Critiquing Jun Liu’s article

Effects of Comic Strips on L2 Learners’ Reading Comprehension

Jun Liu

University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona, United States

I have chosen this article from the TESOL Quarterly Journal 2004, to critique because it is very much related to what I do during my work in an intermediate (middle) state school, where English is taught as a second language. In this paper, Jun Liu investigates the effects of comic strips on L2 Learners’ reading comprehension. He states that, in the past decade, numerous journal articles have revealed various ways of using comic strips in classrooms. Most of these articles were studies about using the comic strips with L1 learners. He was surprised to clearly identify that there were gaps in the L2 reading comprehension context, when the question arises of which type of visuals can help which level of learners. The study’s aim is only to investigate comic strips which are considered to be predominantly visual (cartoons, pictures, maps, photos, and tables). Throughout my own teaching experience I have used visuals in the form of pictures and cartoons, so using comic strips in the classroom is an interesting way of learning more about the effects of comic strips on L2 learners.

Jun Liu, the author of this paper, is an associate professor of English at the University of Arizona. The author has an interest in teacher education and second-language writing. The research in this article is aimed at an audience of peers (foreign or second language teachers). The paper is structured and organized, accessibly with an introduction that addresses the importance of having reading materials with visuals. It goes on to explore the major functions of visuals (Levie & Lentz. 1982; Levin, Anglin, & Carney, 1987) in reading comprehension, and the Dual Coding Theory (DCT), which is concerned with language and imagery. The results of this study will be discussed in the light of this theory.

In this critique I shall begin by summarizing Jin Liu’s article, and then will comment on the rationale, the theoretical framework and instrument. I will then concentrate on Liu’s research questions. Finally, I will comment on the conclusions drawn and their implications.


This article reports on the effects of comic strips on L2 learners’ reading comprehension. The author demonstrates how comic strips in reading materials can be helpful in making texts more enjoyable to read and 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., could 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 (Levie & Lentz. 1982; Levin, Anglin, & Carney, 1987), such as representation, organization, interpretation, transformation, and decoration. These functions are relevant and related to the text’s content, as they actually form a part of it.

Jun Liu discussed various different theoretical frameworks in describing and explaining the effects of visuals on cognition in general and on reading comprehension in particular, specifically the dual coding theory (DCT), as it relates to the nature of language and imagery. He then explained the two systems in DCT; the verbal system and non-verbal system (imagery system). In this theory, there is a linguistic coding system, which is called the verbal system, and the imagery system, which is called the non-verbal system. The author discussed previous studies with examples that used DCT as a theoretical framework for studying both, L1 and L2, reading comprehension with visuals, showing how a text with visuals can improve the students’ skills and results.

In the next paragraph, Cartoons as Visuals, the author defined what a comic strip is; as pictures inside boxes in a series that tells a story. Comic strips, according to the author, are readable, accessible, popular, and communicative, which is why he chose them for the study. He then explained how comic strips communicate by using two types of media, words with images. Also, in this paragraph he reviewed some examples of previous studies by exploring the use of comic strips with L1 and L2 learners.

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

The study investigates two English proficiency levels (high and low), two text difficulty levels (difficult and easy), and two visual support to the two texts (with and without comic strips). The participants were 107students from ESL classes at a university in the United States, representing 45 countries, and were recruited on a voluntary basis. When the students enrolled, they are required to take a placement test, and based on the results, their proficiency level was estimated on the University scale (from 10 to 70). The students were divided into two groups. The first group had the low intermediate proficiency (levels 10-30), while the second group was the high intermediate proficiency group (level 40-70). The number of students was almost even, with 53 students in the first group (low intermediate proficiency group), and 54 in the other group (high intermediate proficiency group).

For this study, there were two texts; a high-level text and low-level one; and only one comic strip was selected from a textbook (Ashkenas, 1985). The texts were created by a non-native English speaking professional, and then modified by two native English speakers trained in applied linguistics. The first text was created for ESL students of the low intermediate proficiency group with 250 words. The second text, for the high intermediate proficiency group, was the same text but was longer at300 words. Both texts are related to the information in the comic strip.

