Graphic Novel Presentation for TAIR

This is the handout (via this Google Doc) and video for a presentation for Texas Pre-Service Teachers.

The Arrival (MS/HS)

Pass out Handout 1 – During Reading

Discussion Questions

  • Why aren’t words used in The Arrival? What effect does this have on the reader?

  • Is The Arrival a colorful book? In what way? When and why does the color change? What effect does the use of color have on the overall reading experience?

  • The city the immigrant arrives in isn’t real, but what sort of a city is it? Is it meant to suggest a contemporary or a historical place? In what way does it suggest that place?

  • How is visual metaphor used? Are the immigrants who tell their stories really running from giants with vacuums or through vast mazes? What are these things meant to represent? Why do you think the main character left his own homeland?

Create your own Panels (put on back of Handout1) (Daily Assignment) Lesson from ?

  • Telling a story without words. To demonstrate how narrative operates in its most stripped-down form, have each student illustrate the following story: A man (or woman) is hurrying to catch a train. He runs. He runs faster. He runs faster still. He either boards the train or misses it. He reacts to his success or failure.

  • Students must tell the story in six panels (no more and no less). They can use body language, facial expressions, color, and symbols such as speed lines, but they cannot use words. When everyone is finished, compare the ways the completed stories show the character’s various actions and final reaction.

  • Depicting emotion and action. The following two activities give students an understanding of the various ways emotion and action can be portrayed. When the drawings are completed, ask the group to discuss the artists’ chosen perspective and style.

1. Have each student draw five different depictions of “sad.” They can use facial expressions, body language, words, color, or metaphor (i.e., a wilted flower), but each image must be limited to a single panel.

2. Have each student draw three different depictions of a character jumping. The jumps can be small or large, up, down, or from one surface to another (one roof to the next over a sprawling cityscape). The students can use words, color, symbols, etc., but each depiction must be limited to two panels (for instance, the beginning of the jump and the end of it).

Adapted from:

The Arrival

Student’s Name: _________________________  Class period: _________________

Teacher’s Name: ___________________________

What are you seeing on the pages? Please take notes on these traits as we read the story.

Panel Style, Shape, Size

Visual Appeal

Illustrations: Type, style, line, movement

Other Notes and Observations

Persepolis (HIGH SCHOOL)

After Reading Persepolis in lit groups, have students discuss the following questions.

  • Even though Marjane’s life is very different than yours, what common threads do you see in comparing your childhood?

  • What section of the book was the most shocking to your group?

  • What do you think of the cartoonish drawing style she used to display her life?


Reflection and Evaluation:

  • Have students exchange and read each other’s graphic narratives evaluating them for the requirements.

  • Students should also leave at least 2 positive comments.

Note: World History teachers can add a lot more of their curriculum content to this lesson by comparing Iranian childhoods to other cultures.

Lesson adapted from:

Comic ideas from:

Rapunzel’s Revenge/Calamity Jack (ES/MS/HS)

Teaching Ideas

I love how complex Jack and the Beanstalk became simply by changing the setting and modifying the characters. I’d like to share this with my students and then have them create their own fractured fairytale graphic novels in groups.  Each group could have an art director, author(s), artist, and pencil artist. Groups would be given fairytales, settings, and character ideas and then they could work together to create their mash-up masterpiece!

Formula from the author’s webpage (

  1. Take a fairy tale (i.e. Rapunzel, Jack)

  2. Change the setting (i.e. from woodsy, quasi-European landscape to desert-y, quasi-American Wild West)

  3. In the first 1/4th of the book, retell the fairy tale, allowing the story to alter with the setting

  4. Then, set the story loose, infusing it with both fairy tale elements as well as big Hollywood-style movie elements.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (MS/HS)

Good teaching resources: Even though this is for a community college, I could see Pre-AP middle school and regular high school students having success with these lessons:

Lesson for ELLs:

More ideas for teaching Maus in the classroom:

Detailed Lesson for Chapters 1-3:

The Photographer (HS)

This mixed media nonfiction book chronicles a photographer’s journey to Afghanistan to chronicle a Doctors Without Borders Mission.  My favorite thing about this book is that it mixes Didier’s film strips and photographs with drawings by Guibert.  A third author helps weave the narrative that surrounds the pictures.  It is a deep, graphic, and moving piece about the young photojournalists naive ideas about Afghanistan as he struggles to survive the harsh surroundings.   Some images and content are quite disturbing, so the book is best suited for upper middle school and high school.

