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« (c) 00, Barbara Slate. All rights reserved. This publication contains the opinions and ideas of its author. It is intended to be helpful and ...»

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Teacher’s Guide

Whether you are an English, Creative Writing or Art teacher, Librarian,

Scout Leader, or Parent, YOU can help encourage your students, child or

troops to do a graphic novel. And maybe even do one yourself!

(c) 00, Barbara Slate. All rights reserved.

This publication contains the opinions and ideas of its author. It is

intended to be helpful and informative on the subject matter and to be used as a teacher’s companion to YOU CAN DO A GRAPHIC NOVEL. It is given free of charge with the understanding that the author is not rendering professional services in the book. If the reader requires personal assistance or advice, please contact the author @ www.barbaraslate.com  Since you are already reading this, then chances are great that you are a believer in the importance of graphic novels. But just in case you need some ammunition with a principal, spouse, boss, who thinks comics are a waste of time, bad for the environment or just plain dopey, here are some facts to sway the nonbeliever.

Today it is a career path. School systems are incorporating graphic novels as part of their curriculum. Learning how to create a Graphic novel is a powerful tool for advertising, movie making, and many other creative fields that involve sequential art.

Creating characters and story lines is empowering. It keeps teenagers focused on ideas. They are masters of this universe.

Teens who do graphic novels develop skills in logic, teamwork, problem solving, and completing a task.

They also form strong bonds with each other and create a community within a school.

The more they write and draw, the better they get. Being an artist is cool. It helps with self-esteem.

Creating Graphic Novels is therapeutic. Teens learn to express thoughts and feelings. A teenager at the drawing board instead of being bored is a beautiful thing.

 The Top 10 Graphic Novel Questions

1. What is a Graphic Novel?

A Graphic Novel is a Comic Book only longer. The big difference is that when you write a comic book, it is usually put out in monthly installments. In graphic novel form, the book is complete. Whatever you call it, it’s simply storytelling with the art advancing the story, rather than illustrating the text, as in the classic storybook.

2. Do you have to know how to draw to do a graphic novel?

You do not have to know how to draw, but you do need to find your unique style. The art in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, one of the most popular graphic novels out today, is all stick figures. It’s the combination of art style and writing that is unique to graphic novels.

3. Which comes first, art or story?

It doesn’t matter. Everybody works differently. Some start with story, others with art, and still others write and draw at the same time. The idea is to just get going.

4. How do I get started?


5. What is more important, Art or Story?

This is one of those questions that you can debate forever and still not come up with the answer. Of course you need a good story because nobody likes a boring one, and you need interesting art to keep the reader intrigued. It’s the chicken and the egg all over again.

–  –  –

Today more than ever. But it still isn’t easy. Of course talent is important, but willing to get your work out there and show it to the world is what is going to give you a real shot.

Knowing how to do a graphic novel expands into other fields such as advertising, movie making and TV writing.

7. Any creative tips?

Never leave home without a pencil and paper. You never know where or when inspiration will come.

8. How do you know what to write about?

Write what you know about.

9. How do you break into the business?

Going to a Comic book convention is a good start. There, you can talk to professionals and get your portfolio evaluated. Get connected through your local libraries, art teachers, events around town.

10. Is the creative block real?

Of course it’s real. But be careful not to use it as an excuse if you’re just being lazy or reaching a difficult time in your story. Sometimes what feels like a creative block is really just you going through your process and getting ready for a breakthrough.

–  –  –


Each student has the book, You Can Do A Graphic Novel. (YCDAGN) You have this teacher’s guide, and plenty of Pencils and Paper. (Make copies of page  for those who want to work with panels. ) TIP: Standard 8.x paper is good to use. However, if you can add different kinds of paper-- larger, smaller, some with a grip, newsprint, etc. and also add crayons and colored pencils to the mix, that will help with creativity.


Each student explores their creative process. In doing so, they discover things about themselves that they never knew before.

