Teaching with Owly!

This section is meant to be a resource for educators, librarians, and anyone else who wants to use the Owly series of graphic novels to teach children or adults.

Owly Lesson Plans:
We have created a 30 page Lesson Plan packet that includes an introduction to Owly and 12 seperate Lesson Plans to be used in conjunction with the Owly series of graphic novels in your classroom!
download lesson plans

These lesson plans are made available for educational purposes only. Owly is suited for all ages, and these lesson plans can be adapted for use with students of all reading levels. Feel free to print out and photocopy this document as much as you’d like. Share it with anyone you wish. This is a “living” document and your feedback and input are always welcome!If you have any ideas you'd like to share or if you've used Owly in your classroom, please feel free to contact us, we'd love to hear from you!

Also, If you'd like us to send you a printed copy of these plans, you can order it from my friends at Top Shelf!

Who is Owly?
Owly is a kind little owl who knows what it means to be human. Introduced to comics readers in 2004, his adventures are narrated in the nearly wordless Owly series of graphic novels. Owly has become incredibly popular in schools, libraries, and homes throughout the country and around the world. Non-violent subject matter, natural settings, straightforward yet emotionally complex stories, and endearing characters appeal to many different readers and makes this series the perfect choice for students of all ages. Because there are very few words, younger readers can read Owly books without being overwhelmed by text. This can spark an interest in books, instill cognitive and comprehensive skills at an even earlier age, and motivate students to move comfortably toward more advanced reading. In addition, more advanced readers can digest the Owly stories quickly, absorbing the subtextual plots easily without realizing that they are learning. They can enjoy a wonderful change in perspective that can facilitate more interest in education.
There are currently 5 graphic novels in the Owly series with Volume 6 coming soon, along with 2 full-color picture books! Owly meets his best friend, Wormy in the first graphic novel and their adventures progress throughout the series. But each graphic novel and picture book is a complete stand-alone story, and they can be read in any order.
For more information about Owly and his creator, and for interviews and reviews, be sure to check out the About section! :)
How to Teach with Owly:
It may seem that a student could read a wordless comic quickly (and without much effort). One soon realizes, however, that he or she must apply further evaluation and observation skills to be able to follow the story line. This helps develop strong visual skills as the student has to carefully examine the panels in order to understand what is happening, rather than just quickly skip over them and only read word bubbles.
The Owly books are primarily wordless and, while the ability to create a story without text is challenging, the resulting books appeal to all ages and all reading proficiencies, including reluctant and challenged readers. Learning accelerates as readers pick up the books without being told to do so, and their confidence grows with each story.
The Owly books rely on the characters’ facial expressions, actions, and gestures in addition to the background setting depicted in each panel to explain what is happening. Speech and thought balloons convey additional messages to assist with understanding. Unknowingly, the students begin to realize the significance of symbols, reading the book in a traditional style and following the panels in order to determine the story‘s progression and meaning.
Although Owly is a series, each book is self-contained and all-ages friendly. While there is the portrayal of emotion and action, the books are devoid of anger or violence, making them suitable for even the most timid or sensitive student.
Reading Owly aloud in a classroom setting requires a slightly different approach. When you’re reading Owly, be sure to identify the animal and say the character’s name. For instance, when Owly interacts with his worm friend, ask the students what type of animal it is and state the character’s name: “Wormy.” Additionally, when Owly says something, translate the symbols into words based on the context of the action (for example, a simple “!” may become a “Thanks!” or a “Be Careful!”). You can also ask the students what they think the characters are doing, saying, or feeling to help get them more involved
Helping Kids Learn
Owly lets readers comprehend a story without requiring that they understand text. Language skills are developed through visual observation that provides clues to the meaning of words. Struggling students can develop confidence in their abilities when they are able to read the Owly books without help.

"... let me share a typical experience I had with one of our third graders, a below-average reader named Bryonna."

"Bryonna checked out a copy of Owly, one of our most popular graphic novels, earlier in the year. She came up to me before class and held it up: 'I love this book,' she said. 'It’s my favorite book!'"

"I was thrilled and wanted to know more. “It’s a story about friendship, and there aren’t any words in the book,” she told me. “I read the story to my two-year-old sister, and she loved it, too!” “How did you read a book without words?” I asked her. Bryonna explained that when she looked at the pictures she thought about the words the characters were saying and she visualized the words in her head. Then, when she read the story to her sister, she created the dialogue and story based on the pictures."

"For a young child to read a graphic novel, much less a wordless one, many essential literacy skills are required, including the ability to understand a sequence of events, interpret characters’ nonverbal gestures, discern the story’s plot, and make inferences. Best of all, these skills don’t merely apply to Owly or to graphic novels. They are the critical skills that govern all reading comprehension, making Bryonna’s triumph with Owly into a lesson that has also helped her with other reading materials.”

“A book like Owly provides an opportunity for young children to ‘read’ the pictures in order and follow the story. They love to verbalize the story, which reinforces the concept that ink on a page can be translated into ideas and words. In addition, characters communicate using symbols, providing another opportunity for children to make the connection between abstract images and language.”

"Before a child is ready to read text, sequential art can give them practice in making meaning from material printed on a page, tracking left to right and top to bottom, interpreting symbols, and following the sequence of events in a story. Sequential art provides plenty of opportunity for connecting the story to children’s own experiences, predicting what will happen, inferring what happens between panels, and summarizing, just as you do with a text story. The advantage to sequential art is that children don’t need to be able to decode text to learn and practice comprehension skills."

"Once a child begins to decode text, the comic format enables them to be able to read much more complex stories than is possible with traditional text and illustration."