Standard Lesson

Getting Graphic with Alternative Energy Sources

7 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Six 50-minute sessions
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In this lesson, students in small groups use their research skills to study alternative energy sources, discovering the “what, where, why, and how” of these energy sources.  To share their newly acquired knowledge, students create entertaining comic books using the Web 2.0 tool ToonDoo to show to the class.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies states, “Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology” and therefore, students must utilize these tools, such as the online comic book creator ToonDoo used in this lesson, to increase their skills. Furthermore, given the popularity of graphic novels, creating a comic book to share research may motivate students as Fisher believes this type of assignment fully engages students. Fisher suggests that teachers should not just have graphic novels in their classroom libraries but also should provide students the opportunity to create their own.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet connection
  • Books on alternative energy sources
  • One computer with LCD projector and Internet connection



This six minute YouTube video provides an overview to ToonDoo.

This is a PowerPoint presentation that explains how to make a toon and then turn toons into a comic book.

This six minute YouTube video provides an overview to ToonDoo. If you plan on showing it to students, check that your school’s filter does not block YouTube.

This website is a good way to learn the basics about alternative sources of energy.

Likewise, this website has basic information on several types of alternative forms of energy.

This blog has links to interesting facts about several of the energy sources. However, since it is a blog, check that the school’s filter will allow students to access it.

This website has several of the alternative forms of energy and is divided into easy to read sections.

This particular webpage entitled from the Global Climate Change website has links to several of the alternative forms of energy.

This website has the complete energy story and is divided into easy-to-read chapters that will provide a good introduction to many of the alternative energy sources.

This website provides a reference students can use when citing their sources.

This Purdue OWL resource provides a reference for formatting in MLA style.


  1. Make one copy per student of the printouts Comic Book Rubric and Group Evaluation Form.
  2. Make one copy per group of three students of the printout Possible Topics.
  3. If you have a class wiki or website, link the websites from the Helpful Websites. If not, then make one copy per student of this print-out, too.
  4. Create an account at ToonDoo and become familiar with this tool. Create a comic book using a past topic to show the students what they will be making or find one on the website to share.
  5. Arrange to have books from the Suggested Print Materials about Alternative Energy printout available to students. Consult with your school librarian for additional sources of information, such as databases and e-books.
  6. Arrange for students to have access to computers and/or school library during sessions two to five.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • demonstrate the ability to conduct research using a variety of resources including websites, print materials, and databases.
  • evaluate sources to determine which are best for their research.
  • correctly cite sources of information.
  • understand the strengths and flaws of different types of alternative forms of energy.
  • create a comic book that displays their research in an entertaining manner.
  • evaluate their performance as members of a group.

Session One

  1. To activate students’ prior knowledge ask if students have read comic books or read graphic novels. Ask students what characteristics make up a comic book or graphic novel. Be sure the following attributes are discussed.
    • Images relate to the words.
    • They have a title page that includes the name(s) of the author(s).
    • There is a plot, not just unconnected facts.
    • Panels are used for scenes.
    • Dialogue is present, either in bubbles or captions.
    • They are written to entertain.
  2. Explain to the class they will be creating online comic books in small groups to illustrate what they have learned about alternative forms of energy after conducting research on one specific form.
  3. Divide the students into small groups of twos and threes. Ask them to list all the types of alternative energy they can think of and examples of how the forms are used. After a few minutes of brainstorming, have the groups share their thoughts with the class.
  4. Show the class the sample cartoon you have chosen from ToonDoo or the one you have created. Hand-out the Comic Book Rubric and discuss in detail what is expected of students for this project. Also, project the Group Evaluation Form and discuss that students will evaluate how their group worked together as well as reflect on their individual performance in the group.
  5. Divide the class into small groups of three students per group. Provide each group with a copy of Possible Topics. Allow students time to discuss what topic their group will investigate.
  6. Have students select their topics and then brainstorm what questions they have about their topic.
  7. Assign students to develop a list of more questions that they will share with their group in the next session.

