Hacking Graphic Novels: 8 Ways to Teach Higher-Level Thinking with Comics and Visual-Storytelling

My new book will help you take your graphic novel teaching to the next level.

Coming in April 2021 from Times 10 Publications’ Hack Learning Series

There is no shortage of ways we all can benefit from teaching graphic novels. The most cited reasons are that they engage reluctant or struggling readers, they build necessary background knowledge, and they develop visual literacy skills. 

But another important reason to teach students to read, analyze, and create a graphic novel is that the form’s unique combination of words working interdependently with pictures offers interpretation and analytical challenges that depend on active reader participation and recognition of the possibilities of multiple interpretations. If we want students to draw conclusions from texts, but then also resist those conclusions after recognizing the complexity of an experience or concept, then the comics form is our best vehicle.

And perhaps a more surprising reason is that the form invites students to express hard truths about themselves and their experiences in a way that is different from what they can do with pure prose, and the impact their stories can have on a teacher’s relationship with students. Teaching the graphic novel to my high school English students was a way for me to see that there was pain in my classroom and the role I might be playing in students’ difficult experiences.

Looking is a cognitive behavior. Drawing is a way of thinking and communicating. We must provide all students the opportunities to learn as many tools for thinking and expression as possible, so they can live the lives they want to lead.

My book, Hacking Graphic Novels, includes 10 hacks that guide teachers to use comics and graphic novels to build students’ visual literacy skills, develop a comfort level with complexity and uncertainty, and use new tools to process and express their thinking and tell all kinds of stories. 


Close Reading Model Video

analyzing Persepolis with attention to graphic narrative devices

Watch me and another reader analyze one page from Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis

Conference Presentations

How to Find and Choose Graphic Novels for Students

Comic-Con International April 2021

A panel of librarians, teachers, and literacy specialists offer guidance and resources for selecting comics and graphic novels for students.

The current boom in graphic novel publishing has created a dizzying array of high-quality graphic novels over a wide range of genres, topics, and audiences. Join our awesome group of teachers and librarians as we discuss where to find high-quality reviews and title recommendation lists, how to choose titles and match readers to texts and tasks, where to find books in both print and digital formats, and more.

Jillian Ehlers (NYC School Librarian, NYCSLA President), Shveta Miller (author of Hacking Graphic Novels, Literacy Consultant and Instructional Coach, Director of Curriculum at Reading With Pictures), Karina Quilantán-Garza, MLS (Library Media Specialist, Texas Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List Committee Member), Christina Taylor (Librarian, VP Social Media, Reading With Pictures), Jana Tropper (Speech Language Pathologist, Director of Literacy, Reading With Pictures). Moderator: Tracy Edmunds (VP K-12 Education, Reading With Pictures) We have compiled a list of resources mentioned in this panel (and more!) here.

Engaging Accelerated & Reluctant Readers with Comics

Library Pass, February 2021

On February 25, 2021, our panel of experienced educators—Jesse Karp, Shveta Miller, Julie Ann Price, Susannah Richards, Ph.D., Jana Tropper—discussed their process for using comics to support readers of different abilities, how they partner with other stakeholders, and how they measure their success. The 60-minute presentation was moderated by LibraryPass’ John Shableski.

Words and Pictures Working Together: Visual Literacy & Analyzing Texts with Students

San Diego Comic-Con International 2020


In this crash course in text analysis for graphic novels, I co-present techniques and tools for building students’ critical literacy skills with graphic texts at all grade levels. This panel includes demonstrations on how to lead students in analyzing the elements of comics and the unique combination of art and text. We also share resources and discuss challenges.

Panelists include educators Trevor Bryan (The Art of Comprehension), Derek Heid (high school English Language Arts, TVUSD), Shveta Miller (Hacking Graphic Novels), Talia Hurwich (Worth a Thousand Words), and moderator Tracy Edmunds (Graphic Novels Are Elementary!).

You Have to Read the Pictures, Too: Visual Literacy and Analyzing Graphic Texts with Students

WonderCon 2020 (Comic-Con International)

In this crash course in text analysis for graphic novels, I co-presented techniques and tools for building students’ critical literacy skills with graphic texts at all grade levels. Watch as we demonstrate how to lead students in analyzing the elements of comics and the unique combination of art and text, share resources, and discuss challenges. We share tips, activities, and vocabulary you can use with your students tomorrow!

Panelists include Laurence Tan (LAUSD and Teaching Tolerance Teacher of the Year), Derek Heid (high school English Language Arts, TVUSD), Shveta Miller (literacy specialist and author), Jennifer Naumann (7th Grade ELA), Tracy Edmunds (Graphic Novels Are Elementary!), and moderator Betsy Gomez (Banned Books Week).

Do you teach with graphic novels and comics and have an experience to share?

Reach out to collaborate. I am always looking for co-presenters for conference panels and teachers to interview for my book.