Graphic Novels

STEM Tuesday — Getting Your Comic-on with Great Science Graphic Novels– In the Classroom

Visual Literacy with Graphic Nonfiction!

Graphic nonfiction is a great way to work on visual literacy strategies. This week I’ll introduce four questions/ teaching moves that I use to work on visual literacy with students. I’ll give examples from this month’s book list, but you can repurpose these for use with other graphic nonfiction, illustrations, or diagrams from any science text.

 

1) Provide a diagram or illustration with the text removed. Ask students to work with a partner to talk through the answers to these questions: (a) Describe what you see. Don’t worry if you don’t know the name of any item in the picture—just describe it as you see it. (b) Make a prediction. What do you think the illustrator is trying to show here? (or—what do you think [xxxx] is?)

Consider this cell from the bottom of page 46 in Science Comics: Bats.

Ask:

What do you see in this image?

Make a prediction: what do you think the shapes might represent?

After students have studied the image and made predictions, show them a version with the text. They will be engaged and eager to see if their predictions were correct.

2) Take this a step further and ask students to fill in the blanks themselves with possible text. For example, if your class has already studied meiosis, you might use this image from page 17 of Science Comics: Dogs and let them fill in what the dog might be saying.

Then show the author’s version. Who’s do they like best?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Talk about the role of arrows or other diagram features. I worked with a group of high schoolers studying a mitosis diagram many years ago. When I asked about what they saw, they were describing the image as if it were showing 6 different cells—they missed the role of the arrows indicating that the first cell turned into the cell in each image that followed.

Here’s an example, from page 43 of Older than Dirt.

Ask: Arrows in diagrams can have different meanings. They can–

a) point to something important you should notice

b) give the name of an object in the picture

c) show that one thing turns into something else

d) show that something is moving.

What is the role of the arrows in this diagram?

4) Help them see the value of imagery. Often, some information is found in the text while the images add extra information or make the text more clear. Students who don’t study images miss that extra information. So another pair of questions I like to ask are: What information do you get from the words that is not in the images? What do you see in the images that is not in the words?

This series of frames from page 21 of Secret Coders is a good example of text and images with different information. In this scene, the boy Eni is explaining to Hopper how binary code can show numbers. (Which could be especially useful since digital coding—e.g., binary—is now a piece of the Next Generation Science Standards for middle school.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try these techniques with any of the graphic nonfiction texts from this month’s list, or any other image-heavy text you choose. Once you have used an image in class, make sure the book is available. Students will want to read the entire book!


Jodi Wheeler-Toppen is a former science teacher and the author of the Once Upon A Science Book series (NSTA Press) on integrating science and reading instruction.  She also writes for children, with her most recent book being Dog Science Unleashed: Fun Activities to do with Your Canine Companion. She can’t draw, so she’s extra impressed with the writers for this month’s books.

STEM Tuesday– Getting Your Comic-on with Great Science Graphic Novels — Book List

 

Can you believe it is already December? We hope that you have found some amazing reads here this year. To finish out 2018 we’ve selected some comics and graphic novels that might have you looking at STEM in an entirely new way.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Older than Dirt: A Wild But True History of Earth by Don Brown and Dr. Michael R. Perfit  

Almost 14.5 billion years ago, it all started with a BIG BANG. What began as a cloud of gas and dust became our planet. Sibert Honor medalist Don Brown tackles the history of our planet in his latest.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown

Another title from Don Brown for your bookshelf provides readers with information about one of the worst environmental disasters of our planet. This is a great book to pair with The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Science Comics series

We’ve featured select titles within this STEM series before, but we wanted to be sure to tell you about the newest title released this fall:  Solar System: Our Place in SpaceOther titles include Volcanoes, Coral Reefs, Robots & Drones, Rockets, and The Brain. Check them out.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Twisted True Tales from Science series 

Stephanie Bearce is the creator of another great science comics series. Budding science fair enthusiasts will enjoy Explosive Experiments and Disaster Discoveries. The truth is always stranger than fiction!

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer  by Sydney Padua

A bit of a departure from our normal middle-grade focus, this informative and fun young adult graphic novel includes tons of primary information as it explores the lives of Ada Lovelace and inventor Charles Babbage. It was too good to pass up!

 

Plus, we wanted to share a few fiction titles that pair well with the above nonfiction science comics:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

We featured the Monsters and Modules installment of this series back in June, but there are lots of other (alliterative) titles to consider.  Potions and Parameters. Paths and Portals. Robots and Repeats. Secrets and Sequences. The combination of logic puzzles, basic coding instruction, and mysteries is perfect for budding STEM wizards.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Lowriders in SpaceLowriders to the Center of the Earth; and Lowriders Blast from the Past by Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raul the Third

Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love working on cars, specifically lowriders. Sketched in pen-and-ink, the stories are chock full of science facts and several Spanish words/phrases. These titles will entertain as they inform.