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July 13, 2021 Tuesday 04:55:13 PM IST

Comical Interlude

Teacher Insights

Comics are often underutilised and underrated, and yet they have proved to be invaluable teaching tools. It’s time we reimagine and reinvent them in our teaching-learning classroom transactions. By integrating comic characters and comic strips in our pedagogic processes, our classes can be creative, critical, engaging yet relevant to the theme and topic of study. Probably, the best learning outcome would be teaching children the way they want to learn through fun, colour, laughter and all this would bring a smile to their faces. This is our ultimate aim-learning with fun, isn’t it?

We have all slipped comics inside our textbooks to read in class when no one was watching during our school days. Parents and teachers didn’t appreciate them much then as they were considered recreational and even distracting. Some even thought that the language used was too casual and inappropriate. As a part of our academic instruction, they certainly didn’t have any role to play. We have spent many moments flipping through the black and white pages of our textbooks, which rarely had a picture, forget a cartoon or a comic character.

But times have changed, printing technology has undergone a transformation, the method and mode of teaching-learning have become student-centric and creativity in classrooms is now a 21stcentury skill. Hence, comics have not only been accepted but also welcomed and appreciated in the present times. Research has proven, that comics can be motivating, support for struggling learners, a scaffold for reading skills, because it appeals to the various multiple intelligences and simplifies a challenging or difficult topic.

Teaching the 4C’s through Comics

When students read comics or create their own, they have the opportunity to develop Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration Skills. The millennial generation is digital natives, no doubt, but they need to develop these 4 competencies, and comics are best suited for them. They provide that dual-language of verbal and visual, which provides a range, depth and a special appeal to the topic taught. In fact, they are great visual representations of knowledge, simply because it presents what is essential, without superfluous information. They are also easier to remember because they engage through thinking, creating and writing, definitely not memorisation or stressful rote learning.

Our children grow up in visual culture. They see before they listen or speak or touch. They are used to taking in information this way and that’s why comics appeal to their head and heart. And because the rate of information is in the hands of the reader, it has a sense of permanence and gives the students that remote control to learn the way they want to. There is something incredibly engaging about telling stories in pictures, about organising complex topics of Science and Social Science into panels, frames, scenes, bubbles and displaying them sequentially across a page to make sense and create one’s own narratives. In fact, our ancestors, cavemen or tribals, did etch aspects of their everyday lives on the cave walls. Comics have that enigmatic primitive primal appeal of visual storytelling that attracts all age groups. One of the joys of the comic medium is that they have very few words, and in some cases no words at all, so they surpass boundaries of linguistics, time and geography.  In comics, the past, present and the future can sit side by side.

Comics can be engaging, efficient and effective

Comics impart meaning through the students’ active engagement with the written language. Children instantly make meaning from the interplay of text, dialogue, images and make their own connections by filling in the gaps. The comic format conveys a large amount of information in a short crisp manner and this attribute is especially effective in explaining bulky content in History or Political Science. When the child processes text and image together, it is evident that recall and transfer of learning are better. This happens because dual coding takes place simultaneously in different areas of the brain. Experiments indicate that pairing picture with images increases memory retention. The child learns the material faster and better too.

The Power and Potential of Comics

Students learn best when they are engaged in the lesson. Getting them to read can take some time and effort. Resources are plenty, but getting them to read happily through the medium of comics which uses images and text to represent ideas is ideal. The reluctant reader starts making an effort. Old information can be represented in a new way. For example, Political cartoons can be used to explore political ideologies of the past and present, the attitudes and ethos of a society during a particular period in History.

Student-created comics empower children to express their ideas. It also gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility. Sensibilities towards non-academic topics, like bullying, gender sensitivity, sustainable development goals, life skills can be inculcated through comics, caricatures, doodles, animes, stick figures. It’s all about using their Voice and Ideas to resolve personal, community and global issues making them problem solvers too. Stem Comics and Digital Comics are the new age innovations that help pose challenging questions and explore answers through a medium that the present-day children are most comfortable with.

So, educators, bring in another uniqueness in your toolkits and let our children create new worlds joyfully.....let’s bring in comics in our classrooms!!!

Sunila Athley

Principal, Amity International School, Ghaziabad. Winner of Best Principal’s Award instituted by Ministry of Human Resources Development and CBSE in 2019. Read more articles..