Articles for Teachers

Comics in the Classroom
By:Jeff Hughes

When I think back in my days in school as my friends and I hid our comics in our desks or lockers so the teachers would not confiscate them or we would get a lecture of how comics would rot our brains

"These books have zero educational value!"

But I can tell you that comics actually enhanced my learning in such subjects as: English and Grammar, Teachers always thought that their were a lot of slang words and a lot of misspelling, however comics were and still are proof read and checked for misspellings, grammar and punctuation. Also while there is some slang words, this could be a good topic to bring up since comics can reflect the language of the time.

Comic Books peeked my interest in reading, and they also helped me in the subject of English,

It was through comics I discovered such words as "Adamantium", a word I not only learned how to spell but also peeked my curiousity, thus I did my research and while it turned out that Adamantiumwas ficticous element, I did learn that the root word "Adamant."

Definition is: Unbreakable, or Adamantine combined with the neo-Latin suffix "ium" resembles the naming form of many chemical elements.

This was part of the fun of reading comics for me as a kid, to find a new word and then research to see if there was actually a real meaning behind the word, by doing this process, it increased my vocabulary and also aided me in learning how to research information.

This is just one example of how comics added to my education, and after many years it seems that teachers, and schools, and even libraries are beginning to see the benefits of using comics and graphic novels as an additional teaching tool.

The majority of the grades that are using comics in the classroom are 5th-12th, this shows that the age range covers a wide area of interest.

Grades And Subjects

Teachers from all grade levels and subjects are using comics in their classrooms, the grade range is from Elementary 4th-5th, then through Junior High to High School

Comics can be applied to many subjects such as: English, Foreign Language, Science, and even in Spanish and ESL classes, and can be used to coincide with lesson plans that can be created by the teacher or they can be provided by websites, or teachers can even get advice from comic book dealers or retailers.

Comics span many genres so it makes it easy to find a comic book or graphic novel, below there are a few subjects that can match up with comics:

5th-6th Grade English And Literature - Classic Illustrated (Many publishers have printed these titles 1990 Series Recommended) and a newer series called Marvel Illustrated are a ideal for these grades and age groups, these titles can be used to enhance the story or novel that the student is reading, the issues can also bring the material more to life, also the issues can help those students that may be struggling in reading or comprehension by matching the words with illustrations.
7th-12th Grade English And Literature- The Classic Illustrated titles are still good, however in many classes of this grade group, many teachers are using a series of Marvel titles "Ultimate" line, these titles include: Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, and Ultimate Fantastic Four.

These issues have been well received in both classrooms and libraries, with the most popular being Ultimate Spider-Man, the title covers Peter Parker's early days in a more modern landscape than the mainstream books, teachers are sing these titles to discuss not only story lines but also have discussions concerning the characters and the choices that were made through the comic.

The Ultimate titles have been made into paperbacks and they include a combination of issues into one book, students seem to like this format.

The junior high level enjoys these books as well but some of it may be too intense for this grade, it all depends on what the teacher is comfortable with.

Science - While there are not any comics or graphic novels that can be used in the same context as English and Literature, some comic book titles can but there are a few titles that can be utilized in the discussion of science.

The comics that I feel can enhance this subject, are books centering around the Fantastic Four, discussions can be brought up regarding the powers of the Fantastic Four, such a the Invisible Woman who uses the ability to bend light to make herself invisible, or a discussion concerning the Human Torch, discussing the properties and capabilities of fire and combustion.

In addition space exploration can be used through the travels of the Fantastic Four, while some of the planets they do visit are fictitious the environments of the plants can be brought up in some discussions.

The best recommendations are the regular Fantastic Four titles and the Ultimate Fantastic Four titles, both titles appeal to the 5th-12th grade levels.

Geography and Social Studies - Heroes and villains come from around the globe, from Union Jack (United Kingdom) Wolverine (Canada) Colossus (Russia) teachers can discuss and point out where a students favorite hero lives.

Teachers can use examples of where heroes live and also compare where they live to where the students live, teachers can also show students mythical locations using comic characters such as Namor The Sub-Mariner (Atlantis).

Foreign Language - Foreign Language Teachers can find comics from around the world, many of the comic book publishers like DC Comics and Marvel Comics also print their comics for overseas readership

Comics from different countries can be found online, comic book stores, book stores, and some teaching catalogs, the two that come to mind are:

Astix - A comic that follows a group of vikings on their misadventures. (French and Italian) I would recommend this book for junior high and high School readers.
Tin-Tin - This character is as well known as Mickey Mouse in Europe and around the world and is printed in many languages from around the word. (French, German, Italian) This book is for younger reders but Junior High students also like this book.
Smurfs - These Belgium character started out in comic strips but they have also appeared in comic books and graphic novels.
Spanish and ESL - Many publishers like Marvel and DC have begun publishing some issues in Spanish, in recent years publishers have seen the need and they have begun publishing a few titles in both Spanish and English.

Major publishers, like DC Comics and Marvel Comics in 2008 published one shot issues that were in both Spanish and English, the publishers could print more issues like this in the future.

Marvel Comics Fantastic Four Isla de la Muerte - This issue features the Fantastic Four going to a island, while there they visit a rain forest, while there they encounter a mythical creature and try to save it and the rain forest, this issue was published in English and Spanish. Junior High and High School students would be more suited for this title.

Many of the Ultimate titles (Ultimate Spider-Man) come in paperback, and are printed in Spanish, while these issues may be for more advanced students, these books can also be used to get students more involved in learning the language or help ESL students.

DC Comics Blue Beetle 26 - Jamie Reyes a Hispanic teen ager, recently became the new Blue Beetle, this character had history becoming one of the few Hispanic teen agers in comics, teen agers enjoy this character since he deals with issues both as a teen and hero. In 2008 Blue Beetle 14 was published in both Spanish and in English. This issue would also be suitable for Junior High and High School students

Owly - Owly is a lonesome but adventurous owl who does not speak, ESL teachers use this comic by allow students to fill in the blank word balloons, this helps the student to not only use language but also express themselves. These books are mainly for elementary students but can be used for any ESL level grade since it can be used for the basics.

Affordability

Comics can be expensive, and teachers are on a budget, here are a few tips when buying comics for your class.

Paperbacks - if you are going to be buying comics for a classroom, I recommend that teachers buy the trade paperbacks since they contain multiple stories, more durable, and more economical in the long term, since buying each individual comic can cost more due to wear and tear.
Class Sets - When buying talk to the retailer about class sets, if the retailer is unaware of the term explain it to them, comic book retailers will be more than happy to assist you.
Discounts - When shopping for Comics, Graphic Novels, or Paperbacks always ask dealers about discounts, and don't be afraid to haggle.

These are just a few ways that comics can be used to enhance a classroom, by no means should comics replace novels, or classics but they can enhance the learning experience, that can create a fun but educational environment for both students and teachers.

Jeff Hughes
http://www.mailboxheroes.com
http://www.comicscoop.com





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