When it comes to teaching graphic novels, it’s helpful for students to understand the terminology.
Comics and graphic novels are created in a series of pictures in panels, enclosed by frames, with gutters (white spaces) in between to allow the audience to make transitions between moments (emotional and/or physical transitions).
Illustrations of these concepts by Betsy Potash (that’s me!), with definitions adapted from this great resource from Penguin
Splashes allow a single image to take over a page. A bleed lets the art escape the edges of the page.
Speech balloons and thought balloons make it easy to integrate text into the illustrations.
Angle, composition, and color all play a role in telling the story, just like in a film.
All of these elements allow the artist to represent the whole story in marks on the page, including both writing and drawing to make up the graphic language.
Sometimes the writing and drawing are highly integrated, sometimes not. The layout makes a big difference in how any reader interprets the story.
Helping your students understand this vocabulary will make their writing and discussion around graphic novels far more interesting. Then they can see how any creator is using the options available to weave the visuals and language together.
If you’d like me to send you the slide deck featured on this page, you can sign up below for my Friday idea emails. The first one you get from me will have the link to this slide deck!
Wondering how to get started with your slides? Here are a few ways to use them.
- Run through the concepts at the beginning of the unit with a brief slideshow, inviting students to take sketchnotes as they listen
- Take a few minutes on any day to project one or two slides and have students look for examples in their reading and then share and discuss in partners
- Print slides to create a bulletin board or display on your door during your graphic novel unit
- Project a slide anytime you are doing a related activity
I hope you’ll enjoy this visual language kit, no matter what graphic novel you’re teaching next.
Need some ideas for great graphic novels? Check out my post, 10 Graphic Novels for your Classroom Library, or browse through teacher favorites that were recommended to me on Instagram below.