A rapidly increasing number of educators are using comic books in the classroom. From grade school to graduate school, from teaching tool to source material, from literacy to art instruction, comic books are moving well beyond the newstand and adolescent imaginings.
But do not take my word for it.
I have included a working list of websites, articles, resources, organizations and op-ed pieces that reflect this trend. Please contact me with additions, corrections and suggestions.
Enjoy! (last update: 16 July, 2011)
“Teachers who would once have dismissed comic books out of hand are learning to exploit a genre that clearly has a powerful hold on young minds.”
“In this lesson, students examine a German comic book currently in use to teach the Holocaust. They then explore the value of using graphic novels and comic books to learn about history and literature.”
“Teachers can use the popularity of superhero films to expand students’ understanding of American culture. University of Idaho professor of history Katherine Aiken explored the use of comic books to teach U.S. history in a recent essay published by the Organization of American Historians’ Magazine of History (Vol.24, no.2-April 2010). Aiken concluded that because comic books reflect larger social issues in U.S. society, they can help students examine how U.S. artists addressed issues of race, gender, nationalism, and conflict in popular publications.”
“Gone are the days of children sneaking comics past diligent parents and teachers watching out for sub-par literature. The comics of today not only have plenty to offer, they are gaining well-deserved recognition and awards. Take advantage of the natural affinity children have for comics and use them as a powerful teaching tool in your classroom. The following tips, tools, and resources will get you started.”
New England Comic Arts in the Classroom Conference
The Comic Book Project. An arts-based literacy initiative at Teachers College, Columbia University.
“MAKE BELIEFS COMIX is an online educational comic strip generator for Kids of All Ages. Through our interactive projects, journals, games and publications, this web site created by author Bill Zimmerman provides people of all ages with affirmation of the human spirit, encouragement of their own creativity and sense of fun, and words of comfort and healing.”
“Several years ago, the MSDE developed an instructional team of teachers, principals, administrators and comic book experts to develop strategies for introducing comics in the classroom as part of Maryland’s Voluntary State Curriculum. Under the title Comics in the Classroom, Maryland’s Comic Book Initiative, the MSDE worked with Disney Publishing and Diamond Comic Book Distributors to develop educational strategies and an instructional toolkit for reading instruction in third and fourth grades. The toolkit was piloted in eight elementary schools and evaluated by outside researchers at University of Maryland Baltimore County. The results of the study were very positive, and have led to efforts to continue and expand the program.”
“Today we offer our recommendations as to the best comics for teachers to explore the concept in their own classrooms. We have pounded the Internet pavement and read the reviews of sellers and independent critics alike to try to find a list that is unequivocally strong.”
“Hello, my name is Scott Tingley, the owner of this site. I am an early years teacher in the New Brunswick (Canada) public school system (this site is in no way connected to the NB Department of Education). I am hoping that my knowledge of differentiated learning and my love of comics will help you in the motivating and teaching of the children in your lives.”
“The Early Show: Newest Teaching Tool: Comic Books – Assuras On Schools Trying Them As Vehicle To Teach Reading, Writing.”
You can use comic book projects to teach a variety of curriculum topics.
A look at how comic books can be used as a tool to teach our kids
“According to new research comic books and graphic novels have untapped potential to improve literacy of young men.”
Comic Books in the Classroom (New York Times article)
“Generations of children grew up reading comic books on the sly, hiding out from parents and teachers who saw them as a waste of time and a hazard to young minds. Comics are now gaining a new respectability at school. That is thanks to an increasingly popular and creative program, often aimed at struggling readers, that encourages children to plot, write and draw comic books, in many cases using themes from their own lives.”
“Just as education begins to emphasize standards and achievement, an innovative method of teaching reading and writing is catching steam. Recognizing that capturing the attention of young readers is an essential component of effective teaching practices, many teachers are turning to comic books as a tool to reach struggling readers as well as students who are new learners of the English language.”
“My students, all but one, loved the idea of creating a comic book to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Some of them, however, weren’t too thrilled about having to create a storyboard to help organize their thinking. It was definitely a good idea though. I was able to tell right away if someone needed a bit of redirection.”
In Maryland, schools experiment with using comic books as learning tools. The program illustrates an ongoing debate: do teachers give students a challenge, or offer less difficult material that is more likely to spark their interest?
