Review of Teaching Graphic Novels by Katie Monnin

Teaching Graphic Novels

Cover - Teaching Graphic Novels

The subtitle of Dr. Monnin’s book is, “practical strategies for the secondary ELA classroom” and I am happy to say that she has definitely placed her emphasis on “practical.”  Ready-to-use materials are the best for the weary classroom teacher looking to liven things up.  What’s great, though, is the accessible theoretical basis for how using graphic novels can and should be a seamless experience in an ELA context.  Bottom line: if you are looking for a few back-pocket activities to spice things up, they are here.  However, a systematic use of the activities and theories described herein will engage your students in ways you, your administrators, and their parents want them to be.

There is nothing technologically amazing here.  There are no links to SMART activities.  There are no gadgets.  What you get here are soundly-designed instructional activities meant to scaffold students of all literacy levels into a critical engagement with visual and print based texts.

What I love: The direct approach and accessible language.  Dr. Monnin may have fancy credentials, but she is a reader at heart and wants to help other people love reading.  This fact is evident in how simply she has designed the activities and the handouts that support them.  I am happy to see that many of the novels and artists that Dr. Monnin recommends are already in use in my classroom – in fact, this external support has encouraged me in the knowledge that I am on the right track with building parallel visual and textual literacies.

What I’d love to see made better: A purely nerdy part of me wished for easier signposting for the different activities.  Sometimes, I wasn’t sure if I was in a new section or in another part of the previous section.  I figured it out, but I had to think about it (this, I think, is not a fault of Dr. Monnin as much as it is a design issue to be discussed with the book’s publisher.

All in all, I intend to put this book into the hands of my ELA and literacy specialists at the school as soon as possible.  There are a lot of possibilities for our population in graphic novel study.  Buy it, read it, use it!

S