It’s hard to innovate when you’re up against a wall.
You’re in a tough position. As a teacher, you’re faced with an emphasis on meeting testing requirements and state mandates — and that’s not even factoring in the challenge of funding deficits. You want innovation, but you’ve got some huge hurdles.
Good teaching is eye-opening.
When I was sixteen, my AP US History teacher asked us a question:
Are we living in a post-racial society?
It was the spring of 2010. It had been a little over a year since we had all gathered in our high school auditorium to watch America’s first African-American president be sworn in. It was a provocative question to ask … particularly to a group of predominantly white students. I couldn’t help but wonder, Who were we to judge?
We weren’t meant to answer it then, of course. We weren’t even supposed to answer it in essay form, as was the norm.
Instead, we were to create a faux Facebook page for a figure in 20th century history, and build our case off of the life and accomplishments of our subject. We’d have to make our case and defend it in a live Q&A with classmates.
What came after was the most impactful learning experience I’ve ever had.
Because our contemporary exposure to other lives had been so limited, I became the only person to argue against the idea that we were living in a post-racial society — and even then, it was only thanks to chance exposure to the work of Southern Poverty Law Center via The West Wing.
Media matters. And when we don’t present our students with media that accurately reflects lives other than their own, they develop a very lopsided view of the world.
Broader perspectives create better understandings.
My name is Sami Yuhas. I have an M.Ed in Learning, Design, and Technology from Penn State. I’ve built a business around my passion: engaging students’ critical thinking skills through comics-based teaching.
I fell in love with comics in college, when I was truly exposed to the diversity of voices working in the medium. A semester spent studying visual stories from a more global perspective, spanning the world from Palestine to Pyongyang, opened my eyes to the potential of the form.
As Gretchen E. Schwarz noted in her article, “Graphic novels for multiple literacies,” comics “offer subject matter students might never consider.” Combined with increased visual and textual literacy, a broader understanding of topics at hand, and an appeal to students who may otherwise struggle to engage with scholastic literature, the case for comics grows every day.
Let’s broaden some horizons.
I launched Comics in the Classroom to serve as a resource for teachers interested in integrating comics and graphic novels into their classes.
At Comics in the Classroom, you’ll find comic spotlights paired with download-ready, research-based lesson plans for topics across the K-12 spectrum, reviews of comics-related teaching materials, and alerts about grants and other cool comics-related opportunities.
Whether you’re looking to help newer readers develop a love for independent reading, get your middle schoolers to dig deeper into the history of WWII, or re-frame required reading for high schoolers, there’s something here for you.