Visual Narratives in the Classroom: When did comics get such a bad rap? ☆

WWII comic, "The Fighting Yank."

“When you learn to read, it is usually with picture books. After that, anything with pictures is looked at as ‘baby’,” remarks Deborah Rosenburg during her talk “Visual Narratives Dissected” at the Creativity, Play, and the Imagination across Disciplines conference at Teachers College. Rosenburg asks: “When did comics and graphic novels get such a bad rap?”

In Ancient Rome elaborate ‘comics’ telling the stories of important events and people were carved into buildings. Stained glass windows originated as a way to illustrate stories from the Bible to an illiterate population. Rosenburg calls for educators to look to comics as resources in providing rich, interactive and creative learning experiences in the classroom.

Rosenburg proposed using comics to teach children how to create dialogue to drive stories, while co-panelist, Marek Bennett, suggested looking at comics from WWII and other critical moments in history as a window to discussion about historical events, culture, stereotypes and propaganda. Comics also may be used to analyze cinematographic and gaming design techniques, which are applied to many of today’s graphic novels.

As a closing activity, Rosenburg wanted to show how comics tap into multiple intelligences. She asked attendees to split into two groups and come up with a story elaborating on the simple beginning: “It was a dark and stormy night.” One group expressed their story through art, the other through text.

Do you agree with Rosenburg? Have comics been devalued? Are they considered ‘baby’? Do you believe them to be valuable classroom resources? How would you use comics or graphic novels in the classroom?

For more on comics in the classroom: Haiku and Comics and Creativity and Collaboration: Nick Sousanis on Comics and Classrooms.