Teaching Art with Comics and Graphic Novels

I recently responded to a question on Making Curriculum Pop about teaching art with comics and graphic novels. I realized this is a topic I’m quite passionate about and thought perhaps I’d share my response here as well. The question related to resources for using comics and graphic novels to teach art. It read, “Hi Everyone! I’m currently a grad student at Teachers College, Columbia University and am taking a comics course run by Nick Sousanis. I’m currently studying art education and was wondering if anyone had any resources or leads regarding teaching art through comics. Any help would greatly be appreciated!”

Here was my reply:

Hi Liz,

I believe your question is one that is not asked often enough. We get so focused on the literacy skill building side of comics and graphic novels that we often forget that every time we pick up a GN we engaging with art. As the education and outreach director for a film company I wear many hats, one of which happens to be a consultant in arts education for the Arizona Commission on the Arts. So for me, that’s the first thing I look at.

When we look at the core of the national arts standards the discussion is about the skills that an education in the arts develop such as analyzing nonverbal communication and making informed judgements about cultural products and issues and learning to adapt to and respect other ways of thinking, working and expressing oneself.

As for the how. Remember that comics and GNs are sequential art. The sequence communicates time and action both in what is seen and what is unseen.You might look at the collaborative nature of the art form that is often overlooked when teachers use comics and GNs in their classrooms.

What is important to remember is that you absolutely follow the same arc as with any arts instruction/integration process. I always begin with artifact whether it is an existing artifact or a student created one. Take students through the process of identifying themes in the artifact and then discussing its contemporary and historical context. Remember arts ed is more about developing the next generation of arts patron than it is about developing the next generation artist. Giving them the skills to critically evaluate an art experience- its the process not the product that matters.

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