These days, we’re all pretty accustomed to seeing Marvel dominate the box office. But when I tell people that comics also dominate my classroom, they’re often taken a little aback–especially if they know I teach geography.
Comics are a fantastic tool for inspiring student engagement, leveling the playing field so students can demonstrate their learning even if they aren’t great writers, and scaffolding intimidating projects. While it might be easier to see how comics would fit into an English language arts class, there’s no great trick to incorporating them across the curriculum.
The most obvious reason to have students create comics in class is because they’re fun. From the private school where I started teaching to my current position at Toby Farms Intermediate School, a Title I school with a large population of at-risk students, comics have helped to capture student attention so much that they create their own fun along the way, no matter how dry the topic is.
I’ve also come to feel that there’s an area of success for everyone to achieve in comics, whether it’s the anime master who’s not great at explaining the ideas but draws a beautiful tableau, or the student who never progressed beyond stick figures but nails the concepts cold. Similarly, comics level the playing field because socioeconomic background has little to do with drawing ability—the rich kids and the poor kids are all starting at the same place.
Giving students a character to talk through who isn’t actually them can also be a good way to bring them out of their shells. Because their comics are displayed mostly anonymously—they put their name on the back and I hang them up against the wall—they can get some feedback and even the occasional confidence boost as they hear other students talking about their comics on the bulletin board.