Learning with Comics

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Comics are a fun, they’re cool, hip and much more. Due to their graphic nature, both expert readers and the barely literate may enjoy them. Have you tried using them in the classroom? If you have, you may have discovered they’re quite helpful, mostly because they lure youngsters into doing something most of them normally abhor — Reading. Comics and graphic novels take the first and most fundamental step when it comes to developing reading skills. With a textbook so naturally attractive and engaging, how we teachers help our students develop good reading skills depends on our creativity.

Why is it a good idea to add Comics to our curriculum? Please take a look at the following tiny choice of related articles:

If working with comic strips (i.e. Calvin n Hobbes) you can:

Put them in order:

Variant 1 —

  • Divide the class into small teams
  • Select one strip for each team
  • Cut the strip frames and ask the students to place them back in order; final order may differ from original as it may also make sense to place them differently.
  • Exchange finalized strips until everyone has had a chance to read all the strips

Variant 2 —

  • Select a comic strip and strip it off it’s speech bubble content — all of the must be blank
  • Ask the students to fill in the speech bubble (any way they like)
  • Exchange finalized strips with classmates

This variant can also be used imposing limitations (or requirements) regarding the language to be used for filling-in the speech bubbles. If for example we are learning the words: alert, accustom and jostle, try to fins frames in which these words could be used to describe it.

Variant 3 —

  • select various strips (2+) and cut the frames — one set/team
  • Give each team a (complete) set making sure the frames have been shuffled properly
  • Ask the students to re-arrange the frames making stories that make sense

Strip into Play (Role play):

  • Have the students read through the strip
  • Ask them to write a dialogue based on the strip. Strips are way too short in content, so it’s necessary to encourage the students to perform additions they can come up with themselves.
  • Once this is ready, role play

Complete the album

  • select a few strips (3–4) and copy the onto a A4 sheet; make sure to alter the order of the strips on the sheet for each team (to prevent the students from resourcing to strip and frame numbers as references)
  • Make one full (2nd) set of strips for each team, cut them into frames and shuffle them together
  • If you have say, 3 teams, you should have 3 A4 sheets (with all selected strips on them), and a complete 2nd set of strips (included on the A4) for every A4 cut into frames. Give each team their share of frames
  • The task is to collect sufficient individual frames between a) the ones they received originally and b) those they will gather from the other teams. Frames can only be obtained by a team through exchange with other teams.
  • The winner is the team which completes all the frames on the A4

It is a fact that the students will try to employ their mother tongue in order to complete the task 1st. A suggested method to mitigate the usage of local language is as follows:

Every time a team employs local language to communicate the game stops and the team’s frames are left for other teams to pillage (still using a one-for-one exchange system, of course). Teams will be given one right to pillage the sanctioned team’s frames for one minute. To gain that right the team must pick a number from a lucky draw containing numbers 1–10. The highest number wins; while the team pillages the frames, the team losing the pillage rights must write a number of sentences equal to the number drawn by the winner of the pillage rights.

Strip Bingo

  • Each team is given a full set of strips (as many as you chose for the activity)
  • The team will choose an X number of frames to include on their bingo cards
  • The person drawing the numbers/frames does not read a number, but instead gives a description of the strip

Snakes and ladders:

  • Select strips and order them on a A4 sheet, number the strips and the frames, so that these are able to identify through (strip #, frame-in-strip #) coordinates
  • Grab a snakes and ladders template and fill in the steps with (strip #, frame #) information
  • The players roll a dice (or flip a coin) to move about the board
  • The task is describing the frame the player just landed on; failing to describe it will result in the player losing a turn

Variant 1 —

label the board’s steps with 2 colors: one for a Q (Question) and the other one A (Answers). If the player lands on Q they anything about the frame.

Transcultural translated comics

Many times it happens that students were never exposed to the comics you share with them and find them odd due to the style employed and content itself — they are unable to connect. In this case try using local comics / graphic novels. You can let the students see the original (in Chinese) and provide them with a blank (speech bubble) template they can use to write their translation on

I believe providing a blank speech-bubble comic from the beginning will have a better effect.

If working with comic books / graphic novels (i.e. DC comics, Darkhorse, etc.):

What will happen?

Stop the reading and ask the students what, based on what they already know, to give an educated answer

Odds and Evens

  • Divide into teams
  • The 1st team gets the even numbered pages, the other team gets all evens
  • The team with the odds will guess what will happen; the evens team will do the same with the odds
  • Once both teams have given their prediction, the team holding the missing page (odds for evens and evens for odds will describe what actuality happened)

Give the story a Finale

  • Once the novel has been used for other activities and is near the end you may want to keep the ending to yourself and let the students come up with their own magical and perfect finale
  • Compare finales

New vocabulary application

As a means of improving vocabulary it’s a good idea to use the same set of words again and again in various activities. If for example we just learned the words: accustomed, alert, compatible

If using a Batman novel one could ask:

  • How can one get accustomed to wearing an armor all the time?
  • Did Robin have a change to alert Batman of the impending danger?
  • Do you feel Batman and Robin are together because they are compatible in any way?

In depth discussions (for higher level students)

Just as with any piece of literature there’s more than meets the eye with graphic novels. One can discuss issues such as:

  • culture of the author reflected on the novel
  • Pros and cons of this type of literature (for children and teenagers)
  • Identifying the message of the novel, etc.

3rd party Teaching with comics resources @