Using Comic Strips as Learning Materials

Using Comic Strips as Learning Materials

I read an article by Jun Liu about the effect of comic strips on L2 learners’ reading comprehension (2004). The findings of the study are very interesting, and show how comic strips can be used as effective learning materials. Comic strips can be used in classrooms like any other materials such as coursebooks, worksheets, videos, etc.

The article reports on the effects of comic strips on L2 learners’ reading comprehension. The author demonstrates how comic strips as reading material can be helpful in making text more enjoyable to read and more comprehensible for L2 learners. Prior to this study, specialists and researchers had investigated whether using different visuals, such as pictures, cartoons, photos, comic strips, etc., can help L2 learners in their reading comprehension, by investigating which type of visuals is the best. They explained the major functions of using visuals to enhance students’ reading comprehension: representation, organization, interpretation, transformation, and decoration. And these functions are relevant and related to the text’s content, as they are part of it.

The author defined what a comic strip is: pictures inside boxes in a series that tell a story. Comic strips, according to the author, are readable, accessible, popular, and communicative, which is why he chose them for the study. He explained how comic strips communicate by using two types of media, words and images.

The aim of the study was to investigate the effects on L2 learners’ reading comprehension of presenting a text in comic strips. The question was whether presenting a text with or without a comic strip can produce different results for L2 learners with different proficiency levels. In addition, the author’s aim in this study was to focus on the students’ comprehension, not on their production. It was hypothesized that a student with a low/intermediate proficiency level reading a high-level text with a comic strip would improve his/her understanding. On the other hand, a student with a high/intermediate proficiency level reading a low-level text with a comic strip would not improve his/her understanding.

The study investigated two English proficiency levels (high and low), two text difficulty levels (difficult and easy), and two visual supports for the two texts (with and without comic strips). The participants were students from ESL classes at a university in the United States.

Finally, the paper concluded with a discussion mainly considering how comic strips can enhance the recall of low-level students, who face difficulties comprehending a high-level text. The author suggested that future research can test the effect of comic strips on L2 learners’ retention, as another subject.

Jun Liu (2004).


Target English

Target English

Less than ten years ago, the MOE in Kuwait signed a contract with the publishing company Pearson Longman. The purpose behind this step is to provide Kuwait with books that are specifically designed to meet learners’ needs in Kuwait. The aim of the MOE is to have contextualised materials for students in Kuwait. Target English coursebooks are considered to contain material that is adapted to Kuwait. One of the reasons behind this decision is that English is a compulsory subject from primary school (age 6) to the end of secondary school (age 18). Kuwait is like other countries where there are state (public) schools and private schools, but most students attend public schools. All state schools use the Target English series, and some of the private schools do. However, private schools might use the national curriculum or their own materials depending on whether the school’s system is American or British.

The purposes of using this series are to simplify the course for the students, and to make it vivid and clear. Also, using this series is a way to enrich the course and create a desire for learning. At the back of every graded Target English book you can read the following aims and goals:

Target English is the English for Kuwait series, a carefully graded course in English, specifically written and designed for the Kuwait school system for primary, intermediate, and secondary grades. Target English teaches English through cross-curricular topics, using prose, stories, listening tasks, games, puzzles and other varied activities. It encourages learners to practise communicating in English at every available opportunity. It adopts an integrated approach to language teaching. Target English follows the Kuwait Ministry of Education syllabus. At each level, the course consists of:

–       A student’s book which presents new language for class activities, including pair and group work.

–       A workbook which utilises a variety of activities to practise the language presented in the student’s book.

–       The teacher’s guide with clear, step-by-step lesson plans, as well as a full explanation of the teaching methodology.

–       The cassette with all the listening activities.

The evaluation and adaptation committee and ELT supervisors in the MOE made the decision to approve the use of Target English in Kuwait. This is part of the plan for improving the quality of education, and it is a step towards developing the national curriculum.

Education system in Kuwait

Education system in Kuwait

The education system in Kuwait changed in 2005/06 from a 4-4-4 system to a 5-4-3 system. This means that the new educational levels will be kindergarten or nursery (2 years), primary school (5 years), intermediate school (4 years), and secondary school (3 years). The primary and intermediate stages (aged 6-14) are compulsory for all students, and state education is free. The Ministry of Education (MOE) is responsible for the development of education in schools, while the Ministry of Higher Education is responsible for the development of education at the next level (colleges and universities), and they work together under one schooling system in the country. There are (public) state schools and private schools in Kuwait, but most students in Kuwait are in state schools. Some of the private schools follow the Kuwait national curriculum, while other private schools have their own curricula (American, British or French). All state schools in Kuwait are segregated by gender, but some private schools are not.

Schooling usually begins when a child is aged between 4 and 6, in kindergarten. After that, students are required to spend 5 years at primary school, starting from the age of 6. Then at the intermediate level students will do 4 years up to grade 9. Finally, students are required to spend 3 years at secondary school before graduation, and then, depending on the students’ GPA, they will be able to apply for a university or college.

