Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Nate on Beyond Traditional Texts

Today we had a great discussion about the different types of non-traditional text that open the minds of the youth today. I read the article “Graphic Novels in the Secondary Classroom and School Library” because I’ve always found this medium really intriguing. Graphic novels bridge the gap between cartoons and film, while dealing with content that really captivates the imagination of young adults. I’ve seen a lot of really deep biographies, action packed thrillers, and culturally saturated graphic novels.

The benefit they have is quickly immersing the reader in a time and place which textures the story. When reading long texts, it’s sometimes difficult for readers to envision the setting through the descriptions. They can be very wordy, general and vague, or unfamiliar locations. A graphic novel can bypass pages of novel writing and allow the reader to enter the world immediately.
 Another benefit to graphic novels is the addition of gestures and body language to accompany the text. Also, physical appearances and dress of the characters can help readers engage more with the characters. This helps the readers imagine how that characters voice and attitude would be due to all the social attributes they can link to the image. This style of communication is much more direct and able to captivate students who get bored by reading large blocks of text.

 Another aspect of graphic novels is the ability to convey a shift in tone or intensity based on the style of animation and the colors used. Here we can see how art can benefit education by allowing the students to be influenced by the psychology of aesthetics. Color choices, layers of shading, and irregular cell compositions can tell a story of their own which is the undercurrent theme of graphic novels.

They differ from comics and cartoon strips because they are less likely to follow the format and are more content heavy, hence the “novel”. They tell a complete story instead of breaking the series into chapters. They differ from film because they are void of sound and treated as a series of snapshot moments in the story. These limitations actually increase the potency of the art theory and storytelling aspect, making the message direct and enthralling for readers.

Graphic novels also allow for students to catch nuance in the background and italicized words, urging the reader to connect the dots and think deeper. That is where graphic novels truly succeed, by letting the art and the text equally carry the story. There is a rhythm and highly-stylized personality to every graphic novel.

I enjoyed this read and it gives me an opportunity to share a related story. Last year I was in Barcelona with my family on a random walk around the city. We came across a bookstore and the posters in the window were old European illustrations and it was eye-catching enough to bring us inside. Once we got inside, we noticed that it was only graphic novels and was organized in no particular way, just stacks and stacks of mismanaged books. When we looked closer we noticed that all the books were brand-new, and even better, were in about 12 different languages. All of them seemed to be culturally specific, highly artistic, and contemporary. We had to settle on only 2 books for our luggage’s sake, but one of them has been an inspiration to me as an artist and actually helped me learn basic Catalan. The book is called Barcelona Low Cost. It tells the story of 3 people sharing an apartment in Barcelona and their personal lives being broke in a touristy city. The story goes back and forth between reality and the inside of their minds and the color scheme is incredible. I learned a completely new take on painting night life using colors I previously underrated. It also clearly captures the environment and feeling of Barcelona, the illustration style being also heavily Spanish in technique. I also noticed that my wife was able to gather a lot about the story even though it’s 95% written in Catalan, a language she has zero prior knowledge in. That is what I like most about graphic novels, the art can hold the text up enough to be understood without necessarily needing the text at all.


  1. Hi Nate, it was fascinating to read your article. You brought up some great points about how graphic novels can help students learn. In Elementary school, I agree that graphic novels would be a great tool. Books that contain all text can lower the engagement factor because they are difficult. I read in one of the jigsaw articles that pictures can really help the students relate and connect with the content. Without visuals the students could lose interest really fast. You also mentioned that art could really help people understand the content. I like how you gave the example of your wife and how she can understand with images and not words.

  2. Thanks for sharing your Barcelona experience, it sounds like a wholesome experience. I also read the article on graphic novels and was surprised to learn about the increase of popularity. I see graphic novels to be a very useful tool for elementary and middle school students. I agree with you on the main points you address in your blog, more specifically about the benefits of using graphic novels in the classroom. This could be attributed to the way graphic novels offer immediacy, through pictures and words working simultaneously. Additional benefits to consider are:
    1) A tool to differentiate instruction
    2) A tool to build critical reading skills
    3) A way to examine literacy elements
    4) An opportunity to explore a particular genre
    I really enjoyed our expert group discussions, in which we discussed how graphic novels can illustrate different aspects of cultures. We discussed about Persepolis and compared that with a West-African graphic novel. The contrast between their illustrations, the colors and themes were very interesting and provide opportunities to discuss culture.