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  1. The next major assignment is in two-parts: writing the research proposal and writing a Works Cited page in correct MLA format. I have provided instructions for both. Also, make sure you visit MLA OWL Purdue as this site contains all the examples you will need for your Works Cited page.
  2. The first thing you have to do is to select a research topic. I am providing you with a list of topics that you must select from, as I do not want any of you to research the same topics you did in high school.
  3. We are constantly reminded that our states, regions, and countries are part of a larger world; for example, how do our shopping habits affect child workers in China? How will the Great Lakes’ water supply be affected by water supply demands of other regions of the U.S., the world? After discussing issues related to the broader topics listed below, you are to select a more narrowly defined topic to explore. Here are some broader topics that you will need to narrow:

· consumerism

· free trade

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· globalization

· sweatshops

· outsourcing and employment in a global economy

· immigration: legal or illegal

· Global tensions over religious differences

· trafficking of women and children or child labor

· global conflicts over food,water, climate change

· water crisis in California or other western states

· immigration crisis in Europe

· immigration crisis in United States

  1. After selecting a topic, you are to collect 12 sources; these sources have to be a mixture of newspaper articles, magazine articles, books, and academic journal articles. Read up on your topic.
  2. After reading up on your topic, you will want to narrow your topic and enter the argument or controversy from a unique point of view.
  3. Write the 2-page proposal and then write the Works Cited page.


Graphic Novels: Multimodal Texts in the Classroom

The world is changing as technology advances, and the need to master new literacies grows with it. Academic institutions cannot ignore progress and expect to remain relevant. It might even be said that education is regressing as it strips the arts and extracurricular as the intent shifts from developing educated citizens to test passers. What if it were possible to reintroduce the visual arts back into the classroom while simultaneously enhancing comprehension and increasing interest? What if the same exact tools we use to teach children their first language could be adapted to the modern classroom? We use children’s books to scaffold the comprehension of, and maintain interest in, reading and further developing understanding of language. We use this combination of written text and visual images in works to effectively teach an important skill at a critical point in our children’s lives, and we continue to use graphic texts everyday of our lives from that point on. Acknowledging these points, it is ridiculous that we would exclude such an effective, relevant concept through the rest of a child’s education. Graphic novels must be included in the classroom for these reasons and more.

Multimodal literacy must be formally taught in today’s schools to give students the literacy they will actually need. Multimodal texts are “a combination of two or more modes of communication, including audio, linguistic, visual, gestural, and spatial” (Draper, et al. 3-4). Because of our technological growth “we no longer communicate predominantly in print-text literacies alone” (Monnin 79). The requirements of education are entirely dependent on the current state of the world, and “the demands of digital media and visual texts within a multimodal culture require complex new ways of coding and decoding image–text relations” (Hassett, et al. 270). Computer education is the perfect environment to address these skills, but the modern computer class is too busy teaching children basic survival skills to explore the interpretation of intellectual works. The computer teachers leave it to the other departments to address meaning however. Even classes that can easily adapt and use graphic novels such as History or Social Studies would do so without a critical examination of the text itself. The destruction of the arts in education and lack of depth in other subjects leaves the English department as front line for multimodal literacy at the pre-collegiate level. Graphic novels thus become more than simply another form of story.

Comic Books in the Classroom?

The major issue concerning the use of graphic novels in the classroom is appropriateness. We may use picture books to teach young children to read, but many feel that text alone is enough for adolescents and adults. Do comic books really belong in the classroom? What value does Spiderman offer a literature class? These are the wrong questions for people to ask because “graphic novels are written at such a wide variety of levels of reading and around so many different areas of interest that opportunities for student interaction with the text at various instructional levels are plentiful” (Thompson 29). Some of these areas include: “science fiction, classic literature, poetry, realistic contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and nonfiction” (Draper, et al. 4). College literature courses are exploring serious graphic novels that cover serious subjects. In her book One Hundred Demons Lynda Barry discusses issues ranging from teen drug use and suicide to being sexual abused as a child. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi is a memoir of her childhood growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and how the fight by the common people against a corrupt regime fell victim to religious fanaticism. Not every graphic novel is appropriate for the classroom for the same reasons not every novel is appropriate for the classroom, and their value cannot be dismissed for lack of content. They must be selected to suit the maturity of their audience and the needs of the lesson plan.