The Kuwait government invests a lot of money to provide the best educational facilities and books to the students. Also, the government has asked the MOE to ensure that every school is equipped with a library. As part of the relationship between the government and the MOE, the government has supported the use of information technology (ICT) in classrooms, by including e-learning books. The focus of the MOE is on how to improve the quality of the education system for the next generations.

How to become a teacher in Kuwait

According to Lawson (1992), the period between being a student and becoming a teacher is transitional, and students might find difficulties at the beginning of this period. This was one of the main reasons behind the establishment of the College of Education in Kuwait University. The college has been working with the MOE to prepare qualified teachers and to provide professional opportunities for all teachers, and it generates a competent work force in the field of education. Also, it organizes national and international conferences for the development of education, and has a consultative and training role. There are three levels in the college: undergraduate studies, postgraduate diploma, and graduate studies. The undergraduate programmes offer four-year courses for preparing kindergarten, primary, intermediate, and secondary school teachers in different areas and subjects. Students choose their major (a subject such as English, Arabic, mathematics, geography, etc.) after they have completed their first year. This helps the college to provide the MOE with the expected number of graduate teachers in each subject and at each stage. In other words, it is like applying for a job; instead of immediately starting the job, students do the remaining three years of their course. This cooperation between the MOE and the College of Education is an advantage as it allows students to start their career immediately: for example, students normally graduate in June and after only three months, in September, they will start working as teachers in the MOE.

In order to graduate from the college, there is a compulsory module for fourth year students, which is to teach for 13 weeks (either in fall or spring course). This is a practical module requirement for graduation, and must be completed by every student according to his or her subject and stage. The college will help the students in this process and send them to particular schools. This requirement from the College of Education is included to ensure that the students are sufficiently qualified to graduate and become teachers. While the students are doing this compulsory module in one of the state schools, they will be supervised and then evaluated (at the end of course) by the head teacher of the department, the inspector (supervisor), and the principal.

Teachers in state schools in Kuwait do not have to produce their own materials. Recently the MOE signed a contract with Pearson Longman to provide schools and teachers with appropriate and specifically designed materials. Under this contract, the publishing company will provide schools with the Target English for Kuwait series.

Importance of Materials

Importance of Materials

‘…most teachers HAVE to use a book, although that is probably also true… in the real world, most teachers have no choice but to use a book. The system requires it’, Ken Wilson, 18th January 2010 in the British Council ELTons. Materials have many effects on providing permanent learning. Materials can help the teacher in the teaching process and help the learners to remember what they did and said, and less is forgotten. There are different types and formats of materials. First, there are printed materials, such as books, workbooks, and worksheets. Second, there are non-printed materials, like cassettes, DVDs, videos, and computer-based materials. Lastly, there are self-access materials and internet materials. Materials play an important role in making learning permanent and effective. In language practice in the classroom, for example, materials can increase students’ interest and motivation. Also, providing ideas on how to plan and teach can simplify the course and make it clear. In addition, materials play an important role in training novice teachers, to help them to explain complex subjects and to give them a chance to practise subjects.

The provision of materials is an important process, and the teacher (or institute) should prepare different types of teaching materials in order to help the learners to understand, and to deliver the content of the lesson. Teachers, for example, have to come up with a good and well-prepared lesson plan. Also, teachers should know how and when to use particular materials. In most cases, the more teachers use effective materials, the better learners concentrate on the lesson. Teachers are helped by the materials that back them up.

Teaching materials are designed to support learners’ learning and increase their success. This is the reason why materials should be tailored to the students and the teacher. Hutchinson and Waters (1987) said that ‘to ensure that materials fit the needs of learners. Learners’ needs and the learning context are important factors that should be considered while using materials, because the purpose of materials is to boost students’ achievement in their learning process. Jolly and Bolitho (1998) said that ‘you can design materials which fit with the learners’ learning and teaching traditions and conceptual world’. Materials can provide students with opportunities to practise new skills gained in class, and teachers know their own students’ needs. This process is part of the learning process to allow students to obtain their knowledge individually. Teaching materials have different shapes, uses, and sizes, but the most important thing is their ability to support students’ learning. Materials also can act as a guide for the teacher and students, by adding structure to lesson planning and the delivery of instructions.

The previous points show that the purpose of materials is to help learners to learn easily. This can be considered to be the basis of teaching and learning processes. It is important to provide students with effective teaching materials to motivate them and help them through the learning and teaching process. Some studies have shown that materials are having an important role in teaching activities. Materials are one way that is used by teachers to increase students’ interest and motivation in lessons. Also, one of the purposes of using materials is to enrich the course, and this can happen when teachers start using supportive materials.  Using materials is important and crucial for learners’ learning processes. Materials can help teachers and students to have more time to understand and explain complex subjects easily.