How popular are graphic novels in your classroom? I walked into a third grade classroom last week and every single student was nose deep into a graphic novel! The dynamic pictures, lively dialogue, and graphic structure seem to be giving readers access to stories (adventures, mysteries, humor, historical fiction, etc.) in an engaging way that satisfies their reading appetites.
I first became intrigued with this reading genre when I was a Literacy Specialist. Every Friday in my classroom was Flashlight Reading Day; students spread out across the room - sprawled on beanbag chairs, curled up on comfy rugs, or tucked into dark niches - and read. By flashlight. They loved it! As the students read, I called each over, one by one, for a reading conference. I learned so much about my struggling readers through those reading conferences. And, I began to notice that my upper elementary boys, especially, were more and more often bringing graphic novels to my table.
And that's when I started thinking about writing...If reading graphic novels was engaging and accessible to struggling readers, would writing graphic novels offer the same level of engagement and accessibility to struggling writers? Or, for that matter, to all writers?
I have spent the last three years writing and revising a Graphic Narrative Unit of Study for primary writers. I've used it with first and second graders, and I've presented it to teachers in my state at our last two Virginia State Reading Association conferences. I published an article on the first year's work on Heinemann's Digital Campus entitled "Where Storytelling Meets Art Writing Graphic Narratives with First Grade Students", and I'm looking forward to presenting this work at the International Literacy Association's annual conference in Austin, TX on July 21st!
I'm searching for teachers who want to try this kind of writing with their students. I'm trying to spark a new fire for engaging students in the writing process. When I talk to teachers, I want to feel the urgency that exists for meeting students where they are as writers and for propelling them forward. I want to help them capitalize on current reading trends and show their reluctant writers a new and relevant way to find and share their voices.
Below is my own graphic narrative depicting my journey as a writing teacher. I have to say, drawing and coloring my story has been a reflective process. I followed the same process that I ask my students to use when they write their graphic narratives. It turns out that you really don't have to be an "artist" to be a successful graphic narrative writer. And, as I've said again and again, "If I can do it, YOU can do it!"
I'd love to hear from you if you are interested in trying this with your students. You can always leave a message here, or you can reach me through Twitter @christyweisiger, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm also on Facebook at All Kids Can Write.