Language program coordinators and instructors helped the researcher to collect the data. The students (low-intermediate and high-intermediate) were randomly divided into four treatment groups, with 13 or 14 in each. The treatments were:

–       T1, low-level text only (white)

–       T2, Low-level text with comic strips (yellow)

–       T3, high-level text only (pink)

–       T4, high-level text with comic strips (green)

Four treatments with four different colored papers were used for data collection. The data was collected within two weeks. As the aim of the study was comprehension, rather than production, the students were told to read the text as many times as they wanted to, then to hand back the text and the comic strip and begin to write what they understood. The students were allowed to write in English, L1’, or both. It was surprising that the majority of ESL students chose to write in English. Immediate Recall Protocols (IRPs) were used in collecting the data in this study, as these is considered to be the most straightforward assessment of a reader’s interaction with a text (Johnston, 1983), and a valid mean to assess the reading comprehension of foreign students (Bernhardt, 1986, 1991). The students’ IRPs were scored by using a simple propositional analyses system based on pausal units (Johnson, 1970).

Three language specialists, the author and two research assistants scored and          assessed the students’ written IRPs. The author explained how the analysis of variations procedures, three-way ANOVA (Cohen, 2002: 191-203) is performed. The findings were shown in a figure. The low-level students who received the high-level text with comic strips scored noticeably higher than the low-level students who received the high-level text only. For the high-level students, adding the comic strips did not improve their recall. The analysis shows the impact of the comic strips on the low-level students’ performance (It was significantly enhanced) but this had little to do with the high-level students’ performance.

Finally, the paper concludes 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 could test the effect of comic strips on learners’ L2 retention as another subject.


The rationale and theoretical framework

At the beginning of the article, the author shows the importance of having reading materials with visuals, and goes on to highlight the major functions of visuals in reading from a range of sources (Levie & Lentz. 1982; Levin, Anglin, & Carney, 1987). Levin (1987) found that different functions of visuals facilitate memory. Different theoretical frameworks were used to describe and explain the effects of visuals on reading comprehension. The author chooses the Dual Coding Theory (DCT) (Sadoski & Pivio. 2001) in his study, as it is concerned with natural language and imagery. The previous two reasons were behind the author’s decision to choose DCT as theoretical framework for this study. This seems wise, but these examples used visuals in classrooms in general, rather comic strips, for L1 and L2 learners. Because he started giving many examples, from previous studies, about different areas of visuals, I assumed that there were no such studies in the field of comic strips area. However, later on, in the paragraph on cartoons as visual art, I learned of the existence of studies in this area, which I think it would have been helpful to look at earlier.

The method


The students in this study were ESL learners and were required to take an ESL course before or after enrolling in either undergraduate or postgraduate programs in the United States universities. There is no information about the numbers of the undergraduate or the postgraduate students, but distinguishing between the postgraduate and undergraduate students is not especially difficult. However, I would have liked to have known this information in advance in order to be sure of getting accurate results. For example, the proficiency level of postgraduate students might be higher than the undergraduate students, from the perspective that they experience learning at a university level before and used English. Another factor that may affect the quality of the results is the motivation of the student. If they are studying English as an entry requirement to study in the university only, or because they are interested in this area, which might be related to their studies in the university. For example, for some students, learning to communicate orally is particularly important if they want to live in a foreign country. For other students, grades may be more important, as they intend to go back home after they graduate. Such matters were not fully discussed because of the limitations of space.

The instrument

Since the aim of the study is comprehension, but not production, the author has focused on how comic strips can help the students to understand the intended meaning of a text. This will help students to write about the texts, but the focus was not on their writing production (grammar and punctuation), as much as on generating ideas that show their powers of recall, so they could hand in the text with the comic strip and start writing. Students were allowed to write in English, their L1, or both. The scorers will evaluate the student writing in languages, after they translate them to English. Surprisingly, with 107 participants from 45 countries, few students chose to write in their languages. This might be because the students understood the text with the comic strip, but found it difficult to express themselves in English (L2) as it is their second language, which would affect the results. This could be a disadvantage, and the results may not show their understanding, because their production is not good as their comprehension, and the main aim of the study is comprehension, not production.

The presentations of findings and interpretation of data

The author presented the results of his findings in a figure which is easy to understand. The percentages of the corrected recalls are shown in that figure. They provide evidence which confirms the author’s original hypothesis that using comic strips could have a remarkable effect on low-level students’ recall, but that with the high-level students it would have little impact. The corrected recall scores showed that the low-level students faced difficulties in understanding the high-level text, and their recall score was 19.41%. However, students, on the same level of proficiency had performed significantly better with the comic strips with 38.70%. This shows how students started to shift their attention to the comic strips, and used them as second source of information to help them in comprehending a text. On the other hand, the high-level students, without comic strips, had higher scores than the students who, at the same proficiency level, comprehended the same text through comic strips. In this case, using comic strips may hinder students’ comprehension.

