Graphic Novelizations in the ELA Classroom

Using graphic format texts to support English language learners (ELL) has been widely discussed and accepted among educators, librarians, and other stakeholders. When adding to our graphic format collection we look at student requests, blogs, professional reviews, etc…all the resources most school librarians probably utilize. We primarily look for what’s popular, diverse perspectives, and manga. We also look for graphic novels based on books, and we’ve always been a little surprised no one has put out a graphic novelization of The Hunger Games.

Recently, a colleague and school librarian was asked for a graphic novel version of a book being read in an ELA class for an ELL student. Unfortunately, my colleague didn’t have anything to offer nor could she find anything to order. Communicating with our district’s World Language Specialist, we realized there are very few novels being read in ELA classrooms that also have graphic novelizations that could be utilized to support ELL students in those classes.

The list our teachers reference when doing a novel study isn’t really a list created for choosing a novel, but more like a list of books the district has approved for classroom use. A book being on the list does not mean the book is a good tool for teaching specific standards. The current list was updated in 2010, but Googling books for 6th-grade novel study or middle school novel study shows some overlap in what is suggested in general for that age group. Looking through the lists for middle school in my district, I could only find a few novels with graphic novel versions available for purchase.

After some discussion with our school’s ELL teacher and grade-level ELA teachers, a few general ideas seemed to emerge.

  • Results are mixed among ELA teachers about how comfortable they would be with using graphic novel versions of novel study books. Used as a companion to the text novel, graphic versions could be helpful in the classroom, but only if the graphic novel is a quality representation of the actual text novel and not a replacement for the text.
  • Beginner ELL students could benefit from using the graphic novel without the actual text novel if the ELA classes are able to collaborate with the ELL teacher. This could be especially useful if there are any cross-curricular learning opportunities ELL students (who are pulled from ELA for ELL) might miss that students reading the a novel in class might receive.
  • Although there may be a need for more graphic novelizations of middle school novel study books, how does one get more graphic novels of novel study books published? Once published, what if the graphic novels are poor quality in regards to interpretation, art, or substance? 

I didn’t realize this was an issue in our district (and possibly others), but it does seem like an opportunity for school librarians to collaborate with ELA and ELL teachers in submitting new books for district approval that already have quality graphic novelizations available. In our district, the process for getting books approved is lengthy, but if students benefit from this action perhaps school librarians can reassess our role in the ELA and ELL curriculum and help provide better options that reflect our growing and diverse student populations.

One of the few books on our approved lists that has a graphic novelization.

Author: Mica Johnson

I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.



Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Collection Development, Community/Teacher Collaboration

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