A look behind the scenes at graphic novels

A few weeks ago, Scholastic partnered with Skype in the Classroom to launch the first ever Teach Graphix Week. Thousands of students had the opportunity to participate in a great learning adventure by interacting with some of their favorite Scholastic authors and illustrators to see how graphic novels are made.

Teach Graphix Week was part of more than a month-long celebration of literacy for both World Read Aloud Day and Read Across America Day. The special week began with a live broadcast featuring the author and illustrator of Scholastic’s Dream Jumper series, and also included Skype video calls between 10 Graphix authors and illustrators and classrooms around the world. New York Times best-selling author, Kazu Kibuishi, creator of the Amulet series led a lively discussion with classes during a Twitter chat with @skypeclassroom followers. And as part of a sweepstakes contest, 10 lucky US classes won a library of graphic novels, courtesy of Scholastic.

If your class missed out, you can still get a behind-the-scenes look at how graphic novels are made by watching the Dream Jumper broadcast together with your students!

We met with Gina Ruffcorn, a 5th grade teacher and Microsoft Innovative Expert from Iowa, USA to discuss the impact Teach Graphix Week had on her students’ learning.

Gina, why did your class participate in this unique event?

My classroom is filled with a myriad of books from every literary genre. I want students to find those “special books” that turn them into voracious readers.

For my kids, those “special books” are graphic novels! From the time the students picked up the first ones, they were hooked. Rich and vibrant discussions took place about the novels. Works of student art popped up everywhere. The novels never made it back onto the shelves; they were constantly in the hands of engaged readers.

The excitement and enthusiasm of being able to interact live with the authors of their favorite books was an overwhelming opportunity!

As a teacher, what did Teach Graphix Week mean to you?

I enjoyed the variety of different experiences my students were able to take part in. I loved how student-friendly all of the activities were. My kids’ imaginations soared! We were completely immersed in learning about the writing and the artistic process of creating graphic novels. We viewed sessions, submitted questions, designed our own graphic novel pages, chatted on Twitter and connected on Skype live with our author heroes.

A page of a graphic novel created by a student during Teach Graphix Week

What impact did Teach Graphix Week have on your students?

There were requests for more and more graphic novels for the classroom. Lists of titles emailed to my computer, notes stuck on my table, and oral reminders were constant evidence that graphic novels were in high demand! Students begged for more time to read during the day. They chattered about authors, titles, characters and plots. They whispered and shared events as they turned pages, reveling in the colorful action packed pages. Interactions with the authors impacted my readers in a powerful manner. They felt a personal connection to the books after having met the writers and illustrators.

What was your “aha” moment during Teach Graphix Week?

I wanted to learn how to read graphic novels. My students’ interest in the genre was so passionate and so persuasive that I began attempting to read graphic novels also. I struggled getting used to the genre because I wasn’t used to relying on illustrations to get most of my context clues and background information for a story. The kids taught me strategies, shared their experiences and encouraged me.

My takeaway from the Teach Graphix Week was incredibly powerful: don’t be afraid to show vulnerability and learn from your students!


Teachers: Why not invite a Scholastic author or illustrator in your classroom to inspire your students? And check out Scholastic’s Guide to Using Graphic Novels with Kids and Teens. Don’t miss out the opportunity to invite an author, illustrator or storyteller in your classroom any time of the year by exploring Skype in the Classroom’s literacy collection.

Awarding students can always be motivating—make sure you check out our new Skype in the Classroom Certificates!

Parents: Education is the most important investment in your kids’ lives! Ask your school to get involved with Skype in the Classroom so your kids can experience the world live from their classrooms.