Teacher opinion is another issue to consider when discussing graphic novels in the classroom. A survey sponsored by the Sand Diego State University, the Walden University, and the Sand Diego State University reveals that “a vast majority of the teachers have positive attitudes toward using graphic novels in the classroom… however they are not using them to an extensive degree” (Lapp, et al. 27-30). Helpful technology does not make it to the classroom for a variety of reasons. Schools might already be facing difficulty acquiring basic texts and equipment, and the idea of anything beyond the absolute basics would automatically be out of the question regardless of its virtues. Teachers would also need to be trained to effectively utilize multimodal texts because a different format must be taught differently. Finally, “schools in need of adequate yearly progress (AYP) improvement require teachers to strictly adhere to the use of approved textbooks” (Lapp, et al. 31). It all comes down to administrative control, so convincing the educational authorities of the virtues of the new texts is the only solution.

Specific Tool to Build Basic Literacy

Graphic novels can serve to build basic literacy in addition to its other virtues. Struggling adolescent readers can benefit from multimodal texts in much the same way that very young children do. Reading is more complicated than being able to interpret specific words, and functional literacy demands that students develop higher order intellectual abilities. The problem is that while “a majority of students can decode texts/words,” they are unable to “understand, evaluate, or critique” a work in the broader sense (Draper, et al. 3). Traditional methods often fail to produce competent readers and writers, and education must use all the tools at its disposal. Sometimes the best way to show someone how to understand something is to literally show them. Graphic novels can “provide visual scaffolding that encourage and often engage struggling readers” (Draper, et al. 4). Additional context and cues can propel a struggling reader through a work by literally illustrating more complex scenes or ideas. “While many adolescents’ proficiency with and motivation to read ‘traditional’ school texts is often weak, outside of school most adolescents engage with a wide range of multimodal texts such as the Internet, comics, and film” (Draper, et al. 3). The literacy skills they already posses can be utilized to develop the literacy skills they lack, and any opportunity to capitalize on the skills they already have should not be thrown away.

The educational benefits of graphic novels are most apparent for English-language learners. They face the difficulty of not only learning to read, but learning to read as the acquire English itself. “When second/additional- language learners don’t have the relevant target language readily available for comprehension, nonverbal cues to meaning are invaluable, as they allow access to the text’s meaning through the visual mode” (Ranker 304). The only way to master a skill is to practice it, and easing the burden English-language learners face makes it more likely that they will put the time and effort in. If someone were to learn not only how to bowl but learn how to bowl with the opposite hand they normally used, it would be simply humane to give them bumpers as they adjusted to the new hand. Twenty gutter balls in a row would be extremely discouraging, and it would not be unexpected if they decided to walk away. In the pursuit of basic literacy graphic novels would serve as merely a stepping stone to more traditional texts rather than a replacement.

An example of a specific student group that can greatly benefit from graphic novels while learning to read or write is the deaf community. This is because “ASL is a visual language that has no written component” (Smetana 228). Just as with other English language learners they have to learn a whole new language at the same time they learn to read and write that language. However, a deaf student cannot sound out a word as we would normally instruct a student to do. Reading and writing is a “new symbolic system that, for them, has no basis in oral language” (Smetana 228). This group does not even have the benefit of cognates or linguistic similarities between languages as context. This group faces unique challenges that are directly addressed by graphic novels.

What Is That Space?

If teachers are going to utilize graphic novels in their classroom they must first understand what they are and how they can be used. Professional training will likely not be offered in the near future for this emerging format, but the creative, motivated teacher can still make use of a graphic novel by adapting the skills they acquired through teaching and their liberal arts education. Basic terms must be understood such as panel and gutter. A panel is “a box that depicts a single scene,” and a gutter is the blank space “between each panel” (Draper, et al. 5). There are numerous elements to pay attention to within these works, and a complete exploration would be exhaustive. Someone studying a graphic novel “must not only pay attention to characters, plot, and dialogue but must also carefully consider panel layout, viewing angles and distance, color, shading, and use of text” (Draper, et al. 5). The poor children blowing up on the top combined with the privileged children below with stylish holes cut in their clothes becomes a powerful social message. A formal understanding of the various elements is the backbone of being prepared to teach with or about graphic novels. Most importantly, educators must be prepared “to model how to read a graphic novel for their students” (Draper, et al. 8). Once they are prepared they can begin effectively utilizing them.

