Graphic Novels in the Language Arts Classroom

Programs for Teachers
Chicago Teachers as Scholars
Thursday, April 30, 2009 to Friday, May 1, 2009

In this seminar, we will explore several ways of teaching graphic narratives in the language arts classroom. Some of the most popular graphic narratives in recent years have been memoirs (e.g., Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis), while many more graphic narratives take the form of novels, histories, and journalist pieces. There are even graphic versions of Shakespeare’s plays with the language of comics being put to use to attract new readers. While graphic narratives may be a compelling way to get these readers interested in literature, the association with comic books makes graphic narratives appear much more simple than they are. One of the key challenges in teaching graphic narratives is convincing readers that a text that looks every bit like a simple comic requires more than minimal analysis and critical reading. Thoroughly understanding a graphic narrative means developing literacies that make sense of both visual and textual elements on a page. This seminar will include an overview of the graphic narratives currently available to readers, focused readings of specific texts, description of resources for teaching graphic narratives, and discussion of what kinds of activities work best when teaching graphic narratives. Our goal will be to develop both reading strategies and inventive activities for teaching graphic narratives in a literature classroom.

Seminar led by Spencer Schaffner, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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