Volume I - 1993

Using the Sunday Comics on Monday
by JoAnn Hoppe

JoAnn Hoppe teaches ESL at Bronx Community College in New York City. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree and an ESL teaching Certificate from the New School for Social Research in New York.

      Comic strips from the Sunday newspaper can be used in a wide variety of ways to lighten ESL classes and provide an interesting change of pace. Recently, I used them as a source of dialogue and writing.

      We started with a class discussion about sports--which ones are popular in the students' countries, shared experiences about the game. I had taped an article from the New York Times to the blackboard, and a number of students had looked at it before class.

      The newspaper story, which was related to a comic strip I had clipped, commented that people love to catch foul balls at baseball games. I read a short section of the article that told how a father had caught a foul ball for his children. Several of the students told about how they had seen people catch foul balls and how exciting it was to see that happen.

      The students were then divided into groups of four. Each group received a copy of the same comic strip "Blondie". It had been enlarged, cut into separate frames (pictures) and each dialogue had been whitened out. Students were asked to put the six pictures in order and then writ a dialogue or story. It was emphasized that there was not a "correct" order: making an interesting conversation or story was the point. The students had a lot of fun with this lesson. Some wrote the dialogue directly on the whitened area, and others, who had more to say, used separate sheets of paper.

      On completion, each group came to the front and read their dialogue. Actually, it became like a skit with each person playing a different role. It was fun to see the various ways one could arrange and interpret the text--and even the drawings--for an original comic strip about a sport within their own country. Other variations include having students write the original dialogue as a story with reported speech, and having them describe what happens at some of the more popular sports events in their countries.

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