10 Reasons You’ll Want to Use Comics in Your Classroom
The Times They Are A-Changin’
As times change and our media landscape evolves, new means of adapting to students’ learning styles becomes a necessity. Incorporating comics into the classroom has proven to be an effective, innovative way of rising to this challenge. While their natural appeal provides a fun incentive for students of all ages, their unique abilities to promote higher-level thinking offer new opportunities for success. Here, we’ve compiled a list of 10 good reasons for you to start using comics in your lesson plans.
Comics are a practical way to feed students’ need for visual stimulation1. Teachers are now in the unenviable position of trying to hold their classes’ attention amidst all angles of distraction. Utilizing comics can give you a leg-up; storytelling, sequential art, and embellishment are naturally engaging, particularly to those who are growing up in a fast-paced world of social networks, gadgets, and an inescapable flood of superhero movies.
The comic format can be applied to a wealth of different subjects2. At their core, comics are text and images combined to express ideas. So, more than just your standard gag cartoon (although those can be great too), the medium is a natural fit for any subject with a fundamental need for understanding and applying.
Comics provide a method for conveying large amounts of information quickly3. As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and comics provide a format to expertly combine those pictures with plain text, dialogue, thought bubbles, and more. Use comics to illuminate the more long-winded or seemingly mundane portions of a lesson plan.
The immediacy of comics can put your students in a receptive mood4. Whether it be humor, action, or the simple joy of storytelling, they’re an entertaining way to kick things off and quickly bring students into a frame of mind appropriate to the subject. Incorporating comics can be a helpful way to provide levity to tackle a difficult subject.
The visual medium of comics is ideal for supporting comprehension5. In addition to bolstering an interest in reading by presenting images which contextualize the material, a comic’s sequential format promotes evaluative thinking. Movement, progression and cause-effect relationships are just a handful of the concepts that comic panels are tailored for. What’s more, a student can read it at the pace which best suits him or her.
Comics are a great starting point for discussion6. A solid comic can provide unique visuals, ideas, characters, points of view, and more. Everyone’s got an opinion, so why not let a relevant visual be the point of focus? From main ideas to bullet points, reading or crafting a good comic gives students easy fodder to collectively wraps their minds around and debate. And hey, on the flip-side, a bad comic can even offer something to talk about.
Combining and processing the two key ingredients of a comic, text and image, helps develop a sharp memory for learning7. A study from The University of Oklahoma compared the use of an informational graphic novel versus its textbook equivalent in a senior-level business course. Participants who had read the graphic novel recalled information better than those who had read the textbook; a demonstration of how students were more likely to enjoy and therefore take in the comic form if given the option.
Students creating their own comics find the experience technically challenging, as well as empowering8. Crafting a comic from conception to execution isn’t always easy, but it is satisfying. As any creative person can tell you, giving life to ideas and stories is a special experience and one that speaks to an audience. Sharing a comic that they’ve made offers others a glimpse into their unique imaginations, and gives a sense of control.
Sharing comics generates a sense of human connectedness among students9. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better method of bringing people together than art and storytelling. They are innately human exercises that appeal to us all. Whether giving or receiving a work such as a comic, everyone becomes part of a shared experience.
The ability to produce and contribute a comic can fulfill a student’s need to be heard10. While some students are eager to share and discuss in class, others are less so. Comics are a thoughtful and accessible medium which appeals to students of all personalities. They offer a creative way for a reserved student to contribute his or her valuable thoughts and stories, which might otherwise be missed.
The use of comics in the classroom has gained substantial traction in recent years. We here at Pixton are proud to join the growing community of educators who utilize and promote the benefits they have to offer. Sign up for a free trial of Pixton for Schools and see how accessible and valuable comics can really be!
We strongly urge you to consider the idea that comics can be a wonderful asset to your classroom courses. Check out the links in the footnotes below and dig deeper into this opportunity; explore the reader-friendly medium of comics and get creative with your students!
1. Martin, Adam. “Graphic Novels in the Classroom.” Library Media Connection (October 2009) Page 31. Print.
2. Cult of Pedagogy, “Graphic Novels in the Classroom: A Teacher Roundtable” (http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/teaching-graphic-novels/)
3. Hult: International Business School, “Can Reading Comics Make us Smarter?” (http://www.hult.edu/news/can-reading-comics-make-us-smarter/)
4., 6. Reading With Pictures, “Why Teach With Comics?” (http://www.readingwithpictures.org/2012/04/why-teach-with-comics/)
5. University of Michigan: College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, “Why Explore Comics in the Classroom” (http://ltc.iss.lsa.umich.edu/why-to-explore-comics-in-the-classroom/)
7. Short, Jeremy C., Brandon Randolph-Seng, and Aaron F. McKenny. “Graphic Presentation: An Empirical Examination of the Graphic Novel Approach to Communicate Business Concepts.” Business and Professional Communication Quarterly Volume 76, Issue 3 (2013). Sage Journals. Web. February 13, 2017.
8. Williams, Rachel Marie-Crane. “Image, Text, and Story: Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom.” Art Education (November 2008) Page 16. Print.
9. Williams, Rachel Marie-Crane. “Image, Text, and Story: Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom.” Art Education (November 2008) Page 15. Print.
10. Halimun, Jeni M. “A Qualitative Study of the Use of Content-Related Comics to Promote Student Participation in Mathematical Discourse in a Math I Support Class.” Kennesaw State University (Fall 2011). Web. February 13, 2017.