Thursday, February 4, 2016

Foreign language and wordless comics

*Edit* Maybe I should sell this idea as a "brand new method" called "ComicTalk". Could I make millions?

My memory is a little foggy on this one, but I remember hearing once about a language (foreign or language arts?) teacher that taught a class with a book that had no words, but was a series of pictures.

That would be a great idea (at least in my opinion) because each level you would add richer and richer language.

Last year, when I taught multiple levels, I was able to do the same thing with some comics I have found called "buni-comics".  They are a bit dark at times (and you definitely couldn't show some of them to your class). But the best part is that they often have a strange turn of events for the main character and they have few to no words!

Your ability to sell the comic is entirely up to you and making it comprehensible for the kids.  In the low levels, I try to tell a short story (with words we know to review) and have the kids try to guess (in the language) what might happen next.

In the higher levels, you could ask them to put themselves in the shoes of the character. Or you could ask them what should he do... or what will he do... or would you do that, etc.

Why do I bring this up now?

Well, maybe it's the mixture of students I have this year, but today when my students remembered that Thursdays we had a comic to look at (see template post to see how I pace it in my class),  they got incredibly excited!  Before I even showed the comic, they I could already see the anticipation building on their faces. And the comic delivered.

Good engagement, fun mini-discussion.

Here's an English version of more or less what I told them:*
There is a bunny.
And the bunny is normally happy.
Is the bunny happy today?
Or is he sad?
Or is he hungry?
How is the bunny?
[show phrase: he is in love]
The bunny is in love.
He is in love with a girl.
Is she his girlfriend?
No she is only his friend.
Is the girl in love with him?
It's possible.
The bunny has a plan.
He leaves his house.
He goes to the store.
He buys a box.
[show phrase: a box]
He buys a box of chocolates for the girl.
Is that a good idea?
Do girls like chocolates?
Girls, which of you like chocolates?
Girls, in your opinion, is his plan good or bad?
He buys the chocolates and he goes to the girl's house.
He knocks on the door.
The girl opens the door and comes out of her house.
[show comic still #1]
And the bunny is super in love.
Does the girl want the chocolates?
**If you are the girl, do you take the chocolates?
What does the girl do?
Does she take the chocolates?
Does she go in her house and scream?
Does she give him a kiss?
Does she say to him, "no thanks. I don't like chocolates."?
[show comic still #2]
The bunny gives the chocolates to her.
And she takes the chocolates
Does she like the chocolates?
Yes, she likes them a lot. 
And her boyfriend likes them too.
And they both eat the chocolates in her house.
[show comic still #3]
And the bunny is sad.

And that's the activity! If you haven't ever tried one before, you should!

*it varied in some classes as some classes one class in particular had come across the "I" past form of -ar verbs due to a prior conversation so I threw in the bunny saying "I bought chocolates for you".

In another class, I practiced asking them more with "va a + infinitive" to predice what might happen because it seemed more natural.

Sometimes I would vary the script to play off of what my kids were telling me and how they were responding to the questions too.

**this would have been a fun question but I didn't think to use it


  1. Your script on how you use the wordless comic is an excellent example for teachers that are searching for ways to provide more CI classroom. Thanks for sharing.

    Regarding the person that talked about teaching a foreign language with a wordless book, you may be thinking of Judith Logsdon-Dubois. She uses the book The Arrival by Shaun Tan with her students. She has mentioned it a few times on moretprs and on her blog, i.e. she mentions it in the comments section of her blog post Mrs. D's Funny Little Classroom, Reading a Novel

    1. Thanks for your kind words! And yes! That sounds like the book and everything! I wonder if that was her idea originally or if she heard it from somewhere else because I'd like to say I heard about this 10+ years ago!