graphic novel · Joy · student engagement · units of study

Graphic Novels: The Perfect Way to End the Year

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes (590 Words)

Primary Audience: K-8 Classroom Teachers and Literacy Coaches

A Back Story

Graphic novels are still really hot in our elementary school. Popular titles fly off our library shelves and kids are often seen walking through the halls reading, not able to take their eyes off the pages. A few years ago, we introduced graphic novels as a mini-unit in one of our second-grade classrooms. During that mini-unit, there wasn’t a day that went by when the teacher didn’t stop by to tell me about how excited the students were for writing time. “I love teaching this unit!” she often exclaimed. 

Why It Matters

When engagement is so high reading graphic novels, writing graphic novels only makes sense as a way to celebrate and end the school year. It’s also a prime opportunity to show students how they can transfer all they’ve learned about writing over the course of the school year to learn how to write a new genre. 

How It Works

  • Immersion: Studying a mentor is always a good way to launch a unit. Students can browse the pages of some of their favorite graphic novels and notice how the pieces are organized and structured. They may also begin to notice the ways in which the authors and illustrators tell the story or teach about a topic using pictures and words. It may be helpful to guide students to notice the size and shape of different cells. Graphic novelists often give more space to parts that are more important.
A chart used to study a mentor graphic novel.
  • Planning: This is the time to pull out your favorite planning tools and show students that the story mountains they used to plan their fiction stories earlier in the year can also be used to plan graphic novels. The same goes for the table of contents they used to plan the subtopics for all about books.
  • Drafting: You can remind students of charts from previous units of study. Your lessons can include ways that the strategies students learned earlier in the year can also apply to their graphic novels. For example, when thinking about elaboration, students can look back at their mentor texts to notice the ways that graphic novelists bring their characters to life through both their words and pictures. Students can emulate those craft moves in their own pieces.
A sample narrative chart that can come back out during a graphic novel unit of study.
An example of noticing how Elise Gravel incorporates a familiar strategy in her book The Fly.
  • Revision/Editing: Once again, lean on strategies and routines taught in previous units. Pulling out your elaboration charts and encouraging writers to try new strategies is one way to encourage revision. Editing checklists that students have become familiar with all year long can also be used to fix up graphic novels. 

Of Note

These texts are also fun for writers to explore and learn different techniques and strategies that are specific to writing comics and graphic novels. 

Comics: Easy as ABC: The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids, By Ivan Brunetti
How To Make Awesome Comics, By Neill Cameron

The Bottom Line

The fun of writing graphic novels doesn’t have to be just for your students. We know the power of writing for and alongside the children we teach. This unit may give you just the break you need this time of year, to be creative and find the joy in teaching writing.

Check out my own informational graphic novel, here. I wrote this alongside first graders.
Click here to see a few pages from a second-grade sample of a fictional graphic novel.

4 thoughts on “Graphic Novels: The Perfect Way to End the Year

Please leave a comment. If you're leaving a permalink for the SOLSC, please be sure to include a brief statement to introduce your post, followed by the permalink. Please do not hit enter before the permalink.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.