Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cartooning Your Way to English or Foreign Language Learning Success

Cartoons vs. Comics

Who doesn’t love cartoons and comics? Okay, so I’m no fan of the Simpsons, but even I enjoy Felix the Cat, the Pink Panther and a host of other Saturday morning offerings. If the cartoon network came on in English where I live, I’d record it for use in my English as a foreign language (EFL) classes (and a little personal humor and enjoyment). There are two venues which actually can be used in teaching English as a foreign language or in foreign language teaching and learning; cartoons and comics. But what’s the difference?

The Differences

What’s the difference between a cartoon and a comic? Simply that a cartoon is an animated visual format with sound and a comic is a written, printed format in black and white or color. Some characters appear in multiple formats, having an animated series on TV, movie or comic strip. Characters from Peanuts, cats Felix and Garfield, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and a host of Walt Disney and Walter Lantz characters are some examples. Other characters may appear in only one format such as in many video games which is yet another venue.

Who Do You Love?

Why don’t you try asking your English or foreign language learners;

“Who’s your favorite cartoon or comic character?”

Learners could then elaborate on their favorite characters in addition to:

• describing the character’s personality
• acting out a scene from a cartoon or comic
• white out dialogue bubbles and write in their own lines of dialogue
Adapting Comics and Cartoons for Classroom Teaching

How can these different formats be adapted for use in an EFL or foreign language learning classroom setting? Well, you’ve hit the jackpot here. Because the language in comics and cartoons is usually very simple, it can be used in a variety of ways, such as:

• to demonstrate high-frequency vocabulary in context
• to illustrate idioms and expressions
• to teach verbs and other parts of speech
• as examples of connected speech
• to simulate dialogues to inject humor into class sessions
• to provide a basis for oral discourse and writing activities
• to illustrate culture and values
Other Related Activity Possibilities

Numerous other related activity possibilities exist, which may be applied with just a bit of imagination. For example, have your English or foreign language learners relate:

• who the author or creator of the comic / cartoon series is
• a biography of the author with photos
• describe the setting and theme of the comic or cartoon series
• show examples of cartoons, comics and characters in class, then compare them
If you’d like even more focus, you could show a cartoon or comic strip series in class to familiarize everyone with the character(s). Then might discuss the character’s personality and other elements and ask,

“Why is this cartoon or comic funny?”

Be sure to let the learners interact about their favorite comic strips and cartoon characters.

Take a Survey

Remember to take a survey of who the most popular cartoon and comic strip characters are among the learners. Better yet, have the learners design and conduct the survey themselves, presenting the results and reasons afterwards. By all means, do let Felix the Cat, the Pink Panther, the Simpsons, Garfield, the Power Puff Girls, Hagar the Horrible, the Wizard of Id, Peanuts and a generous host of English language cartoon and comic strip characters lend fun, flavor, magic and a whole new dimension to your English as a foreign language or foreign language learning classes.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. Now YOU too can live your dreams in paradise, find romance, high adventure and get paid while travelling for free. For more information on entering or advancing in the fascinating field of teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language send for his no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know”, by sending an e-mail with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail:

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