This week one of my senior boys in Spanish 4 came to class very happy. His English class was reading a Shakespearean piece and he had really been struggling. He said, “but then she gave me this (flashes graphic novel in my direction)!!! It’s the same story but I totally understand it!!!” What a cool thing to do! We know that reading builds vocabulary in L1 and in L2, but with less text, how do graphic novels build proficiency? Well, I am not sure what the exact brain processes are but it works…
“Comics can also convey a great deal of information in a short time, while allowing the reader to control the pace of reading and re-reading,” says Tracy Edmunds, a curriculum specialist. “And research shows that processing text and images together leads to better recall and transfer of learning.”
We read a ton of Fluency Matters readers in my department. 4 per year! But we also read the Señor Wooly graphic novels. As much as my students gain from reading as a class and having common discussion, I feel like the medium of the graphic novel offers them the ability to build proficiency in different ways!
A graphic novel is a story rich in images, a lot like a movie talk. While there isn’t a heavy amount of text on the page, there is a heavy amount of story in the illustrations! This lets us make predictions, describe, and discuss in a lot of different ways! Have you ever given one a try?
In Spanish 2, we read Billy y las Botas… the Graphic Novel. We have seen the very first Billy video and Billy y las Botas 1 when we read it. From their prior experience, I use predictions to have them say what might be the same/different in the graphic novel. That’s high level language for a Spanish 2 class! The rich visuals really help them develop the proficiency to narrate a detailed story!
In Spanish 3, we read La casa de la Dentista. Again, we have seen the video for La Dentista but this reader is part of a unit on the supernatural in our culture and around the world. We are going to do some heavy reading: La Calaca Alegre, adapted versions of Chac Mool, El almohadón de plumas, and La casa tomada. Starting with the graphic novel lets me do a couple of important things!
- The first story of the unit is at the reading level of ALL my level 3 learners. Nothing gets them more fired up about a unit than starting with a confidence building read.
- The images helped me emphasize adding detail! This is an important intermediate skill! When they can see the story, they can make a movie in their head about what’s happening… learning to do this through graphic novels helps them try to “see” the story in text heavy resources.
“We live in a visual culture, bombarded with ads and content,” says teacher Marika McCoola. “While students are taught to read in school, they’re not often taught to read visuals. In order to prepare our students, we need to address visual literacy in addition to verbal literacy. Graphic novels and comics are one way to bring this visual literacy into the classroom.”
With a brand new Señor Wooly graphic novel in production… make a space for it next year… consider trying out this type of reading! Jim and I share some ideas for how to do it here on senorwooly.com. We didn’t make the cut for ACTFL next year… do you think the title was too risque?… but Jim and I both think graphic novels are a key piece to a classroom reading program. Check them out here.