7 Ways to Use Graphic Novels in Your Middle and High School Class

7 ways to use graphic novels in middle and high school


7 Ways to Use Graphic Novels in Your Middle or High School Class

by Tracee Orman

First, let’s end the debate on whether graphic novels count as reading: yes, they do! Graphic novels practice the same reading skills as traditional novels, PLUS they offer opportunities for implementing visual literacy skills. They can be much more engaging and appealing for reluctant readers, as well.

But how can you incorporate them into your classroom? Here are seven different ideas for using graphic novels in class:

1. ADAPTED WORKS: Read the adapted version after reading the original OR replace the novel with the graphic version OR offer the adapted graphic novel as an alternative to the original. There are so many adapted versions on the market right now to choose from, especially with classics. And The Hunger Games (which is my most highly anticipated adaptation!) comes out later this year! 

Adapted Graphic Novels

To use the adapted version as a comparison to the original, I have a great handout included in my Graphic Novel bundle. It covers the Common Core Reading Standards R.5 and R.7, in which you are comparing the same work in two different mediums or formats. It’s a perfect way to evaluate the treatment of the themes, tone/mood, and portrayal of the characters in each work.

Compare Graphic Novel to Original Novel

Graphic Novel handouts

2. BOOK CLUBS & DISCUSSIONS: Reserve one (or two) day(s) a month to have a book club day in class. Select several graphic novels for the groups. Students select which group they are in by which graphic novel they wish to read. Because they can be read more quickly than a traditional novel, students can read a portion together in class then discuss them in their groups. You can use my FREE Graphic Novel Evaluation handout during the book club. Students can either fill it out themselves, partner up, or fill it out as a group. 

Free graphic novel handout

3. CROSS-CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS: When ELA teachers are able to work with other departments, everybody wins. For example, choosing a work of literature set in the same time period that students are studying in history enhances their learning experience. It gives them even more context to make those connections. But teaching an entire novel can be too time-consuming. Instead, choose a graphic novel! It will give students both literary and visual examples. 

Cross-Curricular Graphic Novels

4. VISUAL STORYTELLING: Using a graphic novel as an example, have students practice writing their own stories using comic book templates or blank paper. Talk about how sequential art tells a story; how the panels work in sequence to narrate the story. This not only practices writing skills, but creativity!


5. CHARACTER ANALYSIS: Use a page or two from a graphic novel and have students evaluate the images for characterization. Ask questions like what can you infer about the character based on the depiction?  

6. TONE/MOOD: Students can also infer the tone or mood of the story based on the images: are they somber or happy looking? How does the use of color enhance the feeling you get from the images?

7. PLOT: Have students evaluate the plot based on the images from the graphic novel; how do the images move the story along? How do they create tension or conflict?

High Interest Graphic Novels

I could go on as the possibilities seem endless. I hope this post gives you some great ideas for incorporating and using more graphic novels and comic books into your classroom!

Check out these great ideas for teaching visual literacy from Jackie from Room 213 HERE!

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