“Not so many years ago, comic books in school were considered the enemy. Kids caught sneaking comics between the pages of bulky—and less engaging—textbooks were likely sent to the principal. But now comics, including classics such as Superman but also their generally more complex, nuanced cousins graphic novels, are not only regarded as educational tools by savvy teachers, they are also taken seriously as literature and an art form in their own right. Comic books can be a great way to pique reluctant readers’ interest and challenge those students who are fluent in more traditional literature.
Comic Master is an interactive Web 2.0 tool that allows students to easily create their own comic books/graphic novels. In my class, we are creating comic books about Cyberbullying Prevention. My students have to create a comic that has a problem/solution dealing with Cyberbullying. They have to define cyberbullying, list 2 ways to stop it, and 2 ways to prevent it. We used Comic Master to allow my students to achieve these tasks.
“Founded in 2010, the founding members first came together for an Indie Spinner Rack podcast — discussing the finer points of comic books. Through their discussions, they realized they should team up to fulfill their desire to create new comic book readers and give back to the art form they loved. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, Comic Book Classroom bands a league of comic nerds and teachers to form Denver’s first comic book education program. It is dedicated to safeguarding the integrity of comic books as an art form and presenting comics as an excellent educational tool.”
If there’s one thing comic book nerds like doing it’s over-thinking the smallest details. Here we turn our attention to the hypothetical legal ramifications of comic book tropes, characters, and powers. Just a few examples: Are mutants a protected class? Who foots the bill when a hero damages property while fighting a villain? What happens legally when a character comes back from the dead? You’ll find the answers to all of these questions and more right here!
“When he was in elementary school, Dr. Bruce Kessler loved comic books. The Assistant Dean of WKU’s Ogden College of Science and Engineering believes that carefully written comic books can now be used to teach some basic math principles to students in the fourth through sixth grades. Dan Modlin has this report…”
Doug Lichtman, Professor of Law at UCLA. Peter Menell, Professor of Law at UC Berkeley. David Nimmer author of Nimmer On Copyright. Together, they talk the history of copyright termination in the USA. And the impact that Captain America, Superman, the Fantastic Four, Winnie The Pooh or Lassie are having upon it.
By day he’s a mild-mannered physics professor. By night he becomes …
Researchers have found a novel way to teach young men about testicular cancer through comic books. The impetus is to get young men to do more self scr…
8 Reasons Why No One in Comic Books Should Ever Confront, Talk to, or Make Eye Contact with a University Professor in Any Way
“Bound by Law translates law into plain English and abstract ideas into ‘visual metaphors.’ So the comic’s heroine, Akiko, brandishes a laser gun as she fends off a cyclopean ‘Rights Monster’ – all the while learning copyright law basics, including the line between fair use and copyright infringement.” -Brandt Goldstein, The Wall Street Journal online.
Breaking San Diego news from The San Diego Union-Tribune: Classifieds, entertainment, sports, hotels and visitor information
A Scottish university is to offer the UK’s first degree in comics from September 2011.
The Comic Book Literacy Documentary is an independent feature length documentary film. The film showcases comic books as a way to inspire a passion for reading in both children and adults. Comics have traditionally had a bad reputation from the perspective of the general public and it is the goal of this film to shatter the negative stereotype of comics as “junk food for the brain” and to show them in a new light.
Your best tool for encouraging kids to read may be something parents and educators once considered the enemy: comic books
History of the Modern Comic Book (Michigan State History Course)
“In 1837, Swiss illustrator & writer Rodolphe Töpffer published an illustrated comedic account entitled Histoire de M. Vieux Bois. The work was translated and re-released in 1842 in the United States as The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck. Containing 30 pages, each of which had between one and six illustrations with associated text, the work is widely considered to be the first comic book. The rest, as they say, is history. More than 150 years later, comic books (and their associated intellectual property) are a multi billion dollar industry, and more than worthy of mainstream attention and scholarly study.
The History of the Modern Comic Book is designed to provide students with an opportunity to explore the development and current state of comic books. The course will take a socio-historical approach to the subject, exploring not only the lineage of genres & trends, but the impact that the industry & medium has had on society and vice versa. While the historical foundations of the medium will be briefly explored, the course will focus on the period following the Silver Age.”
“The courses cover telling your own life stories in comics, how comics work, the storytelling devices they use and how you can master the form to express yourself, both conceptually and in terms of craft.
Course instructors practice what they preach. Lawrence works on Drippytown Comics and Stories, Robin Thompson creates and publishes Champions of Hell, Zombie Jesus, Knuckles Malone, Lil’Natas, Outnumbered and Captain Space Man, while Miriam Libicki created the comic narratives Jobnik! and Jewish Memoir Goes Pow! Zap! Oy”!
