Month: November 2023

Using Comic Strips As a Vocabulary Activity

Students use their own creative skills to make comics that incorporate vocabulary words they have chosen. It is a fun and engaging way to learn new language and see it in context.

Before starting to draw, ask learners to make story notes. They should think about what their characters will be saying and thinking, then plan the dialogue in narrative blocks (or, as wcatyweb puts it, balloons). These are the bubbles speech goes in.


One of the best ways to learn about characters is through their dialogue. This is especially true for comic strips, which are full of short, simple conversations. This is a great way to practice new vocabulary and to develop students’ ability to read for meaning.

Many comics feature situations based on communication breakdown. Take advantage of these misunderstandings to discuss grammatical structures that students might need practice with, such as agreeing with opinions, asking permission, and saying you are sorry.

Use this activity to introduce or review grammatical concepts such as subject-verb agreement, verb tense, and pronouns. Also, this is a great activity to help students develop their sequencing skills by using temporal words such as first, then, later, and finally.


The characters in the comic strip are important to make the story interesting and fun. They can be friends, family members, teachers, or any other people the learners know. In addition to writing dialogue, students should design and describe each character using key vocabulary.

This is a great way to encourage learners to use their imagination and create realistic characters. They can also include sounds or cliche sound effects to add more dimension to the story.

Some issues, such as sex and terrorism, are not always appropriate for comic strips. However, many cartoonists are able to get around censorship with clever wordplay or a double entendre. For example, the pig from the Pearls Before Swine cartoons says “I’SIS” instead of his own name when corrected by his sister.

Budiman et al. (2018), Chaikovska (2018), and Sharma (2020) argue that using comic strips can help students to learn new words more easily. This is because comic strips have pictures and captions that facilitate the students’ understanding of new words.


A comic strip includes a drawing with text and often dialogue, normally shown in speech balloons. In addition, there is generally a hand-lettered or typeset caption beneath the drawing. Some cartoons are also in pantomime. Gag cartoons are usually single-panel comics that aim to provoke laughter, while editorial cartoons and political cartoons are intended to make people think.

Many comic strips feature characters in situations based on misunderstandings or miscommunication. Use these opportunities to discuss culture, for example, why a deaf student might not understand what another person says or why a situation is humorous in one cultural context but not in another.

Vocabulary acquisition research has found that comics are an excellent way to introduce new vocabulary in context. An experimental study in which eleventh grade students in two semi-public schools were taught vocabulary through comics showed that their vocabulary performance improved on a post-test when they encountered new words in a communicative context with pictures.


The short turnaround time of daily comic strips gives artists the ability to comment on current events. They can make political statements without being censored by using wordplay and slapstick humor. They can also address a variety of social issues like racism, sexism, ageism, and family relationships.

The graphical nature of the medium makes it a great tool for teaching sequencing skills. Have students create a comic strip that explains a specific sequence of events, or illustrates the order of a story they have read. This will help them learn the importance of context in understanding texts.

Another excellent use for comics is to teach vocabulary in a foreign language. This technique has been shown to be highly effective. In one study, 11th and 12th grade students’ vocabulary performance improved after a didactic sequence based on comics.

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