Teaching with Jim McClain’s Solution Squad, Part 1

We have published our first graphic novel, available here and here, but now the question is, “How do we teach with it?” The answer follows!

In my seventh grade classroom yesterday, I polled my students to find out how many of them had never read a comic book or a graphic novel. I was pleased to find out that surprisingly few of them had never read one. However, some deeper digging revealed that there were several things about reading comics that they didn’t know, like what a thought balloon/bubble was. They didn’t know what a panel was, nor what gutters were. In other words, they didn’t have the basic vocabulary to communicate effectively about comics. As always, we have a solution for that!

Using this free download created by Tracy Edmunds, I introduced students to the world of Solution Squad and comics. It’s a short, three-slide PDF formatted for screen viewing that encapsulates what every student needs to know to get started in the world of comics. The art is by Rose McClain. Here’s page one:

In the course of showing the slides and talking about them, I also introduced two vocabulary words: juxtaposition, and onomatopoeia. Most of them already knew the latter because of previous language arts work, so that was encouraging, but the former was a new one for them. I had them write these words in their daily planner in my class’s space. Even if they tell their parents they didn’t learn a thing and just read comics in my class, I can point out that they learned new vocabulary!

These three pages also appear in our graphic novel, but in portrait format to fit the book. Here’s the first page in that format:

I’m a strong believer in Stan Lee’s old saying, “Every comic book is someone’s first.”

I want to make sure that students feel welcome as they begin looking at the graphic novel. That’s why this is page one.

This lesson fit nicely into our 48-minute period, leaving time to ask questions and discuss!