It always seems like the graphic novel shelf in my elementary classroom is empty because my students are avid readers of this genre. It’s easy to see why students love them… graphic novels are fun, engaging, and often make reading feel “easy”. Here are my favorite graphic novel lists and a few suggestions for using graphic novels with your students.
Why Graphic Novels are Amazing
With so many novels and classic texts, why should you choose a graphic novel to read as a class? Graphic novels are amazing for upper elementary students for many reasons.
First, they are excellent for students who struggle with reading. Whether a student is dyslexic, is learning English, or simply is behind on reading skills, graphic novels can help them feel more confident while they read because this format often feels less intimidating. Why? It’s full of images and small bursts of texts. The images help students comprehend what is going on and the bursts of texts make reading feel less overwhelming.
Graphic novels can also make more advanced texts accessible for younger students. For instance, Anne Frank’s Diary was recently adapted into a graphic novel. Now the novel is more accessible to students, and helps provide a visual for a topic that is rather complex.
Tips for Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom
If you’ve never used graphic novels in your classroom before, it may feel a bit intimidating at first. The good news is that many of the activities you use with a standard novel can also be used with graphic novels.
There are some differences that are worth noting though. The graphic novel format may be new to students, so before you begin reading one talk about how to follow the layout of the novel.
I also have found that doing read-alouds with graphic novels can be a bit more challenging because the text is more sparse, and students like to stop to analyze the images. I recommend giving students a time frame to read, and then discussing the text together. Alternatively, you can assign graphic novels in independent reading groups.
If you want tips on choosing the best novel for your students, check out this blog post.
Activities to Use with Graphic Novels
While you can use many of your typical reading activities with graphic novels, here are some of my favorite activities that work especially well with graphic novels.
#1 Use Images to Aid Comprehension: The images are there, so don’t ignore them! Make use of them. When asking students questions like, “How do you think the character felt in that moment?” have them analyze both the language and images that support their answer.
#2 Create Storyboards: With a visual text, I love having students create visual responses. This also challenges their ability to arrange a story in sequential order. Ask them to identify the climax or make a prediction about what will happen next, but have them answer with a storyboard comic strip.
#3 Identify Key Vocabulary: When students come across words they don’t know, and you are challenging them to use context clues, have them use the sentences before and after as well as the images with the text. Sometimes the images will help students understand and visualize more complex vocabulary.
Best Graphic Novel Lists for Upper Elementary
These are some of the best graphic novels for upper elementary students. My students have read many of these books and given them their approval! Each of the titles below includes an Amazon affiliate link for easy shopping, or you can see the entire graphic novel list on Amazon here.
El Deafo is about a young girl who feels very out of place in her new school. Unlike her old school, Cece sticks out like a sore thumb. She is the only student with hearing aids. At first, this embarasses Cece, but she begins to discover some unique things she can do with her hearing. Is this new superpower enough to help Cece find a friend?
New Kid is about a young boy named Jordan Banks who loves to draw. Instead of sending him to art school, though, his parents send him to a private school where Jordan is one the only kids who draws and one of the only students of color. Jordan finds himself struggling to fit in at school and at home. Where does he belong?
The Crossover was originally a prose novel that has been adapted to a graphic novel. Josh and Jordan may be brothers, but on the basketball court, it can feel like they are rivals. Their relationship is strained, and then a family tragedy occurs. Can they put their differences aside and heal together?
- White Bird
- Katie the Catsitter
- Hazardous Tales
- Cleopatra in Space
- When Stars Are Scattered
- Dragon Hoops
- Friends Forever
- While I Was Away
- Sunny Side Up
Best Graphic Novel Authors for Upper Elementary
- Raina Telgemeier (known for Guts, Sisters, Smile, and Drama)
- Rick Riordan (known for The Percy Jackson Series)
- Kazu Kibuishi (known for the Amulet Series)
- Victoria Jamieson (known for Roller Girl)
- Gene Luen Yang (known for Dragon Hoops and the Avatar graphic novels)
- Lauren Tarshis (known for the I Survived series)
Graphic Novels for Above Level Elementary Students
Do you have younger elementary students that are reading above grade level? You may find that they are interested in reading graphic novels, but you want to make sure they're age appropriate. Here are my recommendations:
- Baby-Sitters Little Sister
- The Babysitters Club Graphic Novels
- Dog Man
- Real Friends
- The Cardboard Kingdom
- Cat Kid Comic Club
More Book Suggestions
Still not sure what to read even after browsing these graphic novel lists? Check out this blog post where I share my favorite novels and activities to use with upper elementary students or this post with engaging novel projects to use with almost any book. You can also enter your email below for more book lists and activity ideas sent straight to your inbox!