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Using Graphic Novels

Kim Spain

Revitalizing Tier 2 Intervention with Graphic Novels

By: Linda Smetana and Daniel L. Grisham

How Graphic Novels Support Reading Comprehension Strategy Development in Children

By: Beverley Brenna

Graphic Novels: What Elementary Teachers Think About Their Instructional Value
By: Diane Lapp, Thomas D. Wolsey, Douglas Fisher, AND Nancy Frey

The article, Revitalizing Tier 2 Intervention with Graphic Novels, recognizes graphic
novels as a resource in aiding existing intervention programs for at risk readers. Tier 2
instructional programs aim towards those students who need a more organized, explicit, and
thorough instruction than what is provided in the general education classroom program.
Identifying student needs forms the groundwork for the development of the intervention.
Intervention materials come from those on the school-approved list and are identified as research
based. In this article, the authors, Linda Smetana and Daniel L. Grisham, suggested that graphic
novels afford occasions for students to feel positive about the act of reading by increasing their
self-efficacy therefore encouraging them to view reading as fun and enjoyable.
The case study in this article did not begin as a study until the Reading Response to
Intervention (RTI) teacher recognized that while the existing Tier 2 program was attending the
cognitive features of reading, it was not addressing the emotional aspects of reading, including
enthusiasm and engagement. The study explored the practice of incorporating graphic novels in a
RTI program for five fifth-grade struggling readers in an urban school. These students lacked
prior experiences with print; therefore, their vocabulary was limited to simple words.
Consequently, their reading fluency was considerably below benchmark which impacted their
ability to comprehend text.
For eight weeks, the intervention teacher met with the five students 5 days a week for 30
minute sessions. After researching and looking for literature that was motivating and captivating,
she decided to use graphic novels to support the prescribed Tier 2 intervention. The intervention
lessons incorporated strategies for decoding, sight word attainment, fluency, vocabulary, and/or
comprehension. The lessons consisted of direct instruction, guided reading, and independent
practice. The graphic novel instruction was created to focus on the development of skills that

would lead to more fluent readers. The strategies and skills that were taught with the graphic
novels were the same as with the published reading series. After two weeks of interventions, the
students still saw the graphic novels as part of the Tier 2 instructions; therefore they were making
minimal progress. Due to the insignificant progress, the teacher changed the graphic novel
lessons into less structured lessons that would support the previous days strategies. She also
moved the graphic novel lessons to the first part of the session. Students became more interested
in what they were going to read. They did not want to stop reading to return to the customary
instruction. The last three weeks of the intervention, the graphic novel instruction was changed to
literacy circles and reader responses. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the students had thirty minutes
of reading graphic novels which allowed them time to engage in deeper discussions. On
Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, no graphic novels were used, but students continued to
work on decoding, phrasing, passage reading, and sight words. Students' comprehension was
practiced through responding to multilevel questions, and fluency was recoded through timed
readings. By separating the graphic novels from teacher-led intervention, the intervention teacher
believed that students would be more excited by reading graphic novels
Every two weeks, Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills was used to
progress-monitor the students fluency on grade-leveled texts. Before the intervention the
students were reading between 75-83 words per minute. The findings revealed that after the
intervention, the students increased their oral reading fluency by 25 words per minute, engaged
in self-selected reading, integrated vocabulary from text to their writings, decoded multisyllabic
words, transferred what they learned to new texts and settings. In addition, they sketched essays
then added text to their visuals.

In reflecting on this article, I think the RTI teacher tried to make adjustments as she went
to provide more reliable opportunities to assess the use of graphic novels. Eight weeks may not
seem like enough time to provide this intervention, but in the RTI process, we have to review
students progress every six to eight weeks. Using the DIEBELS is a quantitative way to assess
the students growth to determine if the intervention is providing enough scaffolding for the

The article, How Graphic Novels Support Reading Comprehension Strategy Development
in Children, explores the connection between reading comprehension and graphic novels. The
author, Beverley Brenna investigated childrens comprehension strategies in relationship to the
classroom sets of graphic novel texts and the manner in which students reacted to these texts. In
addition, Brenna wanted to determine the ways that graphic novels may support students
development as readers.
The qualitative study was conducted in a rural fourth grade classroom at Cloverdale
School. The classroom consisted of twenty-one students, an experienced teacher, and an intern
student. The investigation lasted for five weeks with ten one-hour sessions. The class was
comprised of students with various reading interests, abilities, beliefs and languages.
Furthermore, the students came from different socio-economic backgrounds. The teacher, intern,
and researcher were able to perform three simultaneous ability groups related to the current
reading strategy. Each group used various leveled and themed graphic novels that were provided
by a research grant. The classroom teacher provided a reading comprehension strategy to the
class in a whole group setting. Then, the students worked in small groups using the leveled
graphic novels to practice the comprehension strategy. The students began the study with no
preferences to the graphic novels. However, several students noted that the graphic novels had
fewer words.
The data from this study was collected through classroom observations, casual
discussions with students, and hands-on small-group activities supported by the researcher. In
addition, written surveys were used to explore the students ability to apply the comprehension
strategies to graphic novels and their preferences when choosing these novels.

