My new colleague Alison Mandaville introduced me to a new strategy to use to help students articulate their thinking: comics. I’m pretty sure that I’ve used comics in the classroom, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you how or why. When Alison told me about how she had asked her students to draw a comic strip that represented their writing process, I was intrigued. It seemed like such a great way to talk about “real” writing processes instead of fixating on one “right” way to compose text.
So I started thinking about how, why, and when to use comics–and I realized that this strategy could be really useful as a reading comprehension strategy (yes, I’m definitely fixated on teaching reading right now). Certainly, it’s a way for students to summarize what they understand–and also to represent/share their thinking with others.
I decided to try it out–but I added a step to make sure that they would delve deeply into the assigned chapter. I had the students work in groups on a four square–divide a piece of paper into four rectangles, label each section with a different topic related to the main ideas in an article and then use the section to record individual ideas, group understandings, and quotes from the article. As always (because my ENGL 131 is FABULOUS this semester), they took this activity seriously and worked hard to understand the important ideas in the article. Then, since there were four groups, I asked each group to take one square and draw a comic strip (inspired by Calvin and Hobbes) that represented their thinking about the topic in the square. Here’s an example of one that worked to communicate ways that teachers mess up.