Using comic strips with young learners of English

Posted by on October 01, 2012

Comic strips are often structured in a single sentence, or even a phrase; their textual simplicity, the visuals accompanying and often clarifying the text and finally the frequent presence of colour make them very appealing to young EFL learners. Indeed, the language of comic strips leads to a positive response in children, regardless of their mother-tongue.

Without lingering on the best ELT policy with reference to how much lexico-grammar should be taught at this stage, I simply intend to highlight the «keyness» of getting the gist of the foreign language, leaving overt grammar description and prescription in the background. What is important is to capture the interest of the pupils, to make them appreciate what they are shown and what they do. Colours, pictures and laughter are good ingredients in the early stages of EFL.

Moreover, showing young  learners of English texts that are intended for English-speaking children as well may help non-native pupils to feel closer to their English-speaking counterparts, and to perceive that what they read is the same as what children read in other countries. The implied intercultural added value of using comic strips and cartoons should not be downgraded or overlooked, at a time when geographical borders are being crossed with great ease by regular migratory movements.

A further added value is the possibility of exploiting such comic strips to introduce pupils to ancient history, myths and legends known all over the world. A direct, close relationship between the English language teacher and the history teacher would also be useful. Indeed, at this stage, learning English is not to be seen as an end in itself, but as a means to get to know ourselves and others, to reach out to other cultures, or simply get acquainted with the early stages of our own culture.

Undoubtedly, however simple and straightforward the comic strip may be, the role of the teacher is always central, in that they need to be well aware of the degree of competence of their pupils and to evaluate how far they can understand and learn, especially in these early stages.

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