Saturday, October 9, 2010


For many school students, reading and literature can be the most difficult subjects to grasp. Some simply may not enjoy the process of reading because they cannot visualize the story, and others may read perfectly fine but cannot understand how the plot elements of the story work. In these instances, a classroom assignment where students are encouraged to draft up a comic panel of the required reading can be just the trick to teach students about plot devices, characterization, and even to encourage students to visualize the characters of the novel.

Simply put, reading a good novel should be just as enjoyable as watching a movie, or even more enjoyable than that. This is because those who read novels should be able to create their own movies in their minds, casting whomever they desire into the roles of the literary characters. Bad acting and bad special effects are impossible in the cinema of the mind, so reading and visualizing the events of a well-written book should be entertaining and riveting. Yet, some students cannot easily train their minds to produce literary movies as they read along, rendering the reading experience insufferably dull. For these students, encouraging them to draw up some comic panels outlining some major events in the assigned reading can help them to visualize the scenes. Ask your students to draw up their own short comic panel of a particular scene, including adding in some narration and dialogue directly from the book. Of course, poor artwork should not be penalized so that even the most creatively insecure of students can feel comfortable drawing up their depiction of the literary scene. If this type of comic-related assignment is given on a regular basis, every student will soon begin forming visualizations of each scene automatically because they will be trained to produce these images periodically, making reading much more enjoyable.

This same type of assignment could also help students better understand plot development. When considering an entire novel, students can have difficulty understanding where the foreshadowing, conflict, climax, falling action, and denouement are in the tale. These are the same students who may have trouble effectively summarizing a novel without taking five pages to do so. To illustrate how the plot elements for a particular story work, ask your students to create a relatively short comic strip about the entire novel. Depending on the length of the novel, the assignment can range anywhere from six- to ten-panels long. The goal is to force students to condense the story. Many students will be able to see which plot elements apply to which scene once they begin drawing the scenes because it will be similar to storyboarding for a film. As many students are familiar with summarizing films and picking out the plot elements in that medium, it can greatly benefit students to see their novel in a pseudo-film format. Once your students are done creating their short comic versions of the assigned reading, have them identify which scenes (or panels) represent each plot element.

Comics are a valuable resource that schools should embrace because they can make learning new materials more engaging. In fact, comics are so powerful that even the creation of comics in the classroom can help teach visual and tactile learners about literature and encourage them to enjoy reading more in the future.

This guest post is contributed by Olivia Coleman, who writes on the topics of online colleges and universities.  She welcomes your comments at: olivia.coleman33

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