The Making of a Graphic Novel

Talking about putting illustrations and text together

“What’s your favorite part of making comics?” “If you mess up while you are creating comics, how do you fix it?”

These are some of the questions fourth graders at Increase Miller Elementary had for professional graphic novel creator Jess Smart Smiley, who Zoomed into classrooms from his home in Utah.

Learning about his craft was all the more exciting because the students are midway through writing their own graphic novels—a favorite unit in the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

Meeting author Jess Smart Smiley

Capture ideas in a sketchbook

Chop the big parts into pieces you can draw

Smiley shared tips for creating a graphic novel with the students—a process that centers around a sketchbook. “All of the best ideas are going to jump out at you,” said Smiley. “When you connect ideas, they start to become a story. Divide your story into the big parts that go on each page. Chop each part into little pieces you can draw."

After a Q&A, each student received a copy of “Let’s Make Comics,” an activity book created by Smiley that teaches the fundamentals of cartooning.

At that point, the room fell absolutely silent. Everyone was drawing.