Through classroom observations, the teacher noted that the students began to make textto-self relationships by comparing and contrasting themselves to the characters. They also
became interested in particular themes or titles of the novels. The students were more engaged
during self-selected reading and often had to be asked to put the books away during their other
classes. During reading groups, the teacher observed students verbalizing and discussing the text
using comprehension strategies. The students were making predictions, summarizing previous
plots, noting character traits, using illustrations to infer meanings, synthesizing through drama,
and interpreting meanings of unknown words. Also, they became aware of font, color, embedded
meanings in speech bubbles, and time changes through the graphics. The results of the survey
indicated that students preferred graphic novels over regular novels and non-ction texts.
However, the researcher felt that further research is recommended to deepen the understandings
of the relationship between comprehensions strategies and the development of readers.
While reflecting on this qualitative study, I think that if we could get students to feel
better about reading, they may truly want to read more. Based on this study, I do not feel
confident that the reason these students seemed to confer with each other and use comprehension
strategies was solely reliant on the use of graphic novels. Maybe it was, but I feel that there
should be more research completed in the area of comprehension to ensure that these novels are
providing students the boost that they need to be successful readers.

The article, Graphic Novels: What Elementary Teachers Think About Their Instructional
Value, explores teachers' outlooks toward graphic novels and how graphic novels are utilized in
their classrooms. With struggling readers and writers occupying so many language arts
classrooms, the authors felt that it was imperative for students to be engaged in enchanting
lessons that would support literacy skills and introduce them to the visual burdens of new
This study attempted to investigate teachers reasons for using graphic novels, the rate of
such use, and their purposes in using graphic novels as instructional reading material. The
participants for this research were sixty teachers attending a summer institution for graduate
degrees in the education field. The group consisted of fifty-five females and five males. Of the
sixty participating teachers, the majority had been teaching three years or less, while only four
participants had been teaching for more than ten years. Forty-five of the participants stated that
they did not currently read graphic novels on their own. Only thirteen teachers had a moderate or
high interest in using graphic novels in their classrooms. The data for this survey was acquired
through a quantitative survey instrument similar to a Likert scale. The adjusted Likert scale had a
range of value scales of "strongly agree," "agree," "disagree," and "strongly disagree." The
information gathering tool was a questionnaire administered by the participants
The data from the survey revealed that the majority of the teachers had optimistic
attitudes toward using graphic novels in the classroom. Nonetheless, they were not using them to
their greatest potential. Some teachers used graphic novels in the classroom with a restricted
frequency of once or twice a month, from time to time only once a year. There was an
inconsistency between the teachers acceptance of the idea that graphic novels would be a

suitable classroom genre and their presence in their everyday programs. The authors stated likely
reasons for this discrepancy between teacher interest in graphic novels and their limited use in
the classroom. One reason may have been the availability of graphic novels in the classroom or
school. Another possibility was that schools often require teachers to follow the use of approved
textbooks rather than choosing their own reading materials for students. Additionally, the authors
felt that the truth of what happens within the setting of a school is determined by the directives of
legislated curriculum, recommended uses of time, and liability.
Whether the reasons for the discrepancy were due to lack of availability, low comfort
levels, or other demands, the fact was that teachers were not using graphic novels frequently.
Due to the shortage of actual use, it was determined that more research is needed to determine
the benefits of graphic novels in the classroom.
In my opinion, this study was not very reliable. These teachers in this case study simply
answered a survey about a topic that all were not familiar with. I do know that research has to
begin somewhere and simple surveys may truly be a place to begin. However, I do not feel that I
could give true justice to graphic novels or my feelings about them if I had not read them or used
them in my classroom.


Brenna, B. How graphic novels support reading comprehension strategy development in

children. Literacy,47(2), 88-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-4369.2011.0655.x

Lapp, D., Wolsey, T. D., Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2012). Graphic Novels: What Elementary
Teachers Think About Their Instructional Value. Journal Of Education, 192(1), 23-35.

Smetana, L., & Grisham, D. L. (2011). Revitalizing Tier 2 Intervention with Graphic novels.
Reading Horizons, 51(3), 181-208.

Overall Reflection
After reading about the use of graphic novels in the classroom, I am a bit inquisitive of
their impact on students success as readers. As a third-grade reading teacher, I get so frustrated
when students arrive to my class reading on a first-grade level. It is just so difficult to meet the
needs of each individual student. Every day, I give my best and hope that one thing that I do may
truly impact the life of a child. There are those students that have to be remediated to gradelevels below, while others have to be accelerated to grade-levels above. After teaching language
arts for so many years, I have a passion for understanding how a child learns to read. It is like a
puzzle that I try to solve. I am always looking for the miracle that opens the path to becoming
a successful reader.
I do not have experience using graphic novels. After reading these articles, I have been
thinking of the students in my class that may be more likely to achieve using them. I am unsure
of the readability of these graphic novels, but I plan to look into these a bit more. I could see that
boys would really enjoy reading a comic book while not even realizing that they are reading for