How to use comics in your Spanish classroom
Are you a subscriber to Rockalingua or have you seen the email about our new Spanish video comics for kids? Well, if you haven’t let me fill you in. Our Rockalingua designers have been working hard to create video comics and printable worksheets for each of our units because we believe that storytelling in the Spanish classroom is one of the strongest tools you have available and we want to help you take advantage of it! Our goal is to have a video comic and printable worksheet for each unit in the next few months. While we’re working on that let’s talk about how you can use Spanish stories for kids and specifically our video comics in your Spanish classroom this year.
Some of the questions you probably ask yourself when planning your Spanish classes are, what content do I want to teach? What’s the best way to teach it? And, how can I get the kids interacting with the language in a natural and memorable way? The best part about using Spanish comics for kids classes is that they can be tailored to any and all themes, vocabulary, and grammar levels - making them the jack-of-all-trades in your classroom repertoire. And, no two comics are ever the same (grammatically or vocabulary-wise), but by repeating characters they create an ongoing story that helps your kids remember otherwise tough words or concepts.
One of the best things about using a visual component like comics in the classroom is that you switch from a largely dialogue based way of learning to a more visual avenue. This can be great for classes where students may be older, but at a lower level when it comes to second language learning, or classes where students struggle with writing and reading skills. Digesting the language through a visual comic gives those who may get hung up on spelling and reading the chance to not only shine, but practice the language without being hindered by the written form, which if you think about it is a very natural way to learn!
Now that you know that we have comics and are planning to have plenty more in the future, what are some ways you can use our video comics in your Spanish classroom?
Retelling the story
Imagine that you’re working on los meses del año. You’ve introduced your target language and probably laid the initial groundwork required for learning the vocabulary. Maybe you’ve done some of the activities that can be found on our Months of the year post and now you’re ready to combine the vocabulary you’ve been working hard on with sentences in a natural way.
Our video comic for this unit has Tapón excited about Paola's birthday and includes a printable version making it possible to either watch or read first. If you decide to use the video comic you can have your students watch the video once or twice before putting them into small groups and asking them to retell what happened in the story. If you prefer the reading route give them a few minutes to read over the comic before asking them to turn their papers over and retell the story in small groups.
(Click below on the image to watch the video!)
A great way to get your students interacting with the Spanish language and using the targeted vocabulary is by asking questions about the comic they have either seen or read. Our video comic Buenos días takes a look at the possible confusion between “esta mañana” and “mañana por la mañana”, and includes a printable version and comprehension questions. Other video comics also include comprehension questions, written response questions, and true or false questions.
A fun way to make this a kinesthetic activity is by getting your students to act out the video comic they’re working with. A fun one to do this with is Las partes del cuerpo video comic which talks about a topic all students have experienced: falling down and getting hurt. You can have them act out the entire comic with different students filling different roles or choose a specific part of the comic to act out. For example, in this video comic we might choose to have the students act out the interaction between Tapón and the doctor while using the parts of the body vocabulary we’ve been practicing.
Señor Wooly has recorded 18 short videos that deal with teaching a graphic novel in your Spanish classroom. For a twist on acting out a comic he has a video that is called Reader’s Theater! His video includes an example of a class working with the graphic novel and eventually acting out a scene choosen in advance by the teacher. While you may not be working with a graphic novel in class, many of his activities can easily be used with shorter comic sections.
Reading the comic
One of the simplest ways to use the comics is to just get your students reading them. Reading is such an important life skill and one that kids often gravitate away from with all of the new technology that’s being invented. Whether you get them reading the video comics or reading the physical copy, just getting them interested and excited in Tapón’s adventures could be the first step in cultivating a desire to read outside of the classroom.
Creating a comic
For this activity you can ask your students to create a comic strip that either goes before or after the video comic you are working with. This is a great opportunity to work on sequencing and to ask them to think about what could have happened before or what could happen after the event they have just seen. Before creating the comic you can brainstorm different vocabulary you'd like to use and simple sentence structures they might want to use. Make sure that you have blank paper and coloring materials for this little project and feel free to have your students work in pairs or small groups. A fantastic free template for your comics can be found on the website Create in the Chaos. While the website is in English the free DIY printable comic book pack is blank (after the first page) giving your students the opportunity to fill in the speech bubbles and comic strips in Spanish. The author also has lots of other fun materials that you might be able to work into another unit or use as an arts and crafts project in Spanish!
Creating your own dialogue to the comic
Many of the comics include a language rich dialogue to accompany the visual elements. Why not remove the dialogue and asked your students to create their own? You can do this after you’ve introduced the comic and checked for understanding or before showing them the original dialogue to see if they can use the vocabulary you’re working on to create a feasible dialogue for the comic.
You can try it out with this one!
Using comics that aren’t from Rockalingua
While we’re very proud of our own collection of storytelling video comics, we realize that you might want to use some from other sources. We like how Esperanza Education uses Mafalda, a comic created by Quino and originally published in an Argentinian newspaper, to teach subject pronouns and her advice of finding what your students are interested in and then using it in your classroom.
Thanks for reading! We’d love for you to comment below on how you’re using comics in your classroom this year. Happy teaching and rock on!