Sunday, April 5, 2009

Building Inference Skills Through Comics

One of my favorite things about comics/ graphic novels is that they constantly challenge the reader's ability to make inferences. All teachers of language arts know that in order to be a competent reader a student must first develop their critical thinking and hypothesis-making skills. Consider the following lesson plan as more of a repeatable activity that can be done over and over to strengthen the aforementioned skills will also tapping into visual literacy cues.

Inference Activity

Rationale: Having a strong inferential reading ability is necessary to successful engagement with (and comprehension of) any and all texts. In order to bolster both the text-based and visual inference skills of my students I often times rely on the segmented structure of comics. When working on inference skills, I ask students to look at and analyze single panels, pages, and eventually whole comics. This “building block” activity (where students build upon the knowledge in prior steps to make new inferences) piques their interest and gives them a digestible amount of information to work with (instead of asking them to make inferences over whole chapters or entire books).

Grade Levels/ Content Area(s): Middle School, High School/ Language Arts- English

Objective: Students will be able to build inference skills

Time Alloted: Depending on class length. One 90 minute class or two 45 minute classes.

Materials: Any comic/ graphic novel. I like to use “American Born Chinese” or the Marvel Comics book “411”.

Vocabulary: inference, hypothesis

Direct Teaching: Display a single panel from your chosen comic on a piece of paper (I like to use a panel with no words, but with a lot of visual information). Ask students to “read the image” by recording what they think the panel means directly on the paper. Have students draw lines to the visual clues they detect. After sharing student hypotheses, repeat the process with the entire page from which the panel comes.
I will use this process as either a frontloading activity for reading, or as a simple, fun inference exercise. The key is to make sure that students are accounting for the context clues they discover.

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