There are two major ways to utilize graphic novels in the classroom, and the first way is to study the work itself. The lesson can focus on any particular element, but also the relationship between each. The class can “carefully consider the author’s intent and/or purpose by identifying how images and text are utilized to position the reader,” and discuss the possible interpretations in a way much more advanced than traditional text only can provide (Draper, et al. 6). The introduction of additional elements increases the complexity of a work exponentially. One element can be interpreted a number of ways, and a second element can be interpreted a number of ways. If they are combined then connections between the possible interpretations of each element create even more possibilities. This creates innumerable opportunities to apply critical literacy through discussions, papers, or any other project.

The second major way to utilize a graphic novel is simply as a supplemental tool to enhance understanding of the work or text. This support can be remedial or advanced depending on the context and need. History or social studies classrooms can utilize graphic novels very effectively to explore complicated ideas without a critical examination of the text itself. An image can scaffold the idea that the text is communicating whether the problem is a language barrier, difficult to imagine ideas, or simply poor reading comprehension. This assistance can ease struggling readers, and the teacher can reference the image as they explain the written text. Going back and forth between picture and written text serves to reinforce the relationship between the writing and the idea.


This paper has illustrated the benefits and uses of graphic novels as well as the burden of education to stay relevant today. Multimodal texts are quickly becoming a dominant form of publication. Children must be prepared to critically examine modern texts in order to continue being considered literate. Their use in scaffolding the acquisition of basic literacy cannot be ignored either. The research supports the use of graphic novels in the classroom, and teacher and student perception is generally favorable. Outside policy makers may have different opinions though. These individuals with no insight education cannot ignore progress forever. Perceptions towards graphic novels will gradually change as they become more widely used and accepted in higher education. Their obvious value will eventually become apparent for teachers of small children and adolescents, and teacher training will expand to training for their use. However, this can be a slow process and change must be made soon. The longer it takes to include these multimodal texts in the classroom the longer students must go without their benefits.

Works Cited

Dana L. Grisham, et al. “Using Graphic Novels In The High School Classroom: Engaging Deaf Students

With A New Genre.” Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 53.3 (2009): 228-240. ERIC. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

Draper, Christine A., and Michelle Reidel. “One Nation, Going Graphic: Using Graphic Novels To Promote

Critical Literacy In Social Studies Classrooms.” Ohio Social Studies Review 47.2 (2011): 3-12. Education Research Complete. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

Hassett, Dawnene D., and Jen Scott Curwood. “Theories And Practices Of Multimodal Education: The

Instructional Dynamics Of Picture Books And Primary Classrooms.” Reading Teacher 63.4 (2009):

270-282. ERIC. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

Monnin, Katie. “Teaching Media Literacy With Graphic Novels.” New Horizons In Education 58.3 (2010):

78-84. ERIC. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

Nancy Frey, et al. “Graphic Novels: What Elementary Teachers Think About Their Instructional Value.”

Journal Of Education 192.1 (2012): 23-35. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

Ranker, Jason. “Using Comic Books As Read-Alouds: Insights On Reading Instruction From An English As

A Second Language Classroom.” Reading Teacher 61.4 (2007): 296-305. ERIC. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

Thompson, Terry. “Embracing Reluctance When Classroom Teachers Shy Away From Graphic Books.”

Library Media Connection 25.4 (2007): 29. Literary Reference Center. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

Graphics Cited

Horton, Michelle. “15 Children’s Books That Should Be On Every Bookshelf.” Disney Baby. Disney, 20 July

2012. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

Latania. “The Key.” Persepolis: The Story of a Blog. N.p., 13 Nov. 2009. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

Surman, Steven. “The Cartooning War Correspondent: The Enduring Value of Joe Sacco’s Illustrated

Journalism.” Broken Frontier. Broken Frontier, 18 Feb. 2010. Web. 04 Dec. 2012.

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