How Can You Use Cartoons and Comics in Your Teaching?


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Comics and cartoons are two efficient teaching tools to use in class with students of different levels. They are effective because they involve students in meaningful learning experiences to apply essential skills like writing, reading, speaking and communication.

By definition, a comic strip is “an open-ended dramatic narrative about a recurring set of characters told in a series of drawings, often including dialogue in balloons and a narrative text, published serially in newspapers” (Inge, p. 631 cited in Snyder, 1997).

A cartoon is a sketch or drawing, usually humorous, such as in a newspaper or periodical, that symbolizes, satires or caricatures an action, a subject or a person of popular interest.

Cartoon and comic strips are erroneously assumed to be the same, but they are not. So, what is the difference between a cartoon and a comic? A cartoon is an animated visual format with sound, and a comic is a written, printed format in black and white or colour. Some characters appear in multiple formats, having an animated series on television, movie, or comic strips. For example, characters from Peanuts, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Cinderella or more from Walt Disney etc. While Comic strips are a series of adjacent drawn images, usually arranged horizontally, designed to be read as a narrative or a chronological sequence. The story is usually original in this form. The definition of the comic strip as essentially containing text inscribed within “balloons” inside the picture frame.  

How can you use comic strips and cartoons in your teaching?

Integrating comic strips and cartoon in textbooks provide a unique and exciting way to engage learners in the world of English.

Check out these fantastic tips for making and using them in your classroom.

Have learners create comics/cartoons

Divide the class into small groups and ask students to create a cartoon with their group. Some may contribute to the drawing, others may write the story, and the rest may paint. This can be very effective in language learning classes where students communicate while working in groups. For instance, if it is an English language class, you can start by teaching them useful phrases like “May I draw?” or “I would like to paint the comic strip”.

Also, encourage your learners to start by drawing cartoon frames, speech balloons and pencil characters and writing words with a pencil in speech balloons. This will help you check their spelling and grammar before they get past them with ink. They might also create a digital cartoon by taking pictures and adding voice bubbles with Photoshop!

Practice Story writing and telling

Give your students 4 to 5 pre-designed comic strip panels with blank dialogue boxes. Have them fill in the blanks, making sure they tell a story based only on the other visual elements of the tape. You can also pick pre-designed comic strips with missing final panels and then ask students to complete the story using inference, prediction, and context clues. Once done, ask them to narrate the story in front of the class.

Teach vocabulary through comics

If you have just taught a lesson on recreation activities, you can ask learners to write a comic book about visiting a fair. You can encourage them to describe their visit experience in each cartoon setting in English for this activity. If they have been trained in essential grammar, they can use it and look for vocabularies, use them and learn the language effortlessly, in real-time. You can also ask them to create a “character guide” before drawing their comics. It might be a workbook where they design and describe each character using the key vocabulary.

Practise speaking skills

Aside, drawing comic strips and writing stories, you can ask learners to perform other activities like you could divide the class into small groups and ask each group of learners to act out their comic strips in front of others in the class. Each student must choose a character and practise saying their text before doing so with their group. It will help them practise speaking.

Students may also be asked to complete this activity using cartoons from a course textbook. If a group makes any changes in the strip before they perform, those listening can play the game ‘spot the difference’, point the changes made, and earn rewards for every correct answer.

Enhance reading skills

Participants may be asked to use cartoons to create a set of unique reading tasks. Divide students into groups and ask each to create a set of true or false questions or comprehension activities to go with their comic strips. Then share them in the classroom and have any group read or save them for later use. 

Create Awareness through comics/cartoons

Comics can be great for discussing sensitive issues such as intimidation, sexual misconduct, politics, racism and other things because they present them in a non-threatening and non-discriminatory. Ask learners to emphasize each character in the cartoon and help them understand the characters’ motivation and the moral implications of their actions.

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