I love using visuals in my lessons and in this post, I would like to share 7 activity ideas for using cartoons and comic strips with teenage and adult learners. I am also listing my 5 favourite artists to let you know where to look for quality artwork.I am a big fan of including visuals in my classes, both photographs and illustrations. This time, I would like to share some ideas about using cartoons or comic strips in our classes.
First of all, why consider using cartoons and comic strips?
- They are funny, and there is no more powerful way of piquing our students’ interest as with humour.
- They are visually appealing.
- They are different from what a lot of our learners (especially adults) see on the everyday basis.
- They contain authentic language.
- They often contain a powerful message.
What can you do with a cartoon / comic strip in your lesson?
Idea #1: What happened before / after?
You need a picture showing an unlikely outcome and ask your students to imagine what had happened before / happened after the frame you show them.
Functions: speculation, narration
Idea #2: A day in the life of …
Choose a cartoon with an interesting character and ask your students to imagine the daily life of the person/animal/ creature.
Idea #3: Piece a story together using different cartoons
You will need several different pictures that might not be obviously connected with each other. It is your students’ task to arrange them into one coherent story.
Idea #4: Fill in the captions using target language structures/target vocabulary
This is a great idea to revise target language or target vocabulary. Students need to come up with an appropriate caption using given words/structures.
Idea #5: Introduce the topics / start a discussion
A lot of cartoons show a humorous take on more serious issues and serve as a wonderful way to introduce the topics of a debate or a discussion.
Idea #6: Abstract warmer
If you think that dogs and chairs have nothing in common, think again. Drawing this kind of abstract parallels is a fun and original warmer. Seeing the original cartoon behind this idea is even more amusing.
Idea #7: Humorous grammar rules
Even though grammar might seem like the driest language aspect ever, there are plenty of humorous cartoons out there that aim at explaining the rules and showing memorable examples. Encourage your students to come up with their own ideas!
My favourite artists
Where do I look for visuals I could show to my students? Here is a list of my 5 favourite artists.
I love the style and content of these cartoons. This activity was designed around one of the cartoons.
These are great for working professionals and introducing topics of work, politics, and economy
Marty Bucella authored dozens of amusing cartoons on topics ranging from work, health, family, to education (have a chuckle, teachers!)
Sarah Andersen’s comics offer a hilarious take on contemporary topics such as social media, procrastination, love life, and growing up. Her work speaks the language that will prove relevant to both younger and older students.
I love Incidental Comics because of beautiful visual execution and deep, often metaphorical, message behind each strip. I would recommend them for students and teachers who enjoy a little bit of poetry in their daily lives.
Before using any of the visuals, I suggest getting acquainted with the copyright regulations, often featured on every artist’s website.