Session Two

  1. Have students meet in their groups to discuss their questions. Then have a couple of groups share their lists with the class as this might help other groups with more ideas. Offer feedback to groups that are having trouble with questions. Be sure the following questions are mentioned:
    • What is the definition of the alternative form of energy?
    • What are its flaws?
    • What are its strengths?
    • How does it work?
    • Where is it used in the world?
    • Why is it a good source of energy?
  2. Explain to students that their lists of questions will help guide their research.
  3. Move the class to the library or computer lab for students to research online as well as use print materials that are available.
  4. Remind students as they look for websites, they should evaluate each website before taking notes. They should consider the following:
    • Who is the author of the website? Can the author be considered an expert?
    • What is the purpose of the website? Is it to inform or sell the form of energy? What is the domain of the website—edu, org, com, gov?
    • When was the website written? Is it current material?
    • Where did the author get his or her  information? Are there links to other sites that might be useful?
    • Why is this website useful? Is it easy to read and navigate?
  5. Remind students to cite their sources that they decide to use.
  6. As students work, circulate throughout the room and assist those who have trouble finding information. Check on students’ notes and probe students for information. Observe student cooperation within the group and time on task as that is part of the rubric. Remind students to cite sources.
  7. As homework, encourage students to continue finding answers to their questions.

Session Three

  1. Tell students to meet with their group members to discuss what questions they have not yet answered and brainstorm on what questions their research has lead them to also consider.
  2. Have students continue researching. Again circulate throughout the room and assist those who have trouble finding information. Check on students’ notes and probe students for information. Observe student cooperation within the group and time on task as that is part of the rubric.
  3. Near the end of the session, remind students that as a group they will turn in a page with their sources correctly cited. Assist students who have questions about how to create this.
  4. As homework, assign students to finish their research if they still have unanswered questions.

Session Four

  1. Check that students have completed their research notes. Check that sources are cited.
  2. If possible, show the video How to Make ToonDoo Comic Strip.
  3. Using the User Guide, model for the students how to use ToonDoo. Have each group create an account. Allow students time to explore the Web 2.0 tool and examine their choices for characters, backgrounds, props, clipart, and text balloons.
  4. After students have had sufficient time to examine ToonDoo, have students meet in their groups to plan their plot line for their comic book and then begin creating their comic book using ToonDoo.
  5. As students work, circulate through the room, asking students about their plot line and checking that the necessary questions discussed in Session Two are covered in their comic books.
  6. Note time on task and student cooperation within the group as they develop their comic books.

Session Five

  1. Allow students more time to complete their comic books. Help groups that are having trouble with the tool.
  2. When a group thinks they are completely done, instruct them to use the rubric to evaluate their finished product. Also, remind them to check that their sources are cited and correctly formatted.
  3. Last, tell each group to e-mail their link to their comic book to allow for easy access for evaluation and/or posting to a wiki or website.

Session Six

  1. Collect from each group their page with all the sources.
  2. Have the students share their comic books by projecting them through the LCD projector.
  3. Allow time for students to ask questions about each alternative energy form.
  4. Hand out the Group Evaluation Form and allow time for students to reflect on their groups.


  • After all groups have presented, ask students to choose which energy source seems most promising.
  • Have students write a persuasive essay or produce a podcast following the lesson Creating a Persuasive Podcast to persuade which alternative energy form has the most potential for helping the world.
  • This lesson could be done using mobile apps such as Comic Book It for Android devices and Book Designer for the Apple devices. Use an adapter to the LCD projector to share the comic books.
  • Students could draw their own comic books on large sheets of paper instead of using an online tool. This could be displayed in the classroom and hallways. They could be taken to grade schools to share.
  • Although the comic books would become a comic strip limited to six panels, the student interactive Comic Creator is another option for creating the comics. These can be printed, and using a document camera, students could share their creations.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Possible student assessment include

  • Use the Comic Book Rubric to evaluate student work.
  • Evaluate each group’s source sheet.
  • Keep notes on students’ time on task and group dynamics.
  • Ask students to complete the following statements:
From this project I learned ___________________________.

This project could have been improved by ___________________.

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