Teaching Comic Books

To take my mind off of the lack of paid work I am doing this week, I have started putting lesson plans and units together on wikispaces to keep my brain from turning to malt-o-meal. However, the lessons are not on Shakespeare or Poetry as I have written before. I am currently putting together materials to one day teach a high school or middle school course on comic books.

I don’t think I have mentioned it much on here, but my husband and I collect the New 52 comics that DC started putting out in 2011. We don’t collect all of the titles, but we collect many of them. After years and years of studying canonical literature, I have realized that any literature can be legitimately analyzed in a scholarly way. If I would have known this as a teenager, I probably would have paid much more attention in class.


While I was student teaching with an eighth grade class, I taught a unit on the Holocaust. The students read The Diary of Anne Frank, NightThe Boy in the Stripped Pajamas and the other usual middle school appropriate texts that teach children about the horrors of concentration camps. Around this time, a friend suggested I read Maus by Art Spiegelman. This two book graphic novel blew my mind. I couldn’t put it down. Spiegelman’s account of his father’s time in Auschwitz was heart wrenching, educational, and both universal and personal all at once. Spiegelman uses cats to depict the Nazis, pigs to depict the Polish, and mice to depict the Jews. I brought these books in for my students to glance at, and much to my surprise they couldn’t get enough of them! I had kids who refused to pick up any other book all year enveloped in this emotionally difficult story.


After our Holocaust unit, I brought in some of my Marvel and DC graphic novels and graphic novel depictions of the classics they wouldn’t touch. These were the books constantly missing from my shelves! I saw eighth graders picking up Pride and Prejudice as their choice books!


If a student is challenged at a grade appropriate level and is still discussing the same themes and genres as usual texts, why not use comic books in the classroom?

I have recently been brushing up on the history of comic books through a podcast I stumbled upon from Michigan State University that has really been helpful and reading article after article about the benefits of students reading visually and textually.

My hopes are that this is not a project in vain, but something I get to teach eventually – even if it ends up being an extra curricular.


4 thoughts on “Teaching Comic Books

  1. Little Mrs. Know It All

    I liked Maus a lot and can see how it’s a more palatable way to digest the Holocaust for kids and adults. I think you’re on to something.

    1. mindymwm Post author

      Thanks Little Mrs. Know It All,

      I’m glad you liked Maus – did you read both volumes? I was so surprised that my middle schoolers were so into comic books. I didn’t read comics when I was in middle school, but I remember the stigma that went along with comic books getting in the way of that. I think there is so much hype and “geek chic” out there since The Big Bang Theory, that kids will be more willing to delve into this type of literature.

    1. mindymwm Post author

      Thanks Valentine,

      Learning approaches ARE changing. Students are into more visual activities on their own time and there have been a lot of studies that show they respond more to visual activities in the classroom than traditional texts. Don’t get me wrong, I (like most English teachers) love to read traditional texts and wish that all students loved to read The Great Gatsby like the majority of my high school honors class, but it simply isn’t the case. It took me a long time to come to terms that not all students are English junkies like I am. Since I started reading comic books though, I get it and I really think it could make a difference in the classroom.


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