Our Top 5 Resources for Educators
One of the highlights of attending the educational panels at C2E2 this year was watching my friend Adam interview famed horror author, R.L. Stine. The interview, some of which you can watch here, showed Mr. Stine to be humble, funny, and genuinely endearing. It also revealed something that caught me off-guard: R.L. Stine doesn’t like teachers using his Goosebumps books, saying that we take the fun out of them and turn them into work!
With respect to Mr. Stine, he is far from the first content creator to be adopted and loved by the teaching world. Educators have made a habit of finding high-quality entertainment, and adapting it into subject content. It’s a strategy that not only helps us connect students with knowledge in an interesting way, it’s also a hell of a lot more fun for us as teachers! When we explore the idea of using tools such as comics and graphic novels in the classroom, we’re pursuing a higher level of engagement for everyone involved.
Pop Culture Classroom is a non-profit organization, trying to get students engaged, using fantastic visual stories like I Kill Giants, American Born Chinese, and Owly. If you are an educator looking to start incorporating these sorts of works into your class, it can be hard to know how and where to start.
How lucky then that you’re far from alone!
Educators all around the United States have spent years pioneering and refining their work with graphic literature. PCC has tapped into some of that expertise to bring you everything you need to feel confident while exploring the use of comics in your classroom.
Although this article doesn’t encompass all of the wonderful free things you’ll find on this free website (did I mention it’s free?), here are five resources on the Pop Culture Classroom website that you can use at no-cost (that’s a synonym for “free”!)
- Comics 101! – https://classroom.popcultureclassroom.org/comics-101/
For many teachers, there are numerous hurdles to clear before even planning to incorporate comics into your classroom. PCC organizes how-to panels at nearly every conference we participate in, but the Comics 101 section of the website helps navigate the entry-level steps involved in tapping into these awesome new resources – and when we say basic, we mean it! This is all of the knowledge you need to start from absolute scratch. A glossary of simple, entry-level comics terms are a great primer to understanding how comics work. We’ve done the hard work of vetting dozens of titles, too! By grade level and by subject area, you’ll be able to narrow your focus down to the graphic novels that can work for your needs. In this section, you’ll also find:
- General guides to help you figure out how to read, interpret, and teach with comics.
- Tips and links to Ted Talks about how to convince your boss that comics truly are valuable learning tools to effectively engage and teach students.
- Guides and resources that can help your students create their OWN comics to express their ideas and opinions.
- Comprehensive lesson plans created by teachers for a variety of graphic novels. Use them for free or use them as inspiration for your own.
2. The Classroom Blog! – https://classroom.popcultureclassroom.org/blog/
Earlier, I mentioned all the educators across the United States who are working with comics and graphic novels. Unlike in the private sector, where secrets of success are often closely guarded, teachers like these generally want to shout from the rooftops about the stuff that works! Collaboration is the lifeblood of education, and PCC’s Classroom Blog is where you can tap into the ongoing insights of professionals like yourself. This is where the conversation goes beyond the basics. Want to address and discuss systemic racism in your social studies or english class? We have some suggestions. Thinking about incorporating web comics into your lessons but aren’t sure where some good ones are? We talk about that. As the conversation evolves and progresses, the Classroom Blog will aim to keep readers up-to-speed.
And hey, once you’ve become an expert yourself, consider reaching out to some of your like-minded colleagues and come present at a convention!
3. Great Games for the Classroom! – https://classroom.popcultureclassroom.org/comics-101/great-games-for-the-classroom/
Pop culture goes beyond visual literature; anything that can be adapted from the entertainment medium and brought into the classroom should be celebrated and encouraged. Great Games for the Classroom focuses on the many ways that students can be drawn in by a little healthy competition. From classics like Clue to modern masterpieces like Pandemic, a variety of titles are presented here for students from early elementary to high school. While you’re navigating this section, you’ll also find a guide for educators who want to start their own pop culture club! Use it as a framework to build a thriving community of students interested in comics, manga, games, anime, or any other entertainment medium! Then take them on a field trip to your local convention.
4. Colorful History! – https://classroom.popcultureclassroom.org/product/colorful-history/
Getting a school administration to invest in a class set of graphic novels can be a daunting task. The Comics 101 section can help you with that sometimes-difficult conversation, but there’s truly nothing better than evidence of success when it comes to proving your point! That’s where Colorful History can help you establish that first tentative foothold by providing condensed, high-quality graphic tales of famous people and events. Generally about two pages in length, these historical tales are available as a free (of course) digital download. Appropriate for grades 3-12, these stories can be adapted across many subject areas. In addition, each issue comes with a teacher guide, written by one of the many educators associated with PCC. In each guide, you’ll find:
- A vocabulary list to aid struggling readers
- Relevant discussion questions for both elementary and secondary learners
- Lesson ideas that span several different areas of focus
- Links to additional resources for background or finding a deeper understanding
Whether you use them as the center of a lesson or merely as a bellringer, the Colorful History comics are truly a hidden gem that can create meaningful engagement in a matter of moments.
5. The Lending Library! – https://classroom.popcultureclassroom.org/lending-libraries/
This is the most ambitious service that Pop Culture Classroom offers. The Lending Library is our effort to get comics into classrooms nationwide, regardless of funding level.
We know that not every school district has the funding to invest in graphic novels, even if administrators are excited to try. That’s why, for a fraction of the cost (shipping + a deposit on a credit card), teachers can get a class set of graphic novels shipped right to their classroom. As befits the PCC approach, these graphic novels have all been carefully selected by teachers and most have been used by us personally in our own classrooms.
One of my own contributions to the first wave of the lending library is The United States Constitution: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. Jonathan Hennessey’s creation helped make my U.S. Government class more engaging, even as it allowed us to cover content faster. Teachers who check out a class set of Constitution receive a thoroughly researched and developed teacher guide, complete with simple vocabulary explanations, discussion questions, and more in-depth lesson/project ideas. This labor of love from me only represents one of the nine works available from the library!