Using graphic novels in the ELT classroom
Graphic novels are becoming more and more prominent in ELT, either as stand-alone illustrated readers or as stories integrated into general coursebooks, such as in Interactive Student’s Book 1-4 (Cambridge University Press). A graphic novel version of a well-known text is suggested on the set books list for First Certificate for Schools. They are an excellent resource for the ELT classroom for many reasons. Here are a few:
- They’re fun! Students love the visual, colourful nature of the stories and they provide a change of focus. They’re also fun for teachers who can design a whole range of creative tasks and activities.
- They’re visual! The visuals not only attract the learners’ attention, but help support the meaning of the story. The visuals also make the stories more memorable.
- They’re flexible! You don’t have to use a complete story to exploit a graphic novel. With just a few panels you can create a whole series of classroom activities for individual, pair or group work. The same story can be used with different levels and they can provide a nice thread over a series of classes.
- They can be used to develop all four skills in an integrated way. Many of the ELT versions are recorded, so the audio can form the basis of listening activities.
- They can be used to focus on language: spoken language in the speech balloons, narrative text and discourse markers in the captions, reported speech, language of description to describe the visuals and sound words like Splat!, Boom! and Yikes!
- They can be used to integrate technology. There are many digital comic builders that learners can use to create their own comics. For example http://interactive.cambridge.org/index.php/
students/comic-builder/ (which was used to create the illustration for this article) or www.makebeliefscomix.com.
- They develop creativity and imagination. Here are a few suggestions for activities before, while and after students read the story.
Before: Lots of prediction work.
- Give the visuals without the speech balloons and students describe them and work out who the characters are and what’s happening in the story.
- Give the first few panels with the speech balloons and students predict what’s going to happen next.
- Give some key words from the story and students predict what happens or they listen to the story and make notes about what the characters say and reconstruct it (like a dictogloss).
While: Students read and confirm predictions.
- Give the panels with balloons cut up, students read and order.
- Separate the balloons and visuals and students match or they read the story and order the main events.
After: This is when students can get very creative. They could…
- act out the story;
- carry out a roleplay based on a situation in one of the panels;
- invent their own ending to the story;
- write a narrative version of the story;
- add extra panels between the given panels;
- retell the story from a version with the speech balloons blanked out;
- retell the story from another character’s point of view;
- focus on specific language or pronunciation through a shadow reading technique if the story is recorded;
- create their own comics with an online comic builder.