By the 1970s, comics were paperback stories crammed with superheroes and villains and easily acquired for a few coins. It was Will Eisner who would first use the term ‘graphic novel' to describe the long-form comic book story. This new name boosted the comic status and consequently made it more attractive to the publishers, who had not taken it seriously until then. A few years later the graphic novel was filling bookstores’ shelves and accepted by the public. A new literary genre had been introduced.
The graphic novel is a useful tool to develop both reading and writing skills. Books like Coraline (by Neil Gaiman), Louis Underwater (by Fanny Britt), Sparks! (by Ian Boothby), A year without Mom (by Dasha Tolstika), among other dozens, can enrich our Literature lessons. Legends and popular heroes like Robin Hood and King Arthur also have their graphic novel versions.
This is an absolutely enjoyable genre to read:
- Each student can play a different character when practising group reading.
- Illustrations help to infer and fix new vocabulary.
- Some scenes can be acted out for the rest of the class.
- The whole story can be recorded in an audiobook format.
Moreover, the graphic novel offers writing benefits for all learners. For those students who are not very keen on writing:
- This genre does not need long, descriptive sentences (what is difficult to express in words can be replaced by a good illustration)
- Colloquial language is allowed.
- The difference between the narrator's and the characters' speech is easily learned.
For those students who are fluent writers:
- The lack of space in each strip forces them to use summarising methods, like reference or ellipsis.
- They can be encouraged to use two genres at the same time – why not writing a short story which later could be transformed into a graphic novel?
Pixton (https://www.pixton.com/) is a free online programme where digital graphic novels can be developed. By using it, your students can create every detail – characters, settings and, of course, speech. They can work individually or in small groups. Depending on the available IT devices at school and the length of the lesson, they could work in class or at home. Invite them to create their own graphic novels, which can be downloaded to make an e-book. Afterwards, share it with the rest of the school and every family. Share it and share it again! Make your students feel proud of their own work!
Use the graphic novel throughout the year. Motivate your students to create their own characters – hero, detective, student, animal… and to write a monthly story to share with their classmates. The graphic novel mania will soon arise, and with it, expectant students looking forward to the next chapter.
By Prof. Karina Castro