Carole Marsh Tips for Teachers
I hope you will be a big fan of my new short-form, high action, motivated reading JAMES BONE graphic novels! I had to write and read my first graphic novel to uncover all the remarkable reading opportunities, especially for new, challenged, or reluctant readers. But, boy am I sold on them now!
It helps that I have been writing mystery chapter books and short-form bio readers for kids for 40 years! However, I was used to using a lot of words and a little art. Now, I had to do a big switcheroo and use a lot of great art (that I also had to write; that was new!) and fewer words.
Nonetheless, I soon discovered the wonders of storyboarding, thinking in movie-making terms, and making every word count! What I did not give up was my lifetime goal to write invigorating adventure stories for kids that are high interest, including the vocabulary, and powerful storytelling that features good kids cooperating to achieve goals.
Continue for some great tips to make a short graphic novel the new powerhouse in teaching kids to read, and to write! I’m a believer!
TIP ONE: THROW OUT ALL THE RULES!
You’ll see the books start on the front cover and race right on from there!
It doesn’t matter which order the kids read the books OR the way they read the pages!
We all love to hear what people (and dinos, etc.) say! Dialogue balloons, signs, sound effects words, and more make reading any page inviting and easy!
There’s no rush! Let your readers peruse a page as long as they wish—no points for powering through (though your good readers will!)
Short is good: Your readers will learn they CAN finish a book!
Sweet is good: Don’t think anything was done by chance. The artist and I spent as much time on the little emojis and what they said as we did the key characters. Charm wins reading hearts!
Respect the reader; I know you do! I stick pictures of kids on my computer. If they are smiling while I am writing, I know I’m on track! Let them have fun! We want them to learn that they love to read, no matter the caliber of their reading at any one time!
TIP TWO: BRING THE BOOK TO LIFE!
I BELIEVE in James and his friends. I hope your readers will too. If so, there is so much you can elaborate on in the books. If you love the characters, too, your readers will respond to that. Empathy is a wonderful thing. Here are some examples:
Kids can explore:
Why does Mommypenny (a widowed mom) allow her son to go thru a trap door in his bedroom to a big dino adventure each week?
James’ father died in an accident on a dig site. How might that have gotten James interested in being a paleontologist?
What is the relationship between James, Pick, and Shovel? Friendship is a big deal in the book. Empathy, cooperation, collaboration!
The dinosaurs have a human side, too. Kids can learn some facts, but what must it have been like to be a dino back in the day? A dad dino? A mom dino? A kid dino?
The villains even offer opportunities to think about how they got to be so bad, or are they?
And then there are the other characters: Diggy the loyal pup, Frenchie the sassy scorpion, Pinl and Green, the wise, little emoji dinos.
LOVE THE LANGUAGE!
Yes, there are plenty of simple words in the dialogue boxes. But readers can learn from reading so many things in the books. To be “true” to the book, I had to have the kids talk like they might in real life. And so, yes, there are contractions, sound effects, puns, humor—even cliches—kids can learn from them all. Frenchie doles out a French term now and then.
The dinosaur names are long, but note: Isn’t it interesting a kid who “can’t read” can read T-REX after they see it the first time? The same goes for anything—let them have a crack at the language. Not lame language, but the spoken word on the printed page!
(And don’t get me started on the puns!)
WRITE ALL ABOUT IT!
I hope your readers will want to write their own James Bone story!
They can use any of the characters they want, but pick their own dinosaurs–there are a LOT to choose from! (They do not have to be in these books.) They can create their own storyboard: all it takes is a Sharpie and a long string of blank paper.
Some students may want to outline, or write a story first.
Others may want to draw the action, then add the words.
Is one right and the other wrong? NO! Not in this visual world.
Truly, the artist and I often “swapped places” with me suggesting great art and him sticking in cute dialogue or puns or riddles that I had not considered.
You can use your whiteboard to do an ALL CLASS WRITE, or divide the class into who writes and who draws, and let them learn the art of CREATIVE COLLABORATION!