My Conclusions

In this critique I have evaluated Jun Liu’s research on the effects of comic strips on L2 learners’ reading comprehension. He identified the need to use comic strips, or visuals in general, to make a reading text more comprehensible and enjoyable. The study results suggested that ESL and EFL teachers should choose the visuals cautiously, as they would need to reflect the texts’ complexities.

What is important here are the needs of the learners, with regard to the type of visuals which work better for learners of different proficiency levels. I look forward to using the author’s ideas in this research to further my own teaching.





Ashkenas, J. (1985). Comics and conversation: Using humor to elicit conversation and develop vocabulary. Studio City, CA: JAG.

Bernhardt, E. B. (1986). Reading in the foreign language. In B. H. Wing (Ed.), Listening reading writing, analysis and application (pp. 93-115). Middlebury, VT: Northwest Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

Bernhardt, E. B. (1991). Reading development in a second language. New Jersey: Albex.

Cohen, B. H. (2002). Calculating a factorial ANOVA from means and standard deviations. Understanding statistics, 1, 191-203.

Johnson, R. E. (1970). Recall of prose as a function of the structural importance of the linguistic units. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 9, 12-20.

Johnston, P. H. (1983). Reading comprehension assessment: A cognitive basis. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Levie, W. H., & Lentz, R. (1982). Effect of text illustrations: A review research. Education Communication and Technology Journal, 30 195-232.

Levin, J. R., Anglin, G. J., & Carney, R. N. (1987). On empirically validating functions of pictures in prose. In D. M. Willows & H. A. Houghton (Eds.), The psychology of illustration: Volume I. Basic research (pp.51-86). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Sadoski, M., & Oaivio, A. (2001). Imagery and text: A dual coding theory of reading and writing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.


Reflective Statement

Reflective Statement

Generally, this blog and materials module made me look at materials from a new perspective, a perspective that I personally had never experienced before. This module helped me to look at the diversity of materials that can be used in English language classrooms, and to consider some aspects of their development and evaluation. Knowing how to use different materials effectively in classrooms can help teachers to understand what is best for their learners’ needs in their context. In this blog I had the opportunity to write my opinions about ELT materials, their design principles and frameworks, and the evaluation process, after the fruitful discussions we had in the sessions.

At the beginning, I wasn’t sure what a blog was really about, and I found it difficult to distinguish between what a blog does and what an essay does. As you can see in my early posts, I almost tried to write in a formal way, and missed the main idea of a blog being writing as a journey, but with time I realised that I should start to record things, go back to my notes, and then discuss them here, and the more I wrote, the more confident I became.

The scenario in most EFL classrooms is that the teacher has nothing to do with the process of selecting coursebooks, and that’s probably one of the reasons why I hadn’t tried before to evaluate any coursebooks that I used. And before taking this module, I thought that this was ok, that I should just use the coursebook, and that it was not my job to evaluate it, but after class discussions and more reading, I realised the importance of evaluation. I realised that knowing how to evaluate is not about telling others that you are good or that you know more than the evaluators who chose the coursebook. The idea of evaluation is much deeper than this; evaluating materials can help us, teachers, to know the strengths and weaknesses of our coursebooks. And even if you find some weaknesses in a coursebook, it doesn’t mean that it is not good and that you can’t use it any more. What is weak in your context might be strength in another’s context. When I go back to Kuwait and start teaching again, I will try to evaluate my coursebooks (the Target English series), for example, according to Ansary and Babaii’s criteria, and to consider my learners’ needs. If I identify any weaknesses, I will try to create my own materials to bridge this gap.

From this module, with the class discussions and tasks, I think that now I have the confidence and ability to create my own materials, and I know the steps to follow when creating them. Considering Jolly and Bolitho’s materials writing framework, I created my Bookr. First, I identified my students’ needs and then I explored them and decided to focus on language functions (guessing, expressing their ideas, agreeing and disagreeing, etc…). After I got to know my context and my students’ level well, I prepared the exercises accordingly, and included pictures with suggested questions. Then I checked the exercises to make sure that they were appropriate (for pedagogical reasons). Finally, I came to the last stage, which is the physical production. I considered what might be interesting for my learners (flags). When I looked back at my book and compared it to our tutor’s photobook, I saw a big difference between the two. Later on, his discussion in the classroom helped us a lot and suggested new ideas about how to make your Bookr more appealing and more professional-looking.

