Getting Graphic in the Classroom

Bluewater offers free lesson plans for educators.

By , Columnist

What a difference a few decades makes.

A mere generation ago, comics were considered trash literature, the last, lonely bastard art still waiting to be accepted as legitimate. Now, with one super-powered film after another premiering and often setting ticket sales records, this American-bred medium is finally taking its place alongside its once forsaken brother and sister arts as part of the larger entertainment complex.

And surely there’s no more profound sign of the graphic novel’s growing legitimacy than its increasing use in classrooms of high schools, colleges, and universities across the country. Where once comics were something to be derided and seized, now they’re assigned reading and recognized as powerful tools in the war against illiteracy and improving reading skills at all levels. But with that increased interest among educators, there’s a growing need for model lesson plans and course guides to better help teachers choose those books which are most appropriate for their particular purpose.

In a move meant to fill that gap, yesterday Bluewater Productions announced that it would begin offering a series of free lesson plans that incorporate graphic novels and single issue comics through its website.

Created in conjunction with Chris Wilson, an educator and the mastermind behind “The Graphic Classroom” blog, according to Bluewater PR, “these lesson plans use multi-discipline analysis of several biographical graphic novels and comic books including language, historical perspective, conceptual thinking, decision making and other skills appropriate for elementary and middle school students.” The plans also use exercises, discussion, and guided activities.

Chris Wilson's The Graphic Classroom blog banner.jpg

“I know that reading is a problem for many students today,” stated Wilson. “I feel strongly that comics and graphic novels can be one way that we can combat this problem. Graphic novels should be in every public school library and classroom library.”

According to Bluewater president Darren Davis, he’s a perfect example of the positive aspects of teaching with comics. “I was one of those students in danger of falling through the cracks. I was a borderline student and a poor reader,” Davis admitted. “But once I discovered comic books, I couldn’t put them down. My vocabulary increased; my comprehension improved. I can honestly say that comic books gave me the confidence I needed to eventually tackle Shakespeare and Steinbeck.”

Based in Vancouver, WA, Bluewater has established itself as one of the pre-eminent independent studios producing comics, OGNs, and young adult books. It publishes both fiction and nonfiction, and boasts a diverse back catalogue that embraces the fictitious worlds of William Shatner (TekWar Chronicles), legendary filmmaker Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts), and Vincent Price, as well as a series of highly successful biographies featuring the life stories of Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Sarah Palin, JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.

The first lessons plans will be available for free later this month at Bluewater Productions, with more to follow over coming months.

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A veteran journalist who has covered the comics medium since 1998, Bill Baker is also the author of Icons: The DC Comics and WildStorm Art of Jim Lee and seven previous books featuring his extended interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and other notable creators. You can learn more about Bill’s work…

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