No Series: Comic Book Templates: An Entry Point into Nonfiction


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RI:  Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
  • 9-10:  9th & 10th Grades
  • 1: 
    Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text
    says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RI:  Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
  • 11-12:  11th & 12th Grades
  • 1: 
    Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text
    says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining
    where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RI:  Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-\x80\x9312
  • 11-12:  11th & 12th Grades
  • 5: 
    Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or
    her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear,
    convincing, and engaging.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Comic Book Templates: An Entry Point into Nonfiction

Lesson Objective: Analyze the structure of informational texts
Grades 9-12 / ELA / Analysis
ELA.RI.9-10.1 | ELA.RI.11-12.1 | ELA.RI.11-12.5


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does using the templates help students to develop understanding?
  2. What do students learn about the attributes of nonfiction?
  3. Ms. Wessling uses a familiar medium to get students to tackle a complex task. How could you use this approach in your classroom?


  • Private message to Bella Rose Montero
Way to go, Sarah! Such a great way to engage your students to really look deeper into the books they were studying. The comic book technique of looking closely at the heart of the non-fiction book, breaking this up in chunks -- was truly interesting.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Ivonne Fontes
Love, love the idea to bring this to my class! I can see differentiation and structure using the comic strips can be a great way to teach and practice, what books do you recommend for fourth grade? Thank you!
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Monica Vrooman
What a great way to scaffold instruction, support comprehension and engage students. Thanks!
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to natasha larina
Great idea. It's worth using for all stories not only non-fiction. And you are awesome. I'm always fascinated watching your lessons. Thanks a million
Recommended (1)
  • Private message to Kelly DeLaLuz
I love the idea of using comic strips to help students with nonfiction text. It makes a difficult text more engaging and less intimidating.
Recommended (0)

External Resource Materials


  • [00:00]
    Interviewer: Talk to me a little bit about the introduction, how’d it go?

    Interviewee: Horrible.

    Interviewer: Let’s face it, sometimes nonfiction

    Interviewer: Talk to me a little bit about the introduction, how’d it go?

    Interviewee: Horrible.

    Interviewer: Let’s face it, sometimes nonfiction can be really intimidating and challenging for young adults.

    Interviewee: It was confusing, and I fell asleep.

    Interviewee: I fell asleep too.

    Interviewer: You all fell asleep in your introduction?

    Interviewee: It was late.

    Interviewer: But I’ve got some strategies that we’re using to help them become motivated and feel confident about reading it. In the room we have five different pods, and each pod is comprised of a team of students. They are reading the same book. The kinds of nonfiction texts that they’re reading right now are really a divergence from what they’re used to.

    I want you to start reading this book as though there’s a movie in your mind, okay.

    I wanted students to be able to learn what the underlying structure was of their introduction. Then I wanted them to start to identify some of the attributes that they would find in nonfiction texts.

    I’m gonna have you do a little mapping of your introduction.

    In order to get them to really think about the underlying text structure, I thought about comic strip templates.

    Think about which of these templates best describes the structure of your introduction. So if I’m looking at this one I might say well, it starts off with a lot of information, maybe a history, maybe a story. And then it kind of breaks into some smaller pieces. And then there’s another longer one at the end. Or maybe I would go like this.

    The cell in each of the comic strips translates to a different chunk in their introduction.

    And in each of the boxes you can have words or a paraphrase where you describe what’s going on at that part of your introduction. You can have an image, so if you want to draw a picture or if there actually is an image that you want to kind of recreate, you can do that. But what you must have, is you must have some textual evidence. So even though you are working together, you still are all individually filling out your own, so go ahead and get started.

    Interviewee: You can have the different groups that are involved, ‘cuz there four main groups.

    Interviewer: They first kind of conference and decide, all right, which one matches our text.

    Interviewee: We’re gonna do the four square ‘cuz there was kind of like four main points.

    Interviewee: Yeah, or the diamond.

    Interviewer: Yeah, either one of those works.

    Interviewee: In the up left one ‘cuz it shows the story of the man, and then it goes—of like the people coming in are like the different groups.

    Interviewee: Say like her quote and his quote.

    Interviewee: Mm hmm, and then do you want to write the main idea, okay.

    Interviewee: ‘Cuz there’s nothing really to draw, so I think we should just do like words.

    Interviewee: I don’t want to draw anything.

    Interviewer: Is he telling a story here? Is he giving statistics here? Is he giving history here?

    This is a great moment for guided instruction. So students in particular groups are at different places, some of them are really confident. But a lot of them aren’t sure what it means to find an underlying structure.

    It’s not so much about the facts of the story, but it’s—what’s the line that let’s you know this is why the story’s important? Does that make sense?

    Interviewee: Yes.

    Interviewer: It took some conversation, a little redirection for them to rethink what I was actually asking them to do. And that’s one of the wonderful things about not working with the whole class at once.

    Interviewee: We don’t understand.

    Interviewee: Yeah, we feel like—

    Interviewee: We’re confused.

    Interviewer: Okay, so this is what we need to do then.

    Of all the choices, probably the toughest to get started in is a book called Bitter Chocolate.

    Interviewee: It’s just like confusingly written I think.

    Interviewer: We quickly realized it was the language.

    Interviewee: There’s so many weird names, and you don’t know if it’s a person or if it’s a country or if it’s a road or, you know.

    Interviewer: Okay, right. All right, so maybe the first thing that you need is a little glossary because some of the other books have a glossary, but yours doesn’t.

    And then I gave them permission to not worry about some of the words.

    In your brain you cannot give them all the same importance because if you give them all the same importance, you’re not gonna catch the story, right? And I think that’s probably what’s happening. Does that sound about right Hava 04:31?

    Interviewee: Yeah.

    Interviewer: Okay. So now what I want you to think about is what’s kind of the underlying structure here? What kinds of things does the author do to organize this?

    Interviewee: Come up with a history and the story kind of.

    Interviewer: Right, so the beginning is very much like a history, right, do you remember anything about it?

    Interviewee: Like in order to like pry into like their history, you have to like get help from like the residents, but they aren’t very open to people.

    Interviewer: Right, okay, so that’s important. And that could be one of these things, okay. So if you were gonna look at this, right, would you say it starts like this or it starts like this?


    Interviewee: Probably like that.

    Interviewer: It starts like this. All right, so what would go here then?

    Interviewee: When they’re like walking into the place.

    Interviewer: Absolutely, so you kind of maybe are gonna do the history here right? But then in these boxes I want you to go back to pages 6 to 8. I want you to figure out what these three boxes do. Okay, does that make sense?

    Interviewee: Okay.

    Interviewer: Okay, all right.

    Interviewee: Thank you.

    Interviewer: My artists, look at you. All right, so was the introduction organized? So if you kind of chunked out the introduction, you looked at it and you put it into little chunks, what would the chunks be?

    Interviewee: Well like the first chunk is about like just the experience, and that changes into you know how many McDonald’s there are and how many people eat McDonald’s.

    Interviewee: And how they don’t think about like what’s in the food and stuff.

    Interviewer: Uh huh, so just as long as you kind of get all of those parts in there, I think you’ll be good.

    Interviewee: All right.

    Interviewer: Okay, all right.

    A lot of these texts are weaving, narrative and kind of a more traditional argument together. And so I want students to start to see this relationship that’s gonna happen in all of their texts.

    This book is really using some really memorable, kind of horrific stories to really kind of push their argument along, push his argument along.

    In Blood Diamond it starts with some pretty intense narrative.

    Interviewee: Like this goes all over the place. It goes from this man; he had his hands chopped off.

    Interviewer: And I wanted them to think about why would the author choose to start that way.

    Interviewee: They want you to feel sympathetic for the people or their story.

    Interviewer: Why would the author want you to feel sympathetic for them?

    Interviewee: To prove his point.

    Interviewer: Absolutely, right.

    Interviewee: You don’t forget, so it like catches your attention and keeps you wanting to read.

    Interviewer: They really were able to come to what I needed them to come to, which was, well you won’t forget it. When you have a powerful story, it will frame the way you read everything else.

    I want to hear from each pod one attribute or one quality that was in your introduction. So let’s come over here to Blood Diamonds.

    Interviewee: The story’s about the people, and then there’s a lot of statistics.

    Interviewer: Okay, so tell us a little bit about Geeks; did you have kind of a story in your introduction?

    Interviewee: It was a story.

    Interviewer: It was, yeah. How about over here at Branded?

    Interviewee: There was a story like in the beginning.

    Interviewer: Was there kind of a sequence of events?

    Interviewee: Well it talked about the rise of like marketing to teenagers.

    Interviewer: Absolutely, so you got a little bit of history don’t you?

    Interviewee: Yeah.

    Interviewer: All right, wonderful. Okay, over here on Chew on This.

    Interviewee: In the beginning there’s like an experience of walking into McDonald’s, but then it’s mostly statistics about it in America and fast food in general.

    Interviewer: Wonderful. And then over here at Nickel and Dimed?

    Interviewee: She talked about some like personal experiences and some stories.

    Interviewer: Absolutely, wonderful.

    I don’t think a comic book template is scary to them, and I think that’s really important because the texts are tough. And so we have to make sure that we are marrying these complex texts with strategies that seem inviting and manageable.

    [End of Audio]

School Details

Johnston Senior High School
6501 Northwest 62nd Avenue
Johnston IA 50131
Population: 1548

Data Provided By:



Sarah Brown Wessling
English Language Arts / 10 11 12 / Teacher


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