Sunday, October 28, 2012

PREVIEW...Using Content Area Graphic Texts for Learning

With a bit over a week until our book hits the stores, I will be previewing selections of the book over the next few weeks.

Here is the introduction which provides an overview of the book.  We will be awarding a few more copies for review.  Please let us know if you're interested in receiving a copy (and why) and please leave your opinions, questions and reactions in the comments below.



“We’re here for forty-five minutes. Have fun with the time, but don’t even
THINK about taking out any of those comics or graphic novels!”
-Meryl Jaffe

That is how I used to preface visits to the library or bookstore with my students and children.

In my mind graphic novels were often violent collections about caped crime-fighters, masked madmen, or fictional friends at Riverdale High School.  How did I know this?  That’s what the comic books of my childhood were all about, and I hadn’t seen anything different to change my mind. Admittedly, I hadn’t been looking to change my mind. Johnny Tremain, Of Mice and Men, and The Gammage Cup were just fine for my middle schoolers. These books created worlds of fantasy or historical fiction that made my readers think while incorporating language in inspiring ways. I realize now though that reading lists, like most things in life, can’t remain static. They must be fluid, dynamically bending and adjusting to the time and winds of change.

A few years ago, my children sat me down and passionately argued that in any discussion of literacy, graphic novels had to be included. I reluctantly agreed to read one book of their choice. With the stakes high I advised them to choose wisely, and they did. They selected Joe Kelly’s I Kill Giants, and I was truly blown away. As Kelly’s story opens the reader meets Barbara, a fifth-grade girl who explains that she kills giants. The thing is, it takes most of the book to determine whether this is a metaphor for something bigger, stronger, and scarier in her life or she actually kills giants. He leaves it to you (and your students) to figure out which is the case.

Katie and I come to you from different perspectives. She began her career in the classroom and is now in academia; I began in academia and am now in the classroom. She is a young vibrant rising star, and I am a seasoned parent,  school psychologist, and educator. Although we both came to graphic novels relatively recently in our professional careers, we have become strong advocates for their inclusion in today’s classrooms and libraries.

While Katie and I discuss the movement of graphic novels from comic book shops to the classroom in Part I of this book, there have been three general factors that led us personally, to include them in our classrooms:
1.     There is now a wealth of motivating high-quality graphic novels (be they fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, or nonfiction) that lend themselves to content-area classroom use.
2.     With the growth of technology and access to the Internet there is now an increasing need for visual and verbal literacy mastery, emphasized not only in our everyday lives, but also in the Common Core State Standards.
3.     Graphic novels, by their very nature draw the reader into the story because the reader must construct the story by actively integrating visual and verbal components. This is a highly creative and interactive process, which makes learning more meaningful.

Our Goals

While teaching methods and goals are rapidly expanding to meet the demands of our ever shrinking—and yet expanding—worlds we hope to empower you with specific tools to meet those demands. Educators are now mandated to address visual and verbal literacies by incorporating multimodal texts and sources, while fostering greater independent, creative, and analytic thinking. To help address these needs and changes we offer you concrete teaching options in the form of interactive graphic novel suggestions and lesson plans. Graphic novels provide an excellent vehicle to meet curricular standards while incorporating diverse student needs and affinities.

Our goal in this book is to introduce you to today’s graphic novels. We explain how they have matured, how they address learning and curriculum standards, and, finally, how they can be taught in your content-area middle-school classrooms. We also demonstrate how graphic novels and our suggested lessons meet diverse student needs featuring attention, memory, language, sequencing, and cognition skills.

How This Book Is Organized

In the first part of this book, we introduce you to the mechanics of today’s graphic novels and detail how they have changed throughout the years. We also relate why these books are such effective teaching tools for modern classrooms.

The second part of this book takes you to our four content-area classrooms: math, language arts, social studies, and science. Each content-area chapter:
·      Explains how graphic novels can meet your curricular needs;
·      Provides two types of lessons, each using graphic novels in a different way;
·      Demonstrates what each lesson asks students to do—focusing on attention, memory, language, sequencing, and cognition skills;
·      Shows each lesson’s alignment with the Common Core State Standards;
·      Discusses how graphic novels in our lessons help different types of students succeed in the content-area classroom; and
·      Includes a list of other suggested graphic novels you can include in your content-area classroom.

Please note, however, that the lessons and suggested readings we provide are merely suggestions. We encourage you to expand upon these suggested readings and tweak our lessons to meet your own personal teaching preferences and student needs. And, if you are so inclined, we hope you share your explorations and experiences with these lessons and suggested readings with us at Check the blog for new lessons, graphic novel reviews, content-area classroom tips, conference appearances, and more.

For those interested in purchasing the book, if you go to our book page at Maupin House, we are offering the book at a discount if purchased before November 5, 2012.

Thank you for your visit and please leave a note in the comments if you want to receive a free copy for review. Also, as always, please leave your reactions, feedback and any questions you may have in the comments.


  1. Hi! visiting and following from the GFC blog hop! would love for you to come visit me at when you get a chance. =)

  2. Hi Meryl, I've so enjoyed your posts about graphic novels. I've checked out several of your recommendations from our local library for my 4th grader who is a decent reader but doesn't always love to read regular old, boring chapter books. He does LOVE his graphic novels, though. He devours whatever one he is currently reading regardless of subject. I'm thrilled that they meet learning and curriculum standards. It's a win-win for both of us!

  3. Wow-what a wonderful PREVIEW! I can't wait for you book to come out! I love absorbing and learning all that you put out here. Thank you! We are so fortunate to have you in this meme!
    Stay safe, and if possible, stay dry. You are in my prayers.

  4. Love the conversion story! looking forward...
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  5. As usual, fascinating to learn about the value of comics and graphic novels. So many years ago, I did a research study at University of British Columbia on just this topic (way ahead of my time, I guess ... lol)

    abcw team

  6. Great preview! I am wishing you much success when the book hits the shelves!

  7. Best of luck as this hits the shelves! exciting!

  8. Quite fascinating. I will check this out a little more. Thanks for linking up, hope to see you again next week.

  9. Another great informational post ~ sounds like fun ~ (A Creative Harbor) ^_^

  10. This is neat, especially for a home schooler like me!

  11. Congratulations on your book. I remember when you wrote about the subject of graphic novels a while back. I find graphic novels a very interesting and captivating approach to bringing history to life. I wouldn't have the patience, as an adult, to read a super hero comic, but history is my passion, and find well researched graphic novels a tremendous aid to learning.

  12. Thanks for this preview Meryl and congratulations on your book!.

    Pile of Leaves
    Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

  13. Sounds cool - and great for recognizing how some kids like to learn.

  14. “We’re here for forty-five minutes. Have fun with the time, but don’t even
    THINK about taking out any of those comics or graphic novels!”
    -Meryl Jaffe ... i could use this for my students everytime we visit a books store for our tours!!

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