Bringing the Planets to Life: Using Graphic Novels in School

This semester, I am taking an education class that teaches how to incorporate the different arts into the classroom. Recently, we completed an example lesson where we had to create a dance based on the process of how a cloud is formed. This incorporation of art to teach about the clouds reminded me of an artist on DeviantArt called Cioccolatodorima. He has created several characters and webcomics based off of everyday concepts and items from internet browsers and fast food restaurants to clouds and planets. Some of the comics are told through long strips while others are created using Adobe Flash.

His comics about the planets include facts about recent events as well as past events in the history of the different planets, information about the different stars, and has characters that have characteristics and details made to represent something about them, such as the character Enceladus being bald as the moon has the highest reflective surface of all the moons. While he has not created comics with the clouds as he has the planets, he does have a character sheet featuring the different ones and describing their lives and personalities in a way that matches up with each type of cloud. This can be seen in the image below where each cloud character is displayed, each appearing different while also connecting similarities together by particular features such as the gray, white, or black hair to symbolize the color of each cloud.

Cloud character designs by Cioccolatodorima

If a comic can be done that teaches facts about the clouds or planets, a comic can be created to teach about anything. I believe that the use of visual imagery as well as literary elements present in a comic are a benefit to learners and that schools should use them to teach students different subjects. By these examples, comics have and can be created that express scientific concepts such as weather, outer space, or the ecosystem. There are comics and graphic novels out there that teach about history and cultural concepts such as the recent book read in class Ghosts, which helps in dealing with acceptance while also teaching about the Day of the Dead as well as cystic fibrosis.

Graphic novels can teach about a wide variety of subjects from science and math to history and cultural beliefs and traditions. The inclusion of the arts in education is slowly being snuffed out as individuals remove programs such as music, art, and dance and instead teach to the final test that occurs at the end of the year. Many politicians are calling for colleges to focus on STEM and some colleges have followed along and have started to drop their liberal arts programs. However, students need this exposure to the arts though in order to think and grow. It allows for the development of creativity and expression while helping in creating connections in the brain. Music can help teach math. Drama can aid in learning history. Science and dance can be combined in one for students to move, stay healthy, and learn. Writing and reading allows for the expression and expansion of the imagination and the visual arts helps that too.  One way student can get the exposure to the arts that they need to be happy and keep their creativity alive is through graphic novels. Teachers can have students read graphic novels about a concept they are learning in their class or they can have students create their own after learning about the different elements of a graphic novel as has been done this semester in the class this blog article is for.

Graphic novels are a way to help students read, understand, and expand their imagination as they learn and grow. By including them in schools, teachers can possibly reach students that tend to not enjoy reading by presenting a different type of book for them to try. It can aid English language learners, ELL, students by giving them a resource that allows them to view images that help in creating a narrative, providing some insight on what may be occurring in the story that could help them if they have difficulties with some of the text. Graphic novels also allow students to see the characters and to look at the clothing, food, and area that they live in instead of just reading about the details with some possible pictures in textbooks. By creating a character that students can connect to, it allows them to form a deeper connection and helps them understand what is occurring. This could be used with historical based comics in order to help the readers understand what the people may have felt at the time that event occurred. Instead of reading about how the colonists were angry about not getting representations, they can instead connect with a specific character that feels and expresses that emotion. The character could be their age, instead of an older man, and could possibly help them connect as they may be able to place themselves in the shoes of that character. Introducing graphic novels in schools can help in keeping the arts alive while also helping students grow their imagination while they learn.

Here is a link that talks about using graphic novels in the classroom, explaining both why they are important as well as how they can be used.

Here is a link for a student that actually used a graphic novel when planning a lesson for a possible future class.

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