Call it Comic, Cartoon or Graphic Novel, the genre of speech bubbles and squares has never been more alive, and it presents a great opportunity to use a different media in your language class! From elementary school to adulthood, everybody love comic, and the range of topics covered by writers like Art Spiegelman, Guy Delisle, Bill Waterson or Marjane Satrapi is simply outstanding! Not to mention classic comic heroes like Astérix & Obelix, Garlfield, Tintin or Batman! You can use the following ideas for a long unit, or simply as a cool activity to do before the holiday. You decide.
1. Interview of a comic character
- Pair your students in teams
- Ask them to choose a well known comic character
- If your working with a lower grade, review the identity questions
- Ask your students to prepare a written interview of the comic character. It can be very basic (what’s your name? where do you live? etc.) or more complex (why do you like…? How did you get your power?)
- Have the teams act their interviews in front of the class
- If you have a projector, put the image of the comic character on the screen
- This activity could also be used as a written assessment later in the unit
2. Mind map: The Comic Vocabulary
- Ask your class to create a mind map of the vocabulary used in the comic world. Here are a few words to get them started.
- Speech Bubbles
- Pens & pencils
3. The 3 Squares Strip
- On a piece of paper, ask your student to draw three squares horizontally (or use the template bellow).
- Ask them to create a short comic stripe with only 1-3 characters and at least one speech bubble/square.
- Read the comic the class and have the students vote for their favorite one.
- For more info on how to make a comic, check out my previous post Be a Cartoonist!
For this next step, you need to choose a comic that suit the level of your class. Recently, I chose for my grade 7 French class the classic “Le Tour de Gaule d’Astérix” (Hachette) by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. The book was perfect for the age level of my students (some of them already knew it) and offered a chance to explore modern France and its cuisine through the heroes’ tour of Gaul. Before starting reading, I introduced the main characters of the comic and asked my student to redo the interview activity with one of them. When reading, I encouraged them to use dictionaries and online translators to help understanding the plot.
Other good read…
For older students or for an IB Language class, I would recommend the following graphic novels. Some are quite long but could be read in chapters.
“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi (L’Association)
“Chroniques de Jerusalem” by Guy Delisle (Delcourt)
“Maus” by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)
1. The Map
In the Astérix comic that I have chosen, the two main characters travel around France to gather food as part of bet against the romans. I asked my students to trace on a real map of France the heroes itinerary, identifying the cities where they stopped (latin and modern names) and the culinary specialties gathered there. This was a good way to start a discussion about French food, a rich topic in itself. Tracing a map could also be possible for other comics that I mentioned, like “Persepolis” or “Maus”. Finally, I asked my student to read the Wikipedia page devoted to “Le Tour de Gaule d’Astérix” in French.
2. Quizlet: Comic vocabulary
A great way to test the vocabulary presented in the beginning of the unit, Quizlet could also be used to test your students’ comprehension of the plot of the comic, its characters, where it takes place, the style of the illustrator or the vocabulary used by the author. Here is a link for Quizlet to make your own.
3. The Summary
For higher grades, I asked my class that they write a 150-250 words summary of the comic that they have read, with strong criteria to guide them through it.
- Summary of the plot
- Main character
- Context (geographical, sociological or historical)
- Recommendation (and why)
4. A New Ending
Again for the higher grades, I ask my students to write a new and original ending to the story, without the drawings. This is perfect for grades 9 and above. Once again, I ask a minimum of 200 words for the text, including dialogue and (for IB students) the same style as in the comic.
5. Create a blog
One of my colleagues created a blog on the comic that its class read and asked her students to comment on it. I thought that was a great idea to include technology in the unit.
Many comic have a movie adaptation. Tintin, Lucky Luke or Astérix even have dozens of them! If you’re lucky enough to find one of good quality in your target language, it would be great to ask your student to work on it. Here is how I usually introduce a movie in my language classes.
- Watch the trailer – How did you find it? What is the movie about? Would you like to watch it and why? Does it look like a faithful adaptation of the comic? – You can also have more precise questions and use the trailer as a listening comprehension assessment.
- Crossword puzzle – With key words or thematic from the movie. Here is an online puzzle maker.
- The Characters – If you’re watching a movie that is different from the book, introduce the main characters and ask students to describe them.
- Watch the movie – Finally, here it is! A piece of advice: watch the movie in the target language, with subtitles also in the target language. Your students might not get every joke, but they will definitely learn more that if they were “reading” the movie in English.
- Fiche pédagogique – Look online if the movie that you chose has an educational sheet. Many teachers (and some school) have already developed questionnaires, activities, games and texts based on famous movies. Who knows, maybe your movie has one!
- There are many ways you can use a movie in class… This will be the subject of a new post in the near future. Stay tuned!
Make your own…
Why not make your own comic at the end of the unit? Your students will live it! Have a look at my previous post Be a Cartoonist! to have all the details!!
Here are a few interesting movies/comics mentioned here…