Nowadays, the use of media and technology in classrooms is growing massively in the ELT world. In this module I had the opportunity to create my own materials by using technology, such as Bookr and a YouTube video. For this video, I shot short clips and combined them later into a video, and considered how it could be used as ELT material. I will use it as ‘warm-up’ when I start teaching again in my own country, because the topic may capture my students’ attention at the start of the lesson. Also, this experience made me realise how simple is to make a video and upload it to YouTube, even without using a computer or a laptop! All you need is your smartphone, as simple as that, and this is one of the ideas that I will encourage my students to use.

I have enjoyed my time so far as a blogger. I had heard a lot about blogs and bloggers, but I never thought of creating one. Now I have done so, I think it is a way that can keep me connected to other members in the ELT field and other teachers. Also, this is now my place to express my own views and ideas, and discuss my own context, maybe comparing it others’. To be honest I never imagined myself blogging one day, but here I am using this space to express my humble experience in the ELT field. As a novice of two years, this is a starting point for me. This module (and blog) has offered me the opportunity to express my opinions freely, and most importantly has shown me how to select and evaluate materials.


–       Ansary, H. & Babaii, E. (2002) Universal Characteristics of EFL/ESL Textbooks: A Step Towards Systematic Textbook Evaluation. The Internet TESL Journal 8 (2): Available from: [Accessed 30-June-2013].

–       Jolly, D., & Bolitho, R, (2011) The Process of Material Writing. In Tomlinson, B. (Ed), Materials development in language teaching (pp. 90-115). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



For the video session, Paul asked us to create our own videos which could be used as ELT materials in language classes. I think that we need to use every available tool to help our students in their learning process. Using audio-visual (video) materials could be a helpful tool in classrooms in Kuwait, a tool that can offer a new and interesting technique in learning: ‘video can be a very valuable tool that helps students process, remember and actively produce foreign terms’, (Danan 1992: p.524). Also, videos may help teachers, especially if they are used as ‘warm-ups’ to capture students’ attention. Moreover, the great combination of sound, image, and sometimes subtitles (text) in videos means that there is no reason why we (teachers) do not use them as a tool to teach vocabulary in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classrooms.

For my video, prior to shooting, I planned the scenes I wanted to shoot, in short clips, and then combined them into one video (I recorded them more than once, just to make sure). Also, I considered when to shoot (off peak), and how to use the video as ELT material. To explain the process of making this video, I used my iPhone 5 for EVERYTHING, and I really mean everything. First, I shot more than 30 short clips with the iPhone 5 camera. It took me around 2 hours to do the shooting in London’s Victoria station. After that came the editing process; I used an app called ‘video editor’, which is free in the app store, to combine the short clips together. I spent almost an hour editing the video, and the length of the video is less than 4 minutes. It may not be of high quality (there is wind sound and the camera shakes) but I think it is a good start, and it gave me the confidence to try and produce similar videos in the future, because this was my first experience of producing a video for EFL classrooms. Finally, I uploaded the video onto YouTube, again using my iPhone.


It is very important to consider the aim of the material before using it in the classroom. In almost every coursebook, there is a lesson or a whole unit about transportation methods. And my aim here is to teach the vocabulary about means of transport, and to use this in meaningful sentences as a warm-up. As an activity before watching the video, I will ask the students some questions like ‘What transportation methods do we have or use in Kuwait?’, ‘Are you happy with those methods?’ etc. My last question before watching the video will be about means of transport in London: it could be something like ‘Do you know what transportation methods people use in London?’, and I may show them a picture to give them a general idea. This activity will probably make the students interested in watching the video. After watching the video, I will ask them to name the transportation methods in London from the video, and then try to put these into meaningful sentences. After that I will put the students in pairs or small groups to give them a chance to talk about and compare means of transport means in Kuwait and London, and to say what they think about them. Finally, they can share their ideas and thoughts (or even personal experiences in London) with the rest of the class.

I really learnt a lot from this experience of creating my own video, and hope that this will be a good starting point for more videos in the future. I think the multimedia technology (TV, videos, etc…) can capture students’ attention and might be an interesting thing for them, away from the traditional learning methods in the language classrooms, BUT the most important thing is to set the objectives of the lesson with tasks and activities that are appropriate to your learners’ needs (Tomlinson, 2011).


–       Danan, M. (1992). Reversed subtitling and dual coding theory: New directions for foreign language instruction. Language Learning, 42, 497-527.

