How Can You Use Cartoons and Comics in Your Teaching?

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.


What are the best digital tools to create comics strips or educational cartoons?

Designhill

One of the best-rated tools, the Designhill comic has a vast collection of texts, pictures, colours, and other elements. This is a very easy-to-use tool that even a novice can use to create a professional strip. Designhill has thousands of comic patterns built into it.

To create a comic strip, you can choose a template based on your needs and style from Designhill's extensive library of pre-designed templates. Add images from your system or pre-uploaded photos in the library, edit or replace the existing details to beef up your design and download the comic strip in png, jpeg or pdf formats.

Price: Free and paid

Strip Generator

Strip Generator is an automated web-based tool for creating cartoons. You can easily choose the items you wish to use from the menu and put them into the design. The free tool allows you to create a strip using pre-defined frames, characters and objects. Just with your mouse, you can drag and drop as well as rotate and resize objects. Also, add objects, shapes, human characters and scales, make a rotation, add colours, add/remove frames, etc. These pre-defined objects are minimalistic in design, so even non-artistical users should create something that looks decent. Hopefully, the strips they create will be funny as well.

Price: Free 

BitMoji

Bitmoji is an avatar creation application that tracks the success of (and supersedes) Bitstrips. With BitMoji, you can showcase yourself in online comics. BitMoji has an extensive collection of pre-designed characters that can be used to make original comics. You can add text in balloons and conversation bubbles to create an entertaining cartoon. It is an excellent tool for those who love to read comics and easily create comic strips. These created images can then be sent via text (including adding a Bitmoji keyboard), social media (with great Snapchat support), or email, or can even be added to documents. In addition, at the age of memes and GIPs, Bitmoji is an accessible way to connect with students.

Price: Free

Draw and Tell - by Duck Duck Moose

Duck Duck Moose is a colourful and appealing way for children to begin telling multifaceted stories. This unique drawing and colouring tool encourages visual and verbal storytelling by enabling children to record their voices in conjunction with drawing or colouring pages. They may choose from various backgrounds, colours, characters, objects and stencils to create designs. Furthermore, they can write and draw directly on a stage. When they finish designing and putting together a scene, children can record the story -- however, they imagine it in their imagination. The tool has dozens of ready-made templates to choose from or draw with no recording.

Price: Free

Pixton

Pixton is a comic-creation tool that both teachers and students can use. They can share their cartoons and create their cartoons. Pixton has various cartoon layouts, many characters and background selections, and a ton of creative options to choose from. It is an excellent learner-centred tool that allows students to build characters out of their knowledge and demonstrate it in meaningful ways. Pixton is an easy-to-use tool where no drawing is involved; all comic characters are created by selecting from the set of presets of attributes and expressions, i.e.comic hair and skin colour, height and girth, body parts etc. The free version is limited in content. Content is available for purchase, or teachers may opt for monthly content subscriptions or free access subscriptions.

Price: Free trial version, $9.99/month, and All-access passes are available at a charge of $24.99/month or $99/year.

Why Use Comics or Cartoons in Education?

Cartoons/comic strips attract attention

No child on earth can sit and go through a textbook without fun, colourful or interesting elements. They always want to enjoy each moment and sense fun and humour, and it is a fundamental human nature to correlate cartoons with fun and humour. It can be said that cartoons and comics can quickly attract student attention and interest in learning.

Cartoons/comic strips lead to improved understanding

Each subject cannot be understood theoretically. This can require practical experiences or concrete examples. And, the comic book might be a big help in that situation. It can help tell a story using cartoon characters, comics or legends, and students can easily understand time-consuming topics. It will also gain student concentration and lead to greater understanding.

Cartoon/comic strips can help develop children as a whole

A cartoon has numerous characters with different individual dialogues. A teacher can assign each character to the students and tell them to perform a play on the comic strip. It will increase the student's confidence. Also, students get the opportunity to speak and perform in front of the entire class. It will improve their ability to talk and will also benefit other students who listen to them.

Cartoons/comic strips can make children artists

Cartoons/comics can develop an artistic mentality amongst students. For instance, if you ask a student to draw a cartoon character of his imagination, they will show a fantastic creation that will amaze you. Writing a comic strip on their own can enhance the thinking and writing skills of the students. Furthermore, the coordination between their brain and their hands while drawing and writing dialogues will develop their brain.

Cartoons/comic strips can enhance vocabulary

Kids can learn many new words by watching cartoons, drawing comic strips, and writing texts on callouts. They can learn the meaning of the word and use them in sentences. They can also learn how the tone of voice can or gestures can change the sense of the entire sentence.

Cartoons can enhance student-teacher relations

Loved by most kids, if the teacher introduces a comic book to teach the students, the students will generate interest in learning and start liking the teacher. Once this relationship is developed, students will be more attentive to the teacher and listen to each teacher's words. The student-teacher connection will be improved.

About the Author
Author: Saniya Khan
Saniya Khan I am Saniya Khan, Copy-Editor at EdTechReview - India’s leading edtech media. As a part of the group, my aim is to spread awareness on the growing edtech market by guiding all educational stakeholders on latest and quality news, information and resources. A voraciously curious writer with a dedication to excellence creates interesting yet informational pieces, playing with words since 2016.

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