This Teacher Uses Comics To Teach English

Students in Long Beach City College’s English 1 class are given the opportunity to learn more about the material they are studying by incorporating comic books like “Watchmen” into their lectures.

During class, students are discussing and composing rhetorical essays on racism. They Called Us Enemy, a comic book on the internment of Asian Americans during World War II, will be read by Thomas Price in his class this semester.

As a teacher at PCC, Price has used comic books for eight years to help pupils better understand the material they’re studying.

Prices’ pupils have benefited from utilizing comics in his classes since he believes many of them do not read books. As in a book, the words and the meaning are simply decoded as you go along in the story.  “In a graphic novel you’re reading the text, your eyes are taken in the ways of the panels which affects the narrative. Decoding symbolism, like wavy lines, like does that mean something smells or it’s hot,” Price said. 

Comics like “Watchmen,” “Daytripper,” and “Pride of Baghdad” are among those he refers to while discussing vigilantism, dystopianism, and American adventurism in the Middle East, among other topics, in his lectures.

In Price’s English 1 Plus class, Lasheathe Brown, who usually reads in literary courses, felt a connection to the material since it was unusual.  “It brought something different to the table. It wasn’t your typical English class where you stick to a particular curriculum. Got you more interested in the reading by bringing something new to the table, to freshen your mind and to brighten your horizon,” Brown said. 

While reading comic books as a child was a way for Price to escape, it also helped shape some of his principles and ethics later in life. After he was assigned to military school, which he saw as an inherently homophobic environment, he began reading ‘Adventure Comic Jon Sable Freelance,’ a series about a vigilante who seeks to alleviate the suffering of others.

He was initially introduced to homosexuality via that series of comics, and as a result, he developed understanding and empathy for gay individuals. There are several ways in which students may gain from the use of graphic novels, according to him.

Brown thinks that since the Watchmen comics are more mature, you can connect to them better and perceive them from a larger perspective. Brown was mainly intrigued by the class comics Watchmen and Daytripper. A more R-rated version of superheroes was shown with watchmen in terms of the visual design and writing style.

Daytripper was more realistic, genuine, and human-related. “It’s about life, death, and family. Makes you appreciate life and want to open your eyes and just genuinely embrace what you have and be happy,” Brown added.

According to Brown, this teaching strategy utilized in Price’s English class makes you curious about literature, which she thinks leads to a stronger emotional connection with the people you’re reading about and learning about.

Since Price introduced them to graphic books, several of his pupils have returned and told him how they’ve continued to read them. One example is the combination of Star Wars and Star Trek dubbed “Saga,” which is currently in development. Price either gives his pupils his own comic books or has them utilize a website called ‘Comixology,’ which allows them to read comics online.

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