Comic strips are an effective instructional strategies to use in class with students from different grades. They are effective because they engage students in meaningful learning experiences where they get to practice key thinking and literacy skills including writing, reading, speaking, communicating, and critical thinking.
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). The purpose of today’s post is to share with you some useful resources to help you make the best of comic strips in your teaching.
Why use comic strips in your teaching?
Here are some of the reasons why you might want to include comic strips in your classroom instruction (see the list of sources at the bottom of this post to learn more):
- Comic strips are fun, interesting and motivating.
- They promote a wide variety of skills: cognitive, intellectual, social, and cultural.
- They can be used with students in different school grades.
- They can be used to teach different school subjects.
- They can help students develop higher-order thinking skills (sequencing, predicting, inferring, synthesizing, analyzing, evaluating…etc).
- They enhance students engagement with multimodal texts.
- They make students aware of the multimodal means through which meanings are constructed and communicated.
- They can be used in language teaching
- They can be used to teach reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.
- Visually illustrated content is much easier to process, understand and remember.
How to use comic strips in class?
There are different ways you can integrate comic strips in your classroom. Here is an abbreviated list of ideas I put together based on various sources (see list at the bottom of this post).
- Digital storytelling: students (in small groups or individually) create a narrative storyline and illustrate it with relevant graphics.
- Students use comic strips to visually retell a story they have read.
- You can use comic strips to introduce a topic and have students brainstorm ideas
- Provide students with pre-designed comic strips with missing panels and ask them to fill in the blanks to complete the story. (Writing activity)
- Provide students with blanked out comic strips and ask them to write a story based on the illustrated characters. (Writing activity, promote predicting skills)
- Use comic strips to raise students awareness to topics such as racism, bullying, digital citizenship…etc.
- Use comic strips in language learning to teach vocabulary, grammar, communication (use of language in contextual situations), writing, and reading.
- Use comics to improve students speaking skills by asking them to act out comics they created. Alternatively, you can engage students in oral discussions about the content of the comics.
Comic strips making tools
The following are some of the best comic maker tools out there. They are simple and easy to use. These tools also provide a wide variety of pre-designed materials such as templates, characters, backgrounds, images, objects, speech bubbles, panels, grids, frames…etc. Students simply drag and drop then edit and preview before sharing their final product with the whole class.
1- Make Beliefs Comix
An excellent and easy to use tool for creating beautiful comic strips. It provides you with a diverse cast of characters, speech bubbles, props, backgrounds, objects and many more. Your finished product can be printed, saved to disk or shared with others through email.
Pixton allows students to easily create stunning comics using a drag and drop editor. They can choose from ‘fully posable characters to dynamic panels, props, and speech bubbles, every aspect of a comic can be controlled in an intuitive click-n-drag motion.’
3- Witty Comics
Witty Comics provides you with a set of pre-designed characters, scenes and dialogue boxes to write your story. You need to log in to save your work.
StoryboardThat Allows students to create beautiful storyboards. It provides a wide variety of editing and sharing features. Students can choose from scenes, characters, shapes, textables, and even upload their own images to use in their storyboards.
5. Canva Comic Strips Maker
Canva is another great comic strips maker to try out. It offers a wide variety of pre-designed comic strips templates covering different themes and styles. You can search the templates library by simply typing ‘comic strip’ in Canva’s search box. When you find the template you like click to preview and edit it the way you want. Alternatively, you can design your template from scratch.
You can add different elements, callouts, shapes, grids, frames, characters, speech bubbles, fonts, and more. When you are done, click to share it directly to sites such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox. You can also download it as PDF or image format or publish it online.
Snyder, E. (1997). Teaching the sociology of sport: Using a comic strip in the classroom. Teaching Sociology, 25(3), 239-243.
Comic Strips Creation Tools (Google Sites)
26 Ways to Use Comics in the Classroom and 5 Free Tools for Creating Comics (Free Technology for Teachers)
Comics in The Classroom: Why Comics? (TEACH)
Using Comics in the English Language Classroom (James Whiting, Plymouth State University)
Using Cartoons and Comic Strips (British Council)
Comics in the Classroom as an Introduction to Narrative Structure (ReadWriteThink)