What about in the library classroom? Library spaces offer a gateway for many SEL initiatives; graphic novels are a popular medium for independent reading that might be brought into the classroom. They could be used in library classes or offered as a collaborative tool with a classroom teacher or other adults who support student well-being in schools. Below I outline several lesson ideas that can be tailored to meet your objectives:
White out Dialogue - The image shown here is similar to the Ben Hatke page I used in my last article. There, I was using this white out technique to teach students about dialogue. When students only have facial expressions to go by, they need to discern what the character is saying. I’ve chosen this page because of those same facial expressions; here, students can focus more on other visual clues. Re-examining facial expressions, body language, and perspective through a SEL lens makes the lesson all about conveying emotion, social and self-awareness, and perspective. The white-out dialogue page serves as a jumping off point for a deeper discussion and self-reflection.
Pulling Out Scenes - Instead of focusing on dialogue, pulling out your favorite scene, perhaps a one-page or two-page spread, gives students more material for analysis. Choosing an SEL theme, such as empathy, and having students look for ways the characters display empathy and ask students to make connections to how they would respond to similar situations in their own lives.
Comics Creation - You can also use comic page templates. Ask students to create their own comic moment as a self-reflective tool about a time they were able to self-manage or make good decisions. Or, use the comic sheets to respond to a moment in a graphic novel. How did that scene make you feel as a reader? What connection can you make to a similar moment in your own life? Or, use the comic templates to get into the head of a character and take on a new perspective. Ask the students to become a character and show how they might respond to being left out, being asked to do something that would get them into trouble, or how they might push through a difficult situation.
Sticky Note Picture Walk - Using an SEL topic, have students put sticky notes in a graphic novel, either a book of their choice or from a selection that you choose, where the story connects to the topic. Then have students share in pairs, and then in fours, why the pages they selected resonated around the SEL topic.
Identity Representation - Visual representation in graphic novels offers students a wonderful opportunity to see themselves and also see people who are different from themselves. Have students look through a stack of graphic novels to look for identities that are represented in those particular books. Use this to generate conversation about why it is important to see ourselves in books. Some teachers even create an identity checklist: female, male, trans, white, black, Asian, American Indian, and more, and ask students to scan the selection of books for specific identities. This can be done with allegories or anthropomorphic characters too. Then, use the data to discuss who is included and who is excluded from the stories.
Now I want to offer suggestions on books that I believe touch on very powerful SEL topics. Please click on each image for a link to my Medium Matters resource lists: