California Educator

October 2016

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books provide multimedia in the same way, giving curric- ulum some punch." Kim says graphic novels are a huge hit with students with special needs. ey love the visuals. ey love being able to read without the pressure of decoding and defining words. ey love that it makes reading fun. "I use graphic novels as a supplement, not as the main curriculum," she emphasizes. "But I found comics helped students get to a higher level of critical thinking. Many of my students have struggled for so many years that they are disengaged with reading. So I brought something new to the classroom to remove the barri- ers of language so they could start analyzing the author's purpose and plot right away." Comics Not Just for Kids Some students told her that comics were for "kids" and initially felt a bit insulted. But that changed. "Once they realized the mate- rial was about serious, more adult topics, they appreciated it. Some of the students were very engaged and came out of their shell. It helped them connect to the material. Some of our lessons were very meaning ful." Natasha ompson says Goldman- Hall's class last year changed her perception of comic books. "I had always thought that they were a cliché with half-naked women and buffed-up male superheroes who never die. But Maus was different, with a very simplistic and dramatic type of art. For example, the author incor- porates the imagery of a road map into a swastika while Jewish people portrayed as mice wander down the road from which they cannot escape." Robert Collins, a junior, says reading comic literature was the highlight of the class. "It was fun and probably the most informative units that we had. I paid attention and followed along. More teachers should try this. It definitely can help." Tips for incorporating comics into the classroom By Jason Goldman-Hall • Read comics. You can't teach Shakespeare effec- tively if you've only read Hamlet. Read ones that you connect to and find patterns, trends, context. • Advocate for yourself. There's resistance in some districts to comics and graphic novels. Plan your curriculum, align your standards, and prove to everyone that they belong in your library. • Stand on shoulders. Teachers around the world have used comics and graphic novels. Use their material (with permission), network, let them help you follow in their footsteps. • Use what you like. There is already almost a canon of comics and graphic novels, but you can add to it. There is value to be found in Batman, Squirrel Girl, the various X-Men books. • Check out the American Library Asso- ciation's lists of great graphic novels for teens. These books have already been vetted by professionals. The 2016 list is available at • Visit (and support) the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at They help protect and defend the use of comics and graphic novels around the country, and have endless resources for educators. "There are so many things I love about using comics. The students can see what the character is thinking by their facial expressions. They provide a medium for visual learners." — JASON GOLDMAN-HALL, San Jose Teachers Association 38 teaching & learning

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