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Using Comics Proposal

Using Comics Proposal

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Published by kazamuri

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Published by: kazamuri on Jun 08, 2009
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Using Comics with ESL/EFL StudentsIntroductionComic strips, comic books, and graphic novels can be used in ESL and EFL classroomsto encourage students to read. They can also form the basis of several classroomactivities that will engage students and generate discussion.Second Language Acquisition, Reading, and ComicsIn all theories of second language acquisition, input plays a role (though the role varies inimportance in each of the different theories). One important form of input is reading.Reading can aid in vocabulary development, and “[…] Nagy, Herman, and Anderson(1985) argue that picking up word meanings by reading is 10 times faster than intensivevocabulary instruction” (Krashen, 1993, p. 15). Reading can also aid other skills, as“several studies confirm that those who read more in their second language also write better in that language (Salyer 1987; Janopoulos 1986; Kaplan and Palhinda 1981)”(Krashen, 1993, p. 7). Therefore, reading can and should play an important role in thesecond or foreign language classroom.The most important factor in the development of reading skills is the amount of time astudent actually spends reading (Cummins, 2003, p. 20). One of the ways that ESL/EFLteachers can increase the amount of time their students read is by using comics andgraphic novels, which can be especially useful in second language classrooms. Not onlycan they provide language learners with contextualized comprehensible input, they canalso engage the learner and lead him or her to explore more graphic novels or books,magazines, newspapers, and other reading materials.Graphic novels and comics deal with spoken language differently than books do.Usually, comic book writers attempt to capture spoken language as it really occurs,complete with gaps, hesitations, and slang. In fact, “[...] comic strips [can be used] as ameans to help students deal with ‘the ambiguity, vagueness and downright sloppiness of spoken English’” by introducing “language learners to ‘ellipsis, blends, nonwords, vaguelexis, confirmation checks, contrastive stress, new topic signals, nonverbal language,mitigators, [and] routine/ritual phrases’” (Cary, 2004, p. 33). These are aspects of spokenlanguage that English textbooks might not deal with or, if they do, only as anafterthought. Comics, on the other hand, put each of these into context and make themrelevant to second language learners. Comics, specifically comic strips, usually deal with humor. They can be useful for introducing language learners to the culture and humor of English-speakers. Cary (2004)responds to the question: “Do the jokes in lots of comics make them too difficult for […] beginning second language learners?” by stating that “If read alone, yes, even with agood bilingual dictionary at the ready.” He recommends “A teacher-facilitated discussionof a ‘buddy read,’ where beginners work with native speakers or more advanced L2learners to get the jokes, [which] can turn a comic that would have been an impenetrable
and frustrating read if processed alone into something understandable, funny, andmeaningful” (Cary, 2004, p. 69). In this case, not only do comics lead to laughter, theyalso lead to productive and relevant discussions in the second language classroom. Visual LiteracyJust as reading a book or magazine requires a certain set of skills, so does reading acomic book or graphic novel. Comic books and graphic novels call for “visual literacy,”where students need to learn to recognize certain symbols and decode their meaning,much in the same way they do while reading texts. In the case of comics and graphic novels, elements of visual literacy include the visualsymbols and shorthand that comics use to represent the physical world. For example, twoor more wavy lines rising up from something indicate smoke. With flies added, theyindicate a bad smell. Lines trailing after a person or a car indicate movement. Text bubbles change their form to indicate if a person is thinking, speaking, or shouting. Also,comic book artists sometimes use a dashed or dotted outline to show invisibility or Xs in place of eyes to represent death. ESL/EFL students who have read comics in their native language will probably be better able to decode the visual symbols in comics. For example, “they know that large, non- bubbled text is typically a sound effect and that a string of nonsense symbols like#?”@?#*?! isn’t nonsense at all but an unprintable obscenity that could make a sailor  blush” (Cary, 2004, p. 62). On the other hand, comics from different countries havedeveloped their own visual code. Asian comics sometimes use different symbols thantheir North American and European counterparts. While students might be able toinductively discern the meanings of most symbols, teachers should be aware that somesymbols could potentially cause confusion for their students.How to Use Comics and Graphic Novels in the ClassroomThese activities can be used as stand-alone activities, or they can be used to preparestudents to read an entire graphic novel or comic book.Activity 1: Understanding Visual SymbolsBefore using comics in the ESL/EFL classroom, it is a good idea to prepare students tointerpret the visual symbols they might encounter in the comics. Put students into pairsor small groups and ask them how they would represent, in pictures and without usingany words, the following concepts: a bad small, a telephone ringing, shouting, thinking, aghost, and heat. After the students finish, distribute examples of the above concepts fromcomics. The students can then discuss the differences between their ideas and the onesthe comic writers used and which they prefer.Activity 2: Reading Order in Comics
Comic strips follow an order, left to right, that mirrors how English is read. Certaingraphic novels, however, do not always follow this same straightforward pattern. Maus, by Art Speigelman, and Palestine, by Joe Sacco, are two such graphic novels. Their authors often indicate a certain mood or state by not strictly following a left to rightorder. Students can look at excerpts of these two graphic novels (or similar ones) anddiscuss the order in which they should read the page, how they know to read it in thatorder, and why the authors chose to present their stories in such a manner.Activity 3: Comic JigsawThis is a quick activity that can be used to put students into pairs for another activity, tointroduce a topic, or to provoke a discussion on humor. First, find several one panelcomics. Next, separate the text from the panel. This can be done by copying the textonto a different piece of paper and then blanking out the text from the comic. Finally,distribute these items to students, making sure that each student has either some text or a panel. Students will need to talk to each other and try to match their panel to text or their text to a panel. When students have found their match, they can sit down together.Activity 4: Fill in the TextThis is an activity where students must generate text based on pictures. Choose a comicstrip or a scene from a graphic novel or comic book, then cover the text in the speech bubbles and make photo copies. Distribute these copies to your students, and have themwrite text in the blank speech bubbles. This activity can be used to encourage use of new vocabulary or expressions or as acontinuation of a lesson (i.e., in a business English class, students can read and discussDilbert comics, then create their own). Students can work separately or in pairs to createtheir comics, then can have a competition to see who has created the funniest comic.Students who worked in pairs on comics that have two characters can even perform their comics in front of the class.Activity 5: Creating PicturesThis activity is the opposite of the previous activity. Instead of creating text, studentshave to draw pictures to accompany text. The text can come from comics or can comefrom a book or even a poem. This activity is not only for younger learners, as it can forceadults to examine the subtexts of speech and determine how to represent it pictorially.Activity 6: Putting Panels in Order In this activity, students are given comic strip panels that have been cut apart, and theymust work together to put them in order. Students must use their knowledge of jokestructure or conversation patterns to put the images in order.Activity 7: Creating Comics

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