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Instructional Elements in Comic Strips

When it comes to using new and innovative tools in teaching and learning, comic
strips provide several elements that can greatly benefit students of different ages.
The most apparent benefit of using comics in classrooms is their abilities to reach
out to different audiences. Furthermore, comic strips can improve students
engagement and learning in general. The following are some instructional
elements of using comic strips in todays classrooms that can positively play a
big role in learning and acquiring knowledge.


Comic strips have the ability to convey messages in humorous and fun ways. As
a math teacher, one of the difficulties that students have is to associate math with
fun. Thus, I believe that comic strips are an efficient way to mix fun with learning
math concepts. For instance, in the example below, the comic strip illustrates the
concept of imaginary numbers in mathematics through the use of characters in a
humorous context. By definition, an imaginary number when squared gives a
negative number, and the illustration below does an excellent job introducing the
concept of imaginary numbers through the use of numbered characters.

Source: http://www.math-problem-solving.com/funny_math_cartoons.html


In a research study aimed to compare text to images, Sones (1944) found that
comics' visual quality increases learning. In fact, several different researches that
Ive come across in the past all agree on the findings that image and visual
representations can help improve students problem solving skills and
capabilities. Comic strips are a perfect mixture of images and text, which is very
beneficial to visual learners in particular. However, given the quality and
characteristics of learners nowadays who depend on learning via various visual
tools, comic strips can provide much similar learning qualities. In fact, the
implementation of colors, different backgrounds, and uniquely designed
characters can help both engagement and attention. Although it is two
dimensional in nature, comic strips can give the illusion of the mobility of its
characters as well as more alive facial and gesture expressions.
The example below is a great representation of certain geometry concepts
through comics. Using role-play, the wife triangle is a right triangle (90 degree
triangle) that happens to be always right (as in what most husbands would say
about their spouses in real life). The character gets the readers attentions about
different concepts and math terminologies such as hypotenuse, obtuse, and
isosceles. I think this particular connection of certain math concepts to real life
through characters can definitely make learning math more alive and engaging,
not to mention that it can greatly help minimize the math anxiety among math



Yang (2003) mentions how comics can be considered permanent, visual
components. In other words, the visual permanence of comics empowers the
readers to read at their own pace. Yang (2003) makes his argument using the
example of film and animation; for these two mediums he noted that learners do
not have any control over the pace of the scenes and sequences since the movie
producers dictate them. However, in comics the pace of learning can only be
determined with how fast the learner is moving his eyes across the page.
Therefore, students are empowered to choose the pace that suits their learning
needs. I personally find Yangs argument quite interesting due to the fact that as
a non-native speaker of English, I had always found comics to be an excellent
medium to learn the English language. It is true that animations and films in
general are also excellent tools to improve listening and pronunciation skills, I did
find it difficult at times to follow along and in most cases had hard times capturing
words and vocabulary. Through comics, however, not only new language
learners can take their time reading through the dialogue, but they can also re-
read them as many times as they see fit.

The following are two good examples of how to incorporate comics in an ESL
class. In example 1, ESL students can read the dialogue on their own and
explore the use of new vocabulary in an authentic context. For instance, even
though the reader might struggle with some words or vocabulary, the facial
expressions and gestures of the characters can greatly help the learner
understand them through context.

Example 1

Example 2

In example 2, the teacher can take a different approach. Learners can be asked
to fill in the blanks and be creative with the dialogue. As an ESL teacher, I think
this method is very efficient to promote creativity and engagement.


Another important element of comics is that it is popular in this generation as
well. In fact, Morrison, Bryan, and Chilcoat (2002) suggest that, by incorporating
popular culture into the curriculum, teachers can bridge the separation many
students feel between their lives in and out of school. Similarly, the idea of
integrating iPads into todays classrooms have proven to be a successful
approach due to the fact that learners nowadays are familiar with that specific
technology. The idea of integrating whats popular and engaging to students
outside of schools in the classrooms nowadays constitutes an important element
of why comics would make an excellent instructional tool.


Morrison, T., Bryan, G., & Chilcoat, G. (2002). Using student-generated comic
books in the classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45, 758-767.

Sones, W. (1944). The comics and instructional method. Journal of Educational
Sociology, 18, 232-240.

Yang, G. (2003). Comics in education. Retrieved from :