Author/Creator: Agnieszka Jeżyk
Title: Using Comic Strips in the Language Classroom
Purpose: Students, at any level, can put their language skills to use by creating their own short comic strips, in the context of their language knowledge; the task is primarily designed to practice new vocabulary, or for reading practice which is stimulated by the images, but in other versions could be utilized to practice grammar in the communicative context
Who: Any level
Where: Can be an in-class activity or homework assignment
Type: Task (independent or for partners)
Duration: In class: 10-15 minute activity: out of class: varies
Objective: The purpose of this task is for students to put their language to use, create with language, and share their imaginative comic strips. The assignment enhances memorizing of grammar structures and new vocabulary through appealing to imagination and creativity.
Assessment: Assessment can be formal, or informal, at the discretion of the instructor
Tools/Materials: Any of the following sites are good for generating comic strips:
Instructors can also take images from existing textbooks/materials and compile them onto a
single page or document (4-5 images recommended).
Can it be adapted to a blended/hybrid/online environment?
Yes, students can work with websites, create digital versions of comic strips and upload as a homework assignment or in a virtual classroom discussion board.
Personal reflections/comments: This is a great activity, especially after new vocabulary or grammar has been learned, to encourage students to be creative and put to use the knowledge they have recently acquired. Personally, I prefer to use this task as an in-class activity and an informal assessment, at the end of each unit.
Could be assigned in three (or more) different versions:
1) Working on a ready comic / passages from a graphic novel:
- On an elementary level the teacher may ask the students to provide description of people, places, or items, and simple elements of the plot, such as daily routine
- Beginning with the elementary level the students may add their own characters, describe them in detail and inscribe them into the plot
- On higher levels the teacher may ask the students to add previous or future events to the plot of the comic/graphic novel, which allows to practice forms of the verbs in the past and in the future
- Depending on the level of the comic/graphic novel the material can be used for in-class or out of class reading practice, which could be checked in the form of an online quiz (kahoot), or as a competition where students come up with their own questions to the text
2) Working on a ready comic passages from a graphic novel with empty / partially empty
speech bubbles, or captions:
- The emphasis here is for the students to focus on the communicative aspect of the text and the image
- Based on the "fill in the blanks“ concept the assignment goes beyond a mechanical recreating of the language patterns and encourages the students to react to authentic material with a newly produced content
- It encourages the student to react appropriately to the already provided content
- It could work well as an in-class activity in pairs
- The task should be related to the topic of the class content wise so that the students could immediately utilize structures they already know
3) Working on the students individual projects:
- the comic strips can be build around the lists of vocabulary or grammar structures
- the plot of the comic can refer to the topic/theme of the previous class / couple of classes
- on higher level of instruction, it may problematize contemporary political, cultural, or social issues
Examples of students‘ work with the description:
2.1 Level: 4th semester; Assignment: the students had to fill in the empty speech bubbles and captions with their own dialogs so that the text corresponds with the images but not duplicate the original content. The task was assigned as homework and was one of the activities based on the graphic novel Kościsko prepared together with Anna Szawara (UIC).
3.1 Level: 3rd semester; Assignment: monthly vocabulary practice. The topic of the comic strip was "Animal Kingdom“.
3.2 Level: 3rd semester; Assignment: monthly vocabulary practice. The topic of the comic strip was "Family Matters“.
Student Example Images in order of description: 2.1, 3.1, 3.2