Using Comics as Teaching Tools

I’ve seen a lot of online discussion about comics as a teaching tool. What you’re probably wondering is how are they being used and what is the impact?

Back in October, The Toronto Sun did an article on teacher Peter Kmet’s usage of comic books in elementary and high schools. The objective: getting kids interested in reading and writing, and encouraging high school students to be interested in reading and discuss complex issues such as racism and alcoholism.

Kmet picks comics that have a moral focus, where characters don’t just solve their problems with a violent brawl, turns them into a script, and takes the script to classrooms. The scripts are the focus of a reader’s theatre exercise, where students engage with the content, by actively portraying the characters. This program has proved to be extremely successful and the students that participate have gone through a rapid transformation, from nervously reading out loud to actively participating, either as readers portraying the roles in a loud booming voice or active listeners, intensely listening, while having the script read to them.

But what about Shakespeare? There are so many comic book adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays available, everything from the No Fear Shakespeare graphic novel adaptations, to the manga editions of Shakespeare’s plays, to the Shakespeare plays that have been a part of The Classics Illustrated comic book series, and many more. In order to adapt these plays to the comic book medium, some of them focus on simplifying the speeches so that what the characters are saying is closer to contemporary conversations and shorter. The point is to tell the stories of Shakespeare’s plays in a style that has the familiar aura of a superhero comic book, manga, or graphic novel, in order to encourage interest in Shakespeare’s stories. The point is to read the simplified version in order to understand the story better and hopefully encourage an interest in the original.

The Shakespeare comic books have the same purpose as Kmet’s comic book focused teaching: encouraging literacy in a way that’s welcoming, engaging, and fun. Comics are a popular part of contemporary culture, especially amongst young people so they’re a great way to introduce classics to young people.

What is your favorite Shakespeare comic/ graphic novel adaptation? Let us know!