Each student completes a Bible about their character. A Bible is Everything you need to know about your character such as name, age, background, powers, fears, etc.

Students study “How to Plot” their story by color coding.

Each student completes at least a two page layout of a comic book/ graphic novel. (See pages -7 in this guide)

–  –  –

Some students may already have characters and story that they’ve been working on for years. Others may have sketches, doodles, or writings in their sketchbooks, binders, or heads. They are encouraged to use what ever they have. If they don’t draw at all, they can doodle. In the doodles they may discover a character. Except when the student is reading, they are encouraged to be drawing, doodling or writing.

The goal is to complete all eight steps of this guide. You will go at your own pace. If you are planning a  session program then you will move faster than you would if you were planning an 8 session one. A  session or more allows more time for process. The more time students have to discover their process, create characters, do a plotline, and work on layout, the better.

Each step is a building block to create a finished work of art (a double page spread) to be shown at the Graphic Novel Show (p. 8). The show does not have to go on, but displaying the student’s work is a way to get parents, students, faculty and the local press to look at art and see the creative process at work. Having students’ work published in the Newspaper is not only great for their sense of pride and recognition, but also when applying for art school and college. Oh, putting on a show is lots of fun too!

–  –  –

There are endless questions you can ask! Most students like talking about their process. Try to spend more than ten minutes, unless you are planning to do more than 8 sessions. In which case, you will most likely enjoy lively and enlightening conversations!

STUDENTS READ: Open YCDAGN to Chapter Three. Each student reads a creative tip out loud. You have already completed the first tip by asking questions about Process so begin with Creative Tip . Some tips will inspire more conversation/projects than others. Following are suggestions to get the creative juices flowing.

Creative Tip . Keep a journal PROJECT: The students make a journal. They are encouraged to write in their journal about their process.

–  –  –



Discover something about your process that you never knew before.

Write, draw, or do a cartoon of it in your journal. If a student already uses a sketchbook or journal, then they can use it.

–  –  –

Creative Tip : Make lots and lots of mistakes.


Who hates to make mistakes? Are you a perfectionist?

Creative Tip 8: Don’t throw anything away until you are finished with your graphic novel.


The students make an Idea box from a shoe, tissue, corrugated, or gift box. This can either be a class project or something they do at home.

Creative Tip . Collaborate


How many like to write? Draw? Both? (Artists may want to collaborate with writers and writers with artists. ) Creative Tip . Moment of Inspiration


What does your moment of inspiration feel like?


To pay attention to their process.


Always provide plenty of paper and pencils. Some students may already be writing/drawing and others may want to start right away working on their graphic novel. Copy the panels from the next page for them to use. They can work from left to right, or right to left if they are doing the Manga style.

–  –  –

TIP: The more boring your story, the better. Many students will be inspired by your boring story and will tell their own. YOU yawn and compliment their boring stories.

This can be fun but don’t let it go on too long because it can get boring!

STUDENTS READ: Chapter One, pages - from YCDAGN. This should take about 0 minutes. When they are finished, the students continue to write, draw or doodle.

YOU ASK: What does every story have to have?

Beginning, middle, end and twist. The twist is the surprise,... the unexpected.

YOU ASK: Can somebody tell a good story in  to  sentences?

TIP: This is much more difficult than telling a boring one. If you get volunteers, look for the beginning, middle, end and twist. This may be the most difficult part of a graphic novel! If the student does not have a story, they continue to think about it for the following weeks.

HOMEWORK: Reread Chapter One. Think of a story, with a beginning, middle, end and twist. Write it in the journal.

WHAT THEY LEARN: It’s easy to tell a boring story but not so easy to tell a good one.

–  –  –


A movie or story that most or all the class has read/seen. Analyze the story, picking out each event. The students can keep their books open to pages -7.


What is the Beginning of the movie/book?

What is the Rising Action?

TIP: There usually are three events that happen during the Rising Action, leading to the Climax. Try to find those events.) What is the Climax?

