schools Closes Student Literacy Gaps
Recognizing that improvement was needed to help special education students reach literacy goals, Los Lunas Schools found an intensive, co...
Content provided by Voyager Sopris Learning