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Learning Features of Comic Strips

March 13, 2013

Comic strips can be very useful in the constructivist classroom for many reasons. Because many students already like comic strips, they can become a valuable supplement to instruction to help with motivation and learning.

Appealing
Comic strips appeal to a wide range of students (Kan, 2013). They can be useful in a constructivist classroom consisting of students with a range of educational abilities. Gifted students enjoy the wry humor and enjoy creating them to illustrate concepts. Students with learning disabilities can more easily understand concepts through this fun venue. Comic strips help with literacy because the visual clues help provide context to the text. Kan concludes by exploring the use of comic strips in the ESL classroom, where they provide a non-threatening way to learn to read and speak English.

Introducing a New Concept
Because comic strips are familiar and non-threatening, they represent an excellent tool to consider when introducing an unfamiliar topic. Kan (2013) reports success when using comic strip adaptations of literature to introduce that piece of literature because students more readily relate to the content and more easily transition to the actual literature. When comic strips are used to introduce a topic, the student can form an “anticipatory set” to visualize and understand the concept (Bolton-Gray, 2012, p. 392). Bolton-Gray also points out that comic strips help students already familiar with a topic to think about a topic in a new way. Figure 1 illustrates showing a new way to consider education and the “real world”.

Connect Theory with Reality
One intriguing use of comic strips that an educator should consider is using comic strips to bridge theory to practical application, often with a dose of humor thrown in (Bolton-Gray, 2012).  In this cartoon example (Figure 2), students learning about learning theories such as information processing and concept mapping can see how these abstract theories apply to real life in a visual way.

Mnemonic Devices
Bolton-Gray (2012) found in his research that comic strips can improve memory. The visual contextual clues provide a way for students to visualize the information they are learning. The comic strip, and perhaps the unexpected humor, serves as a mnemonic device to aid in short and long-term memory and recall.

Useful in Constructivist Classroom
The multimedia modalities of textual and graphic content help the student to more effectively process the information and create important connections. This combination of pictures and text help the student to construct new knowledge. Bolton-Gray (2012) recommends extending comic strips in the constructivist classroom by not only using existing comic strips, but by requiring students to create comic strips to illustrate concepts they have learned.

References

Bolton-Gary, C. (2012). Connecting Through Comics: Expanding Opportunities for Teaching and Learning. US-China Education Review B, 2(4b), 389–395.

Kan, K. (2013). What Kinds of Kids Read Comics? Knowledge Quest, 41(3), 30–33.

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