Thursday, 7 July 2011

Comics are fun! But are they a useful resource in the EFL class?

I was talking to a colleague some days ago about the fact that most of my adult students don’t seem to be interested in writing (I must say secretaries are the exception!) and how they keep saying that “they only want to speak”. The ideal class includes as little grammar as possible and writing is confined to homework (which many times they don’t do). My friend then said: “Have you tried comic strips?” “Well no, I’ve never been the comics type (as a learner or reader). And... for adults?” But she was pretty convinced that they are an effective way of working on visual storytelling, so I set out to test her hypothesis (rather skeptically I must say =). These are my results!

The first step was to learn how to create a comic strip myself, so I needed to become familiar with a couple of sites offering easy and quick ways of making your own cartoons. I started my tour at Toonlet. My 9-year-old daughter was with me and she wanted to try. The result was amazing! In minutes she came up with this beautiful strip in English (she is a Spanish speaker, she learns English at school).

I felt like trying with my adult students now! We'd been working on the language of meetings and one of the topics we'd dealt with was interrupting, so I thought the topic was appropriate and making a comic might be a fun way of practising it. And it was! They had a good laugh and revised the relevant vocabulary and phrases while doing some writing as well. This is one of the cartoons they created:

Loved it!
So my conclusion so far seems to be that comic strips are a very interesting resource to:

  • Use language when the linguistic resources are limited (even beginner students can write a comic, as language displayed can be very simple).
  • Work on dialogues and reflect on the specific properties of oral speech while writing at the same time.
  • Reflect on values such as responsibility, politeness, etc.

Other sites to visit:

This tool is intended for students from kindergarten to high school. It is very easy to use, and you get access to a printable PDF to draft and revise your work before creating and printing the final strip.

Students can create a comic strip or book using Marvel's super heroes and villains.

Students can build a comic using their own webcam pictures. There's also a tool to turn the contents of any webpage into a comic.

Create a comic with famous characters and lots of different scenes and text bubbles.

Great fun for fans of Garfield!



  1. I like Comic strips. I suggest you to use "Liberty meadows". I love it!

  2. Thanks for your suggestion Gabriel! As I said, I'm not particularly a fan of comics, but I'll definetely have a look!