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Teaching Strategies Using the Sunday Comics

Janelle Cox

As a child, many of you probably remember looking forward to the Sunday newspaper so you can read the comics, or as some used to say, the “Sunday Funnies.” What you didn’t realize back then as a child was that comic strips make for great teaching strategies. The illustrations, combined with the imaginative and funny stories, make for engaging teaching strategies to hook any reluctant reader. The fact that comic strips are short and sweet, and silly and clever only help lure readers in. In just a few short frames students can learn how to think outside of the box. Educators are much more accepting of comic strips today, because of all of these great benefits. Here are a few creative classroom activities to try with your students.

Teaching Strategies to Introduce Comic Strips to Students

Younger students may have never seen or heard of a comic strip before. You can show them a comic strip from the Sunday newspaper, or you can go online at Gocomics.com and print one out. Talk about how each comic strip has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Discuss how they are supposed to be witty, clever, and are meant to engage readers. Talk about the colorful illustrations and how they don’t require a lot of words to get their point across. Let students read a few of them and really get the feel for what they are all about before you begin any new activity.

Improve Sequence Skills with Comic Strips

Comic strips are the perfect tool to teach students that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end to a story. Choose a few age-appropriate comic strips from the Sunday newspaper (or wherever you can find them) and cut them out so they are no longer a strip. On the back, label each frame of the strip in sequential order and place into an envelope. Challenge students to put the comic strips in order from beginning to end. If they really get stuck, you can allow them to peak at the number on the back. For an extension activity have students create their own comic strips and have their classmates try and put them in sequential order.

Create Your Own Character Dialogue

Students can use this online comic strip maker to create their own dialogue. All students have to do is fill in the dialogue boxes with what they want the characters to say and print it. It’s a great introductory activity before you have them create their own comic strip later on.

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Change the Dialogue in a Comic Strip

Have you ever read a comic strip and thought to yourself, “I would have said this instead of that?” Well, for this activity, your students can! Challenge students to alter a comic strip by whiting out one section in each strip. Then, have students rewrite the dialogue the way they think it should go.

Create a New Comic Strip

Now that students have some experience with character dialogue you can challenge them to create their own comic strip. Provide students with a blank sheet of paper that has three frames on it. Encourage students to come up with a comic strip name and maybe even a pen name instead of using their own. Then, have students add details such as a background, props, and at least two characters with dialog bubbles. Students should make a rough draft first, and then for their final draft have them use colored pencils to really make the comic strip come alive.

Compare and Contrast Comic Strips

Choose two comic strips and have students use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two. Do this first as a group and ask students to find the similarities and the differences of the two. Then, once they get the hang of it, give students two new comic strips to compare and contrast on their own.

Sequential Adventure

Have students further their sequencing skills by having them go on a sequential adventure. First, be sure that they know how to sequence a comic strip, you can have them complete the first activity in this article before you try this one. Then, once you know they understand the concept, you can give students a comic strip that has three pictures on it. The goal is for students to draw and write what would come next in the fourth frame. Encourage students to be imaginative, and come up with an ending that is not only creative, but that makes sense as well.

Once your students have completed a few comic strip activities, you may find that there vocabulary has most likely expanded. With comic strips you have to make the characters come alive by creating engaging dialogue. This dialogue will drive students to search for new ways to make their characters express themselves. You can use this enthusiasm students will have for comic strips to your advantage. Try using them as a way for students to grasp other concepts. If you find that students are struggling with learning the facts of Rosa Parks, have them create a comic strip depicting the events of the bus boycott. Comic strips simple text and images are a great way for students to remember important events. 

Do you have any fun ways to teach with comic strips? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear them!

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the elementary education expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or visit her website at Empoweringk6educators.