Using Comic Strips in Education: Teachers’ Guide |

In 1993, the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes made its debut in newspapers in the United States. Its author, Bill Watterson, had been drawing and writing comic strips since his youth, but Calvin and Hobbes was his first syndicated strip. The story involved Calvin, an inquisitive young boy, and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes. Watterson’s strips are noted for their sparse dialogue and inventive word play.

An informative and interesting approach to teaching a topic is to use comic strips. These strips, which are short and often have only a few panels, are a fun way to get engaging stories across in a short period of time.

Comics and cartoons are two effective teaching tools that can be used in the classroom with students of different levels. They are effective because they engage students in meaningful learning experiences in which they practice important skills such as writing, reading, speaking, and communicating. By definition, a comic strip is an overtly dramatic story about a recurring set of characters, told in a series of drawings, often with bubble dialogue and narrative text, published sequentially in newspapers (Inge, p. 631 cited in Snyder, 1997). In today’s post, we’ll introduce you to some great resources to help you get the most out of comics in your classroom.

Why use comics in the classroom:
Here are some reasons why you should include comics in your classes (see the list of resources at the end of this post for more information).

  • The comics are fun, interesting and motivating.
  • Comics promote a wide range of skills: cognitive, intellectual, social and cultural.
  • Can be used with students of different levels.
  • Can be used to teach a variety of school subjects.
  • Can help students develop higher-order thinking skills (sequencing, predicting, inferring, synthesizing, analyzing, evaluating….. etc.).
  • Increase student engagement with multimodal texts.
  • Students discover the multimodal ways in which meanings are constructed and transmitted.
  • Ideal teaching aids for the target language
  • Visually illustrated content is much easier to process, understand and remember.
  • Can be used to learn to read, write, listen and speak.

Using comics in the classroom
There are many ways to use comics in the classroom. Here’s an abbreviated list of ideas we’ve gathered from various sources (see list at the end of this post).

  • Digital storytelling: Students will create (in small groups or individually) a narrative story and illustrate it with appropriate graphics.
  • Students use comics to visually tell the story they have read.
  • You can use cartoons to introduce the topic and ask students to come up with ideas.
  • Give students a ready-made comic strip with missing spots and ask them to fill in the blanks to complete the story. (writing activity)
  • Give students a blank comic book and ask them to write a story based on the characters depicted. (Writing activity, developing prediction skills).
  • Use comics to raise awareness of issues like racism, bullying, digital citizenship….. etc.
  • Using comics in language learning to teach vocabulary, grammar, communication (using language in context situations), writing and reading.
  • Use comic books to improve their oral skills by having them reenact comic books they have created. You can also engage students in verbal discussions about the content of the comics.

Below are some of our favorite tools for creating beautiful comics and cartoons with your students. We have only included resources that are user-friendly and easy for students to use. These tools offer a wide range of ready-to-use materials, such as characters, backgrounds, images, objects, text spheres, dynamic panels, etc. ….. Students choose the material to illustrate their comic strip, write their content in the dialogue boxes provided, and then share their final product.

1- Make believe Comix

A great and easy to use tool to create beautiful strips. It offers a diverse selection of characters, bubbles, props, backgrounds, objects and more. The final product can be printed, saved to disk, or shared with others via e-mail.

2- Cartoonist

Another great tool for students to create their own comics. It provides the backgrounds, characters and props needed to create visual illustrations. You will also find a planning sheet with detailed instructions and tips on how to use the tool.

3- Pickston

Pixton makes it easy for students to create great comics with the drag-and-drop editor. You can choose from fully movable characters, dynamic panels, props and speech bubbles. Every aspect of the comic can be controlled with an intuitive click and drag.

4- Funny comics

Provides you with a range of characters, scenes and dialogue windows, ready to use to write your story. You must be logged in to save your work.

5- StoryboardThat

This allows students to create beautiful storyboards. It offers more possibilities than the tools mentioned above. Students can select scenes, characters, figures, text tables and even upload their own images to use in their storyboards.

Snyder, E. (1997). Teaching the sociology of sport: Use of comics in the classroom. Education Sociology, 25(3), 239-243.
Resources for Comics (Google Sites)
26 ways to use comics in the classroom and 5 free resources for comics (Free Technology for Teachers)
Comics in the Classroom : Why comics? (TEACH)
Using comics in the English classroom (James Whiting, Plymouth State University)
Using cartoons and comics (British Council)
Comics in the classroom as an introduction to narrative structure (ReadWriteThink).

Taken from this page

Frequently Asked Questions

How are comic strips used in the classroom?

Comic strips are used in the classroom to teach students about different topics.

How do you teach a comic strip?

Teaching a comic strip is similar to teaching a comic book. The teacher would read the strip aloud and then have students write down what they think will happen next.

What is the common purpose of comic strips?

The common purpose of comic strips is to entertain.

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