Twenty-First Century Informational Literacy: Integrating Research Techniques and Technology

6 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Seven 60-minute sessions
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This lesson incorporates graphic novels to help students expand their reading, writing, research, and technology skills. Students first read graphic novels to become familiar with the text structure, then research a self-selected topic using web-based resources. Students follow the research process and synthesize the information they obtained to create their graphic novel using the Comic Life software or other comic software. This unit works best with students who are already familiar with writing a research paper.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • In today’s society, students are expected to have multiple literacies and to be able to apply these skills to various texts and media.
  • Teachers can prepare students for future technologies by exposing them to as many current forms of technology as possible.
  • The ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize various forms of text is an essential skill for developing multiple literacies.
  • Combining technology and popular culture with traditional academic tasks has been proven to motivate students.

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.
  • 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

  • Comic Life Software or other software used to create comics
  • LCD projector
  • Computers with Internet access
  • USB drives or other storage devices, like CD-ROMs
  • Sticky notes or journals
  • A variety of graphic novels (both fiction and nonfiction)




  1. If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, reserve time in your school’s computer lab for Sessions 2 through 7. Bookmark the Websites and Student Interactives listed in the Resources section. Alternately, you can use ShareTabs to create one URL of all the Websites and Students Interactives listed in the Resources section.
  2. Explore and familiarize yourself with the Comic Life Software or other software used to create comics.
  3. Prepare one photocopy per student of the Research Report: Informational Graphic Novel Rubric
    and Research Report: Self-Evaluation of Graphic Novel printouts.

Student Objectives

  • Use Comic Life software or other comic software to apply their research to the graphic novel structure
  • Develop their writing skills for different audiences and purposes by adapting the academic research paper to a graphic novel format
  • Employ and practice a wide variety of research techniques by navigating websites, synthesizing and citing information, and creating questions and theses statements
  • Reflect on and analyze their work by using a rubric to self-assess

Session 1

  1. To activate students’ prior knowledge, ask if they have read comic books or comic strips. Have students brainstorm a list of comic features by asking such questions as: What features make a comic different from a novel? A newspaper? A five-paragraph essay? Where do we get information from in reading a comic? What role do the illustrations play? On a blackboard or large sheet of butcher paper, create a list of comic book features generated by the class discussion and leave it posted in the classroom.
  2. Tell students that graphic novels are bound books, both fiction and nonfiction, set up in comic form. Choose a nonfiction graphic novel from which to read aloud. (Capstone Press’ Graphic Library Series is recommended and includes a glossary, “kid-friendly” websites, and lists of other books on the same topic.) After the read aloud, ask students what features they noticed about the graphic novel and add any new observations to the list created in Step 1.
  3. Hand out the Research Report: Informational Graphic Novel Rubric and explain to the class that they will be researching a topic of their choosing and presenting their research in graphic novel form. Go over the rubric in detail and discuss the criteria students need to meet, including synthesizing and paring down information to fit into a graphic novel format.
  4. For homework, have students brainstorm a list of topics and possible questions about the topic that they would like to research. Model some possible topics and questions, such as:
    • Topic: Cars

    • Possible Questions: How do cars work? How did the original cars evolve into the modern cars? How are race cars different from other cars? How will alternative fuels change the car industry?

Session 2 and 3

  1. Select a few students to share the topics they chose and questions they wrote for homework. Offer feedback to students who may have had trouble generating suitable topics or questions.
  2. Tell students that they will research answers to the questions they generated for homework about their preferred topic and that the information will be used to write their own graphic novel. Note: This unit works best with students who are already familiar with writing a research paper; however, if necessary, guide students in a refresher or minilesson on how to conduct research and how to cite sources in the desired format (i.e., APA or MLA).
  3. At the classroom computer or computer lab, have student navigate to the bookmarked list of search engines to help them get started. Those search engines include:
    • FactHound
      This website directly corresponds with Capstone Press’ Graphic Library Series and allows students to search for information by their reading/grade levels.
    • KidsClick! Search Tools
      This website offers a list of other kid-friendly search engines where students can limit their search by age, grade, or reading level.
    • Infomine
      This website offers only scholarly collections for students.
    • Eduseek
      This website returns only .edu and .org websites.
    • Ask Kids
      This website returns filtered websites to provide only appropriate content.
  4. While students conduct research, circulate around the room and assist those who may need help with the research process. Check on the sources students choose to make sure that they are relevant to their topics.
  5. Once students have found one or two sources that pertain to their topic, show them how to save the source and relevant information to a USB drive or other storage device. Students who find their sources quickly can spend the remaining research time reading, highlighting, and taking notes. Circulate around the room and check on students’ notes, making sure that the information they record relates to their topic and questions. Some students, for example, may try to write down or highlight everything and will need help narrowing their focus.
  6. For homework, have students complete any note-taking they did not finish by Session 4.

Session 4

  1. Explain to students that their graphic novels should be treated as a research paper and that they must have a thesis that they support throughout the graphic novel. They should use the research they collected and notes they took from the previous session for this support.
  2. Navigate to the bookmarked Essay Map interactive tool and show students how to use it to form a thesis statement about their topics.
  3. Allow students to use the remaining time to use their notes and complete their Essay Maps. Circulate around the room to make sure students have solid theses and that the information they use supports those main ideas.

Session 5

  1. Using an LCD projector at the classroom computer or computer lab, show students how to use the Comic Life Software or whatever software program you have decided to use. Explain to students that they will need to find pictures to illustrate their essays. If you are using Comic Life Software, demonstrate how to download and import images from the Internet (e.g., from Flickr). Remind students to write down sources for the images they find.
  2. Allow students to practice using the software and to locate pictures with the remaining time.

Session 6 and 7

  1. Students will use these sessions to create a graphic novel using their Essay Maps and collected photos. Explain to students that their completed graphic novel should include the following:
    • A title page
    • An introduction with a thesis
    • Five to six frames that include supporting information and images
    • A resource page
    Assist students during this process with any difficulties they may have in using the software to complete their graphic novels.
  2. When students are finished, have them hand in their completed graphic novels.
  3. Hand out the Research Report: Self-Evaluation of Graphic Novel and have students assess their own work and process. Ask students to write on a separate sheet of paper and reflect on any challenges they encountered and the differences in presenting information in this format versus a typical research paper or report. Have students hand in this self-evaluation at the end of the session.


  • Have students use the Comic Life software or other comic software to create their own fictional stories, write autobiographies, or analyze characters from novels.
  • Use graphic novels to model reading strategies and scaffold students prior to reading a more challenging text. The Graphic Classics offers a wide variety of classic novels in graphic novel form.

Student Assessment / Reflections