Reading Superheroes

  • Feb 13, 2017

GTS Comics

More and more educators are using comic books and graphic novels to encourage students to read, and the comics industry has stepped up to meet the challenge with educational storylines and free classroom resources. Want to get in on the action?

Read on!


I ONCE SAW a batch of old, black and white photographs online depicting kids from a bygone era reading comic books. The author of the post pointed out that it was heartwarming somehow to think that these long-ago children are today the parents and grandparents of kids who are still reading comics.

This point was brought back to me recently during a visit to my local comic shop. It was a busy Saturday afternoon and the store was crowded with parents and children browsing row upon row of colorful covers, making their selections and sharing their excitement for the stories and characters they’d be taking home.

Any way you look at this scenario, you see something positive—a tradition being passed down; shared experience; stoked imaginations; an enduring appreciation for stories. And the best part is, it’s all about reading.

It’s no secret that America is in the midst of a literacy crisis. According to a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, the literacy skills of many students in grades 4 through 12 are “alarmingly low.” As educators you know this firsthand. But more importantly, you represent the front line of a national effort to turn things around.

And judging by my research, more and more of you are turning to comic books and graphic novels.

An internet search for “comic books in education” yields a far-ranging collection of articles that document how educators have seized upon young peoples’ interest in comics to get them reading. And to its credit, the comic book industry itself has stepped-up to meet this challenge, by emphasizing STEM, anti-bullying, and other relevant topics in a number of popular storylines.

Diamond Comic Distributors, the world’s largest distributor of English-language comic books and graphic novels, has set-up a website called Diamond Bookshelf, which offers a collection of free resources for educators interested in exploring the possibilities of comics in the classroom. There are lesson plans (PreK-12), reviews, teacher testimonials, recommended reading lists, and much more.

Citing a study in the School Library Journal, Diamond Bookshelf reports that the presence of comics in a junior high school library resulted in a dramatic 82% increase in library traffic, and a 30% increase in circulation of non-comic books.

Intrigued by those numbers, I sought insight from an Ontario teacher-librarian I met on Twitter, and he told me a similarly encouraging story. “Our graphic novel section began 9 years ago and has grown from a basket, to a shelf, to a whole bookcase of titles,” says Mr. Pamayah, who goes by the Twitter handle @Mister_Library. “Our students have always been eager to have more. It has helped that authors and publishers now offer a wide selection of graphic novels. They have become a featured section with students asking for more, including sequels. I have also had to replace many because they are so well-used.

“Teachers will use specific titles that relate to curriculum on subject areas,” Mr. Pamayah continues. “Our teachers also use the graphic novels to highlight how that format is structured, and teach students how to make their own comic or paneled writing. This section is one of the most popular in our library with students.”

Apparently, we’ve come a long way from the days when reading comics in school earned you a trip to the principal’s office!

Have you had a similar experience? Are comic books and graphic novels being used in your school, or is this something you’ve been thinking about? We’d love to hear more success stories. Let us know on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Science for Life

  • Sep 21, 2016

Decoding Cancer

It’s entirely possible that the next big breakthrough in the fight against cancer will be made by someone who is currently sitting in a high-school classroom, enthralled by science and wondering what their role will be in the world of tomorrow.

Our friends at Discovery Education may well have been thinking that very thought when they teamed-up with a group of recognized experts and college educators to create Decoding Cancer, a set of standards-aligned classroom resources designed to facilitate meaningful discussion among students and teachers in grades 9 through 12.

The resources—which include interactive lessons and teacher guides; a section on careers; and (coming soon) a virtual lab!—are available free to any school or educator who’d like to use them in the classroom.

Joining Discovery in this effort are the Val Skinner Foundation, and the LIFE Center at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in collaboration with the Rutgers School of Public Health. The group’s mission statement describes Decoding Cancer as “an innovative and interactive high school biology and genetics education program featuring the BioCONECT (Biology of Cancer, Online Education Connecting Teens) curriculum,” adding that the program “enhances science literacy and increases cancer education and awareness among youth.”

Check it out for yourself. Visit the Decoding Cancer website today.

And to help us keep you informed about other free resources and educational programs, please be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Explore a New World of Learning

  • Oct 16, 2015


Mars is everywhere these days, figuratively speaking. From breathtaking imagery captured by the Curiosity Rover, and growing excitement over possible evidence for Martian water, to NASA’s recent announcement of 3-part plan to put people on Mars within two decades, it’s safe to say that the red planet is having a moment.

