Using Comics in the Classroom

Instructor: Sara Matherne

Sara is a middle school English teacher, and has a Master's Degree in Teacher Leadership.

Students learn best when they are engaged in the lesson. Using comics in the classroom is a fun, engaging way to teach any subject. This lesson will show you how to use comics in many different ways and for different subjects.

Comics Are Versatile

Getting students to enjoy reading can take some time and effort. Fortunately, we have many resources at our disposal, and plenty of reading choices for picky students. One easy way to get students reading is to introduce them to comics, a medium that uses images and text to represent ideas. There are comics for every student, from the lower level readers to advanced readers. Comics also allow teachers to sneak in a bit of grammar and writing practice.

One of the most obvious uses for comics is to get reluctant readers to actually read. There is an abundance of options available, from standard comic books to more in-depth graphic novels. If you simply want your students to enjoy reading, then comics are a great option. Recently, publishers have offered a larger variety of graphic novels to readers, including historical non-fiction, memoirs, and even textbooks. Reading comics is no longer an activity reserved for children or superhero fans - today, the world of graphic novels is very compatible with classroom use. Keep reading to learn how comics can be used in your classroom.

Presenting Old Information in a New Way

Comics can allow teachers to present repetitive information in a new way. History teachers might use political cartoons to explain and present ideas to students. Political cartoons from the past can be a simple way to explore the attitudes and behaviors of society during a specific time period. For instance, when a class is learning about the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it can be very useful to show the class a political cartoon depicting President Kennedy arm wrestling with Nikita Khrushchev.

Using political cartoons opens up dialog in a classroom, and allows students to use new forms of media to explore familiar ideas. They can also allow class discussions on satire, irony, and other literary devices. These ideas are very prevalent in political cartoons, and offer an excellent visual for such ideas.

Student Created Comics

Another popular way to use comics in the classroom is to allow students to create their own comics. Many teachers have had success, allowing students to create their own comic strips or political cartoons on a particular topic. For example, one teacher allowed students to create comic strips based on a societal conviction that they had. Several students made comics that voiced their distaste for the school uniform policy, a few protested wars, and one student made a comic about the spread of AIDS in Africa. It is amazing what students will create when they are given the freedom to express their ideas. The following is an example of a comic created by a middle school student, speaking out against bullying.

Student-created comic strip

Comics Can Teach Grammar, Too

Having trouble getting students to understand grammar or sentence structure? Comics are useful for this too. Teachers can give pre-created comics to students, and ask them to identify devices such as compound sentences, figurative language, or declarative sentences. No matter what grade you teach, comics can add a touch of fun to your typical grammar lesson.

To help students create their own sentences, you can assign a specific type of sentence or rhetorical device, and ask the students to make a comic using that device. Comics also allow students to practice writing dialog, using speech bubbles in place of quotations. It can be very helpful to students to see a visual representation of dialog, particularly for students who do not speak English as their first language.

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