Learning to See History: A Content Analysis of the Affordances of Graphic Novels for High School Teaching
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Recent studies of graphic novels (book-length fiction or non-fiction narratives that employ the conventions of comic books to convey meaning) and multimodality have hinted that graphic novels (GNs) might offer a great deal of meaning-making potential to readers. Some studies have argued that graphic novels could be useful for English Language Learners (ELL) and struggling readers. Other studies have argued the opposite, pointing out that reading words and pictures together may require more effort on the part of the reader than text-only books. Some studies have offered analysis of graphic novels as literature, but there have been no studies that examine graphic novels in terms of what they could offer to a specific content area studied in high school. To determine whether graphic novels might be useful for high school history teachers hoping to address discipline-specific reading techniques, I studied 20 non-fiction historical graphic novels. My initial research question was: What opportunities, if any, do graphic novels afford for high school history teachers to teach contextualization, sourcing, and corroboration. During the analysis of the results, I broke that question into two analysis questions: 1. What does quantitative analysis reveal about opportunities for contextualization, sourcing, and corroboration across the graphic novels in the study? 2. What does the analysis of individual graphic novels across all categories reveal about opportunities for teaching high school history? Quantitative content analysis revealed that the GNs studied provided extensive opportunities for high school history students to engage in contextualization, sourcing, and corroboration, (three areas identified by Wineburg as being important to discipline-specific reading within the history field). Qualitative analysis of several graphic novels as case studies suggests specific multimodal ways in which GNs support contextualization, sourcing, and corroboration.
content area reading