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Teaching English: Using Comics as Engagement Tools

30-07-2012

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Secondary Teacher 'Super' Gareth works on a supply basis through Protocol Education, and uses the blog to share ideas for how to engage students.

Comic book characters and action heroes are the key to engaging students in English. OR ARE THEY?!

They are.

But choose carefully. A class, I taught recently, complained endlessly about watching clips from Batman and Superman films. To be honest it was mostly the girls. So in that regard, it’s probably best to tap into primal instincts.

Avengers Assemble

After seeing Avengers Assemble recently with a friend who is a girl, all I heard after the screening was, “Gush gush gush Chris Hemsworth. Gush gush gush Robert Downey Junior. Gush gush gush Chris Hemsworth. Gush gush gush Chris Hemsworth.” I was loathe to point out her sentences were incomplete, but made the acute observation that Chris Hemsworth has dragged women into the target audience of superhero films, in the same way a sweaty David Beckham legitimised the pastime of sitting on the couch all day swilling beer and watching football.

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Eye-Candy

And so it is via eye-candy that we can capture both the male and female student audience, and begin teaching our class about narrative conventions through comic books.

There are a number of resources available. Some schools will have the software package ComicLife, which has an easy to use interface for designing comics.

Create Your Own Comic

Another fun online tool is the Create Your Own Comic site made by Marvel:

http://marvel.com/games/play/34/create_your_own_comic

Both of these are fun learning tools to get students demonstrating basic understanding of characterisation, setting and plot structure.

For deeper study of characterisation and culture it’s good to do some comparison work. A quick look at characters like Spiderman can show an evolution in characterisation from the original comic book version in the 1960s, through to the animated version later that decade and some of his more recent live-action manifestations in film.

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Who Would Win Between...?

Entire courses of class work could be constructed around a particular comic industry. The Japanese Manga or Belgian Comics are entire subgenres unto themselves, with a minefield of curious characters worth exploring.

It’s important to look a little deeper with comics and superheroes if we are to use this as our hook in English classes. Keep the content fresh and unpredictable. Because if Superman was to fight Batman, most of the students already know who will win. But if Wolverine fought Tintin, that’s a whole different ball game.

Related Blogs and Pages

Primary Teaching: Finding Your Reading Voice
Secondary Teaching: Encouraging Creative Learning
Working as an LSA: A Class Trip to the Zoo!


Tags: Gareth, Teacher, Australian Teachers, OTT, Overseas Trained Teachers, Troublesome Teens, Teenagers, Secondary, Why I Teach, Teacher, Comics, Marvel


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