“Jeremy Short’s students read comic books in class. Then they take exams, do well, and finish the semester with an understanding of the fundamentals of business management. In an effort to make dry content more interesting, Short co-wrote a set of two graphic novels together with Talya Bauer, professor of management at Portland State University, and Dave Ketchen, professor of management at Auburn University. The second of their books was released this summer.”
“Comics aren’t just cutesy kid stuff anymore. They’ve grown up into full-length books (graphic novels) that often deal with weighty, even troubling subjects – from suffering cancer to surviving the Holocaust. Moreover, these works can earn their authors fame (one graphic novel has received a Pulitzer Prize), as well as fortune, since the best known graphic novelists have literally written and drawn million-dollar books. And just as comics have grown up, the study and teaching of comics’ cultural history and the creation of these works is becoming an established field of study in the nation’s art schools.”
“CINCINNATI — As a fine arts graduate student in the early 1980s, Carol Tyler felt she had to hide her interest in cartoon drawing from teachers. An art form associated with comic books and comic strips wasn’t considered college material. Now a professional cartoonist and graphic novelist, Tyler began teaching the University of Cincinnati’s first comics art class last year. Other colleges also have started such classes as critical and academic respect for comics has grown. Courses that began in 2005 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are starting to draw professional artists and public schoolteachers. Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y., will start its first course this spring.”
“The Power of Comics: History, Form & Culture is an introductory textbook for comics art studies courses. It provides students with a coherent and comprehensive explanation of comic books and graphic novels, including coverage of their history, their communication techniques, research into their meanings and effects, and the industry practices and the fan culture.”
“For MSU’s comic and visual narrative class, students learn about storytelling, text and imagery and produce a number of projects combined into comic books for their final exam.”
“In the last several years the comics art form has flourished, generating much interest from the literary, art and educational communities. The number of schools teaching comics is growing quickly and this site is a resource for individuals and institutions interested in teaching visual storytelling. While many schools still hold antiquated notions of what comics are, a growing number of schools have started offering programs and classes in comics (or “sequential art,” as it is occasionally called). Teaching comics in schools is a relatively new phenomenon, but schools that have implemented programs have met with tremendous success. Teachingcomics.org is the homepage of NACAE (pronounced “nay-say”), the National Association of Comics Art Educators. This site’s objective is to be a resource where the growing number of educators in comic art/sequential art can get and share ideas. It is also hoped that educators who work in other disciplines can use comics as a way of furthering their own objectives.”
“In 1933 two employees at the Eastern Color Printing Company inadvertently gave birth to the modern comic book by collecting a number of popular newspaper comic strips into a tabloid-sized magazine (Wright, 2001). Within a decade, their humble creation had spawned a multi-million dollar industry and an American cultural phenomenon. By the 1940′s, an estimated 95% of all 8-14 year olds, and 65% of 15-18 year olds, read comic books (Sones, 1944). Academia took notice, initiating over a decade of debate, research, and writing on the educational value of comic books. “
“Students once sneaked comic books to class, hiding them from teachers who blamed them for juvenile delinquency, poor reading skills and declining education. But among a growing group of teachers and librarians, just the opposite is now happening, thanks to a push led by Dark Horse Comics in Milwaukie. The educators are bringing comics to class, and they’re using them to teach kids to get along, appreciate literature and learn more effectively.”
“If comic fans don’t get their fill of super heroes on the big screen this summer, some might be able to satisfy their cravings in the classroom this fall. For the first time UNT will offer a graduate level communications studies class about American super heroes this fall, making it one of only a handful of universities around the world offering such a course.”
“It was only a matter of time. The graphic novel along with its on-screen equivalent, computer games, are to be offered to students as a new university course.
From next month Edinburgh Napier University will become the first institution in Britain to teach writing for graphic novels — books in comic strip form — at Masters level.”
“Another of the many things I don’t expect either John McCain or Barack Hussein Obama to change is the downward spiral of our publick schoolz and the all-around desperate state of education in America. American kids are stupid. Dumb. Ignorant. And it’s only getting worse. Now, the latest is the comic book textbook. And, predictably, like most comic books, these are dumbed down, left-wing exercises in political correctness. And your federal taxes are heavily subsidizing it. . . through the EPA?! As a kid, I loved comic books, spurred on by my father who was a big fan of Captain Marvel. And I still have my collection. But reading them was an avocation, not a vocation. They were something to read on the side during free time, not my textbook.”