Comic Books in the Classroom

You can use comic book projects to teach a variety of curriculum topics.

By Chris Jackson

Comic Books in the Classroom

Comic books are fun, and they spark the imagination. They are filled with action, and people are inspired by their characters. They are a great way to motivate students to learn a variety of topics in many different subject areas, including English, social studies, ELL, and more. They can be used to help students read, write, or review content.

They are many ways a teacher can launch a comic book project. For example, students could create comic books with original content for an art project, write a comic based on the Civil War, or adapt classic literature into a comic-book style. Creating a comic book could replace book reports, and even tests. 

When doing a comic book project in class, it is a good idea to have students first analyze the elements of a comic book. The best way to do this is to have students read a variety of comic books you have supplied. You can have students analyze how comic books tell a story with both visual and written content. They can look at the expressions on the faces of the characters, the type of voice/thought bubbles used, the size of individual panels, and the colors used in illustrations. All of these details are carefully designed to tell a story using mood, feeling, and purpose.

Once students are familiar with the elements of comics, they are ready to start thinking about their own story. They can create a written script via storyboarding (it may prove useful to talk about how Hollywood movie producers use storyboards). There are even documentaries on storyboarding that you can show your students.

Once students have written their “script” and storyboards, they should be provided with a rubric-based framework describing what their comic-book layout should look like. Students should be able to determine the answers to the following questions: How large will the panels be? How will each panel help communicate the importance of the frame being shown? How will each panel set up or lead into the next? Once again, through guided practice and sample comics, the teacher can point out to students the differences in the use of size, color, and emotion in comic books.

When students are creating their comic books, it is important that they use pencil. This way they can revise and make corrections when they meet with their classmates and teacher during writer’s workshop. Once their final product is ready, students should use ink, colored pencils, or markers to fill in their work. If being done in a high school classroom, you might have students use pastel oil crayons or even paint.

Once students have completed their comic books, they can share them, and even create additional pieces of work to accent them. They could create a three-dimensional model of the characters in the comic.

Using a comic book project in the classroom can help address a variety of curriculum requirements. Students produce original stories, adaptations for classic play (such as Shakespeare), or serve as instructional/functional text type manuals.  Here are more activities you can do with your class based on creating comic books.

Comic Book Projects:

Comic Book Heroes

Students analyze comic books and see how the heroes in the comics contribute to their societies.

Create a Comic Book

Students create a comic book and present it to the class. The comic book has to have a problem and a solution.

Famous Art as Comic Art

Students recreate famous works of art in a comic style work of art.

Comic Book Text Features

Students answer questions about the text features in a comic book.

Review more text feature lesson plans.