Curriculum & Resource Guides: Graphic Novelist: Using the Tool
Like all of the tools on the Young American Heroes web site, the Graphic Novelist tool springs from a constructivist learning philosophy. It encourages and enables student engagement and creation. Graphic Novelist is a simple tool that allows users to select supplied characters, backgrounds, and speech/thought bubbles to create and save a new graphic novel segment. That segment can tell a new version of the story of one of the young heroes on the YAH web site. 
Graphic Novelist is designed to fit easily into a variety of curriculum activities either on an individual or on a group level. Each story begins with a short video that ends at a “choice point.” The student then takes the story from there to explain what happens next. In addition to formulating a story, students have an opportunity to use primary documents to support their story line or interpretation of events in a young hero’s life, and why they think the hero made, or should have made, an important choice. 
For information on how the Graphic Novelist tool works, see the Graphic Novelist section on the FAQ page, and/or view short  "How-to" videos below that cover the key functions available in Graphic Novelist.
  • School—Inner city school, low-income, disadvantaged students, 
  • Technology—Constrained technology resources
  • Computer Literacy—Very low, high ESL, high SPED, struggling readers. 
Laptop computers were brought into this classroom and students worked in groups of twos or threes. Five full sessions were devoted to the Graphic Novelist activity, Reading at the Aulds. This was done for two reasons: first, to allow the teacher to review the primary source documents on paper with students before introducing technology, and second, to allow more time for commenting on each others’ finished graphic novels, as the teacher felt that this “was the richest possible activity in the curriculum” because it offered greater opportunity for praise, constructive criticism, and connections to be established between students. After viewing the first video segment, paper documents were distributed and discussed as a group in order to increase student understanding. This also allowed the teacher to model how to make connections from the documents to the students’ stories. Modeling a close reading of a primary source document involved asking students to read paragraphs out loud and then asking pointed, guiding questions about what the texts might mean and how they might have informed the thinking of people who lived at the time. This helped students to consider, to some degree, how the documents reflected the understanding and intentions of people of that historical period. Then, students were asked to go to the document resource bin and select two documents to support their story, sketch out on paper the main action of their story and only then start to create their story panels online. Interestingly, non-English and struggling readers quickly became engaged in the more visual process of creating a graphic novel.
  • School—Suburban magnet school, mixed income and mixed race, 
  • Technology—Desktop computers in well-equipped Media Lab with IT support professional, 
  • Computer Literacy—Medium to high 
In several classrooms, teachers spent extra time to introduce and review the rubrics for helping students judge whether one another’s stories were “believable,” as determined by the degree to which the narratives used evidence that students found in primary sources, as opposed to more fictional accounts guided by “presentist” notions, e.g., how we would assess the situation from our 21st-century perspective. In this way, they ensured that students’ critiques of one another’s stories were related to the idea that historical documents are evidence for arguments. Without this extra emphasis on the rubrics, students’ comments tend to be more “empty praise” (Great job!) or focused on visual/technical aspects (Your speech bubbles are in the wrong place.) rather than on the historical content of the stories.
Video Tutorials:

How To Use the Young American Heroes Website


How To Create an Educator Account and Classroom


How To Use the Timeline


 Video Tutorial: Ceating a Graphic Novelist Project

If you are more comfortable reading text, the same information in the videos is available in print form on the FAQ page.


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