This book would make a great intro to a PBL.  After reading this book, students could take another piece of history from their curriculum and create their own mixed media piece detailing the life of a figure during that time period.  Students should mix researched photographs with their own creative writing to teach others about the culture and time period of the country they’ve decided to research.

Romeo and Juliet (HS)


Having taught RJ to freshmen for the last 5 years, I needed something to spice up the unit.  This Graphic Novel is awesome because it retains some of the old language and mixes it with language students can understand.  The visual portrayal of these young lover’s ever changing emotions is priceless!  Because it is a play and it is complicated, I like to teach it with different mediums.  I usually start the unit with students acting out the first scene.  We read it in class reader’s theater style twice and then act it out in our school’s courtyard for the third reading.  Then we listen to the first/second act while following along in our textbook, stopping to compare the scene where they meet with the Leonardo Dicaprio movie.  The rest of the acts we read with the graphic novel.  It really helps my ELL students to understand it better.  If you were able to procure other No Fear Shakespeare graphic novels, it would be great to use these for literature circles and then have the kids tableaux the main scenes in each play.

Baby Mouse (ES)/Squish (ES)/Lunch Lady (ES) – Literature Circles

For elementary I would introduce the concept of graphic novels and then have them read these gems in literature circles to increase reading comprehension.  Teach the students about graphic novel basics like speech bubbles(dialogue!), panels, and even theme.  Students can read these great books and even learn about the archetype for heroes.  Have students find the recurring visual theme in each book and have them meet to discuss the books as they would for regular literature circles.  More info and resources on Lit Circles here:

I’ve done lit circles in many different ways.  I’ve passed out role sheets for HW and then had students meet to discuss.  I’ve given them specific assignments the day they came in for meetings, but my favorite and most effective way was by combining literature circle norms with Jeff Wilhelm’s Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension.   For management purposes, I would film one group during each meeting and review the video for engagement.

Sample Lit Group Activities:

Meeting One- Lunch Lady

  1. Students meet and use role sheets* to facilitate discussions (15 min.)

  2. Role Play Activity: Flashback Drama: Students imagine and represent what happened before a story or scene, identifying possible causes and background.

Imagine what Lunch Lady was doing before she became a lunch lady.  Why do you think she became a lunch lady? Prepare a speech by her about why she loves her job and act it out for the class.

    3. **Turn in role logs with your opening scene.**

Meeting Two:

  1. Students meet and use role sheets* to facilitate discussions (15 min.)

  2. Role Play Activity: Choral Montage

    1. Students can write between students about the lunch lady and then cull lines from these notes to wrote a poem about the book.  They will perform it as a group for the rest of the class.

  3. **Turn in role logs, notes from students, and choral poem**

Meeting Three:

  1. Students meet and use role sheets* to facilitate discussions (15 min.)

  2. Role Play Activity: Missing Scene Drama- Students notice a missing scene, infer, and fill this textual gap.

    1. What significant experiences are missing from this reading? Create the missing scene and act it out for the class.

  3. **Turn in role logs, and missing scene**

Meeting Four:

  1. Students meet and use role sheets* to facilitate discussions (15 min.)

  2. Students discuss how they want to present their book to the class.  They can create a presentation, drama, or whatever they can dream of!

*Role Sheets printed from Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, by Harvey Daniels. I used Summarizer, Illustrator, Questioner, Connector, and Passage Master.

Role Play Activities from Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension, by Jeff Wilhelm.

General Resources for teaching with graphic novels



  • Graphic Novels in Your Media Center: A Definitive Guide, by Allyson A.W. Lyga and Barry Lyga Published by Libraries Unlimited
  • Graphic Novels 101: Selecting and Using Graphic Novels to Promote Literacy for Children and Young Adults – A Resource Guide for School Librarians and Educators, by Philip Crawford Published by Hi Willow Publishing

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