Heck, it’s even co-starring in a hit movie with Matt Damon!

All this excitement presents teachers with a golden opportunity—a chance to present real-world  STEM application to young people who are watching scientific history play out before their eyes. Luckily, our friends at NASA Education are ready to help educators make the most of this opportunity with an exhaustive online collection of Mars-related STEM resources they call the Mars Survival Kit.

Well organized and easy to navigate, the site offers standards-based classroom projects and lesson plans for students in kindergarten through high school. And it’s all free of charge.

Check out the Mars Survival Kit for yourself.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


An Egg-cellent Opportunity for Learning

  • Sep 24, 2015

Egg Farm 1

Note: If you missed this LIVE virtual field trip, you’ll be happy to know it’s been archived online along with all related classroom materials. You’ll find it here.

Virtual field trips are a growing trend these days, offering tech-savvy teachers a hassle-free way to show students the world outside their classrooms. In fact, so popular are these on-screen excursions that more and more organizations have been stepping-up to make them available, often at no cost.

For example, on October 15th, 2015, Discovery Education and the Good Egg Project will present a LIVE virtual field trip to Creighton Brothers Farms in Warsaw, Indiana for an on-site lesson in nutrition, sustainability, and the farm-to-table process, as well as the interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem, and the importance of high-quality animal husbandry.

The technical requirements for this trip are simple, and there are downloadable lesson plans and teacher guides available for grades K-8!

To learn more, and to register your class, visit The Good Egg Project Education Station.

And to find out about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio

Egg Farm 2

Space Station STEM Ed

  • Sep 03, 2015


One does not have to be a rocket scientist in order to recognize that space travel is probably the greatest commercial there is for STEM. I mean, talk about an education taking you places!

But what really sells the point is the fact that it is nearly impossible to discuss any aspect of space travel without at least touching on the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics involved—real-world application of STEM principles by ordinary people who once sat in classrooms just like yours.

And are not so ordinary anymore.

That’s the kind of big-picture thinking that can inspire students, and, fortunately, NASA Education is in the business of thinking big.

Which brings us to STEM on Station, NASA Education’s out-of-this-world educational web site celebrating the year-long mission to the International Space Station. Informative, timely, and easy to use, the site is packed with free learning resources, including a large collection of STEM-based lesson plans for grades K-12.

As with space itself, there is lots to discover. So visit STEM on Station today.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

Note: NASA TV is channel 346 in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE programming package.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Selling presidents since 1952

  • Feb 19, 2015


“Advertising agencies have tried openly to sell presidents since 1952,” wrote Joe McGinniss in his seminal 1969 book, The Selling of the President 1968.

And the fact that his observation seems almost quaint in today’s media-saturated political culture suggests that we’ve failed to heed the warning.

Today, more than ever, presidential candidates aren’t so much presented to us as they are sold to us like products—packaged, branded, and target-marketed to various consumer groups. It’s hardly an ideal way to choose leaders, but how many of us, especially young people, ever stop to think about that, much less factor it into our voting?

Sounds like a great topic for classroom study, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, the bright folks at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image have put together an online exhibition entitled The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012, an exhaustive archive of campaign commercials accompanied by free, common core standards-based lesson plans in English Language Arts and Social Studies.

It’s all you’ll need to launch your own eye-opening study in media literacy and critical thinking.

Check it out for yourself. Visit The Living Room Candidate today.

And to receive more information about great educational resources like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Manufacture your future!

  • Dec 19, 2014


My fondest memory from primary school involves getting an “A” on a story I’d written for fifth-grade English class. Moreover, it was the little note my teacher placed next to the grade that said “You are a writer!”.

Fortunately, I believed her. And I’ve been writing ever since.

There is no substitute for the influence a teacher can have upon a young person trying to figure out who they are, and what they can do. With that in mind, I’d like to tell you about Manufacture Your Future, a great new online initiative from Discovery Education and the Alcoa Foundation designed to help educators, school counselors and families cultivate the manufacturing leaders and innovators of tomorrow.

It’s a free, STEM-based resource that includes standards-based lesson plans for grades 6-12, a virtual field trip to an Alcoa manufacturing plant, career guides and discussion starters. I especially like the career guides, which can be useful in helping a young person understand how their skills and affinities have application in the “real” world.

I’m quite sure that my fifth-grade English teacher would approve.

Check it out for yourself. Visit the official Manufacturing Your Future web site.

And to receive more information about great educational resources like this, be sure to bookmark this site and follow DIRECTV Goes to School on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio