Creating Online Graphic Novels


This quarter we’ve been focusing on Digital Citizenship and ISTE student standards in conjunction with backwards planning, using the Understanding By Design model by Wiggins and McTighe. For my final project this quarter at SPU, I have modified a 5th grade English Language Arts lesson to better meet the needs and interests of my ELL students. By incorporating new digital tools, my students were able to complete the unit by creating and sharing informational graphic novels about famous inventors.


Although I had read a bit about Understanding By Design at my previous school, this was the first time I really took an in depth look at what Wiggins asks us to do.  I find this model of planning helps alleviate stress. One of my greatest challenges is following the pacing plan of Gen. Ed teachers, being asked to teach the same content and lessons, in addition to scaffolding, and still give the end of unit assessments at the same time. By using this model, I maintained my focus on the end of unit assessment and keep my essential questions and skills needed as my driving focus.  For me that meant eliminating a few lessons and tailoring my unit to my current students in order for them to have access to successfully complete the unit.  Going forward, I look forward to using this model with all three grade levels, although perhaps not in as much detail.

This quarter is my first time understanding that digital citizenship needs to be explicitly taught, and now that I am introducing more digital tools, I need to truly embed digital citizenship into my teaching.  I appreciate knowing that Common Sense Media has gone ahead and provided detailed, grade appropriate, user friendly lessons.

In addition to backwards planning, this unit allowed me to discover Pixton, which has become a wonderful way for my students to not only meet standards, but share their creative side and personality.  Pixton allowed three of my students to complete tasks that normally would remained unfinished if they had been asked to use paper and pencil.  All the students were eager to share their work not only within our classroom, but also with their parents and other staff and students. Although I supported my students with spelling, new leaders appeared as students gained new skills and navigated how to manipulate their characters, they supported their peers in ways I have not seen before.

On the last day of our unit, we celebrated with the Gen. Ed classes and students were able to walk around and look at each other’s work and leave comments.  My students had printed copies on their desk as well as displaying their novels on computers around the room.  The positive comments from my colleagues and students solify that I would like to teach this unit again next year.


Below are links to my unit plan based on the Understanding by Design model, and additional resources for the unit.

Understanding By Design Unit Plan

Creating Online Graphic Novels

Sample Graphic Novel

Using our knowledge from the past unit about Philo Farnsworth, I used Pixton to create a graphic novel that students can use as a model.

Philo Farnsworth Graphic Novel


Whose Is It, Anyway? (3-5). (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2017, from

Engage NY Grade 5 English Language Arts. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2017, from

Gonzalez, J. (2014, June 23). Understanding by design, Introduction and Chapters 1-4. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by Design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.



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