What is the Falling Action?

What is the Resolution?

What is the Ending?


The same movie or story that most or all the class has read/seen. The students can keep their books open to page .


Who is the Protagonist?

Who is the Antagonist?

What is the Conflict in the story?

What is the plot?

What is the theme of the story?

What is the setting?

WHAT THEY LEARN: How to identify the structure of a story. Learn the parts of a successful story.

–  –  –

Who is your Protagonist?

Who is your Antagonist?

What is the Conflict in your story?

What is your plot?

What is the theme of your story?

What is the setting?

–  –  –


Chapter Five, Creating Characters, pages -7 from YCDAGN. This should take about 0 minutes. Then hand out the copies. They can start writing and drawing in class and then continue at home.


When I first started teaching, I was shocked when so many of my students (most from loving homes) created characters with tragic stories of deceased parents.

Then I realized that they just wanted independence for their main character!

–  –  –

For those who think they cannot draw:

YOU SHOW: The popular graphic novel, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. (That is all drawn with stick figures.) YOU SAY: Doodle.

TIP: Everybody doodles. Ask them to look for doodles in their binders, book jackets, or on scraps of paper at home. In the doodles they may discover a character. Or you may see a doodle that looks interesting. Encourage the student to make a family in that style of doodle!

For those who draw too well: That is they are perfectionists, and are afraid to make mistakes.


Switch hands.

TIP: They draw for about five minutes with the opposite hand. Although they may be frustrated, it will help loosen them up.

For those students who have their story (beginning, middle, end and twist) and are developing their characters, they may be ready for feedback. Either you or the student shows a character or talks about a part in their story. The classmates react and offer opinions.

ALERT: Although most feedback will be helpful, be careful for negative feedback.

Although not everyone is going to like the drawings/writings, there is a positive way of giving negative feedback. In the end, it is important to stress that it is up to the artist/writer to take the critique, or reject it. They are the masters of this universe.

–  –  –


Who is from Mars?

Of course, that question will get some strange looks. Usually several students raise their hands.


If you are not from Mars, then pretend you are. You have just landed on earth and are seeing things for the first time. Look around the room. Do you see something new? Something you’ve never seen before? Really look.


Pages 8- in YCDAGN. This should take about ten minutes. When they are finished, they draw, sketch, doodle.


Set up ordinary objects-- Erasers, pencils, vase, books. Have the students draw the objects as if they have never seen them before.

TIP: If a student is sketching with their head down, then they are drawing what they think they see rather than what they see. They should be looking at the objects.


Continue to see as if for the first time. Pass out copies of the following page. This can be done in class, at home, or both.

WHAT THEY LEARN: A new way of seeing.

–  –  –

These are just several of the endless questions you can ask. You may want to walk around the room and hold up a drawing or talk about something in someone’s bible that you found interesting. Spend about 0 minutes unless you are planning more than 8 sessions.

GOAL: The students pay attention to their process.

–  –  –

WHAT YOU WILL NEED: See pages 7 and 7.


Pages 7-8 in YCDAGN.

ALERT: Page 78 in YCDAGN. The first sentence says to refer to my Angel Love plotline on pages 00-0. It’s really on pages 0-.

(Sorry about that!)


Pages 87-8. Each student reads a Plotting Pointer. Some points will inspire more conversation than others.

Following are suggestions to get the creative juices going:

Keep the twists and turns coming TIP: Some students may be frustrated that they don’t know where their story is going. See Creative Tip , page 7 and Creative Tip:  (pages  and 7) Get feedback


How many of you shown your work to parents? Brother? Sister? Dog? Cat?

Somebody in this room? Anybody want feedback now?

TIP: A student may want to get feedback by reading a page or showing their character to the class. It is good to get to everybody, however, if you have a limited amount of time, you may have to go on. Try to get to them next session.

Have fun!


How many are having fun? Who’s not having fun?

–  –  –

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