Several of my formative reading experiences growing up were comic books, and I still dabble in the format nowadays. (I'm part way through Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.) Still toting that deep-seated experience, I welcomed an invitation from Pop Culture Classroom to attend the first day of Denver's fifth annual Comic Con last week. I learned about (and marveled at) cosplay; I reconnected with NaNoWriMo; I listened to comic-book luminary Jim Shooter; and I took away reading suggestions and teaching ideas for my classroom.
One of the latter came from Illinois teacher Eric Kallenborn, who demonstrated the simple, ingenious approach of using comics with empty word bubbles to inspire student-writers' words. The technique scaffolds experimentation with tone and voice when students try multiple drafts in different registers using the same visual frame.
The wordless panels with which we practiced brought back a vivid memory from a previous reading life. It's 1984 (back when Jim Shooter, coincidentally, was Marvel's editor in chief). I'm splayed on a friend's bedroom floor, and we're surrounded by a scatter of comic books. He flips me the latest G.I. Joe, issue #21. Titled "Silent Interlude," it broke with convention by telling the whole story via action and reaction, not a single word bubble. My eyes got wide as I read; I might've stopped breathing. This recollection sent me scrambling today to the Internet where I found this augmented version. My take-away: Comics have staying power and a place in my classroom as part of literacy's pantheon.