–       McGrath, I. (2002) Materials Evaluation and Design for Language Teaching. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

–        Tomlinson, B.  (ed). (2011)  Materials Development in Language Teaching. (2nd ed) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Learning and Technology (apps)

Learning and Technology (apps)

I have been using an application (app) called iQamos TTS for more than three years. It is a bilingual dictionary application, Arabic-English and English-Arabic. The app can provide you with the definition and meaning of a word, with audio pronunciation, in both languages. Every word in Arabic and English is translated into more than one word (synonyms) in the other language, and the app tells you what type of word it is (verb, noun, adjective, etc.). If you don’t know the spelling, you just type the first couple of letters and the app will help you and suggest some words, again in both languages. No Internet connection or network signal is needed to use it, and it is free. This is only one example of using applications for mobile language learning. Mobile technology is a powerful thing; it is almost everywhere nowadays, but not everyone is using it in language learning. It is worth focusing on apps because their relatively successful implementation indicates their future direction and development. In the spring term of 2010, in Kuwait University, I studied a module called Literary Translation 252, which involved translating Arabic poems into English and vice versa. All the twenty-five students used their different smartphone (Blackberry, iPhone, or Android) dictionary apps for in-class activities. The tutor was quite happy with how the dictionary apps helped us by saving time and offering various synonyms, which were important in writing verses in both languages.

In recent years the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Kuwait has tried to work on and develop the use of information technology, by using e-learning in the national curriculum in public (government) schools. And in the last two years the MOE has made serious attempts to follow and start working on this technological trend; we obviously cannot nowadays ignore this trend because of the needs of the twenty-first century. The MOE has launched an app on the app stores of smartphones that allows students to download all the books for all the grades. Students insert the class they are in and then have full access to all the books that are required by the MOE for that school year. The app is called “manaheej” which is an Arabic word and means curricula. It is an electronic library of the national curriculum. With the use of this app, the MOE established what are called ‘iPad classes’, for which students no longer have to carry heavy books, but which of course require full access to an iPad or other tablet by all the students. For this reason this idea was only used in couple of classes in certain areas in the country. To be honest I am not sure if this idea will really work in the future for many reasons – for example, it is difficult to arrange for all students to have access to iPads or tablets. However, I think it is a good start or step to encourage students to use technology in learning, especially with the new learning theories like George Siemens’ connectivism theory. Siemens argued that the massive amount of information on the Internet and social networks (and with the use of new smartphones) can change and have an impact on the acquisition of knowledge. I think students should have access to sources other than the teacher in their learning process. Students of course will not follow the connectivism theory precisely, but how it deals with the impact on learning of technology, and therefore it is not like previous theories (behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism), ‘Including technology and connection making as learning activities begins to move learning theories into the digital age’ (Siemens, 2005).


Accessible ‘Anywhere, Anytime’

Generally speaking, ESL/EFL learners can benefit from the flexibility of using apps outside the classroom, where they can have access to them when they are at home or at work. ESL/EFL learners can continue learning new words and can increase their knowledge all the time by using the apps, as they are accessible ‘anytime, anywhere’. Apps can offer learners ‘mobility’ learning. Being accessible anytime and anywhere can offer learners a great opportunity to integrate their smartphones into their personal and learning lives, as it is part of mobile learning which is essentially personal, contextual, and situated (Traxler 2007).

–       British Council LearnEnglish apps

Dictionary apps are only one example of many other apps that were created for educational purposes. For example, the British Council offers a great number of apps called LearnEnglish apps. The apps were created to help English language learners by offering them a variety of apps for different skills such as grammar and pronunciation. This is a link to the LearnEnglish apps

The emerging mobile technologies, such as apps, will play a part in the future life of ESL/EFL learners. Smartphones and apps are an example of individualized informal learning; ESL/EFL learners can choose which app to download and how to use it in the best way to help their language learning. ESL/EFL learners should be encouraged to use a combination of formal and informal learning. In addition, the versatility of the use of apps in the classroom can offer teachers different options and new techniques in teaching. Also, the ‘bite-sized’ smartphone is very important in offering learners accessibility, anywhere and at any time. ESL/EFL learners are likely to make their smartphones their primary device for language learning, even if it is not their only computing device. This is a trend in mobile language learning that we cannot ignore.


–          Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning 2 (1). Retrieved from:

–          Traxler, J. (2007) Defining, Discussing, and Evaluating Mobile Learning: The moving finger writes and having writ….International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 8 (2).

Interview with Ben Goldstein



Teacher, trainer and writer Ben Goldstein answers The Image Conference Questionnaire.

Your favourite video website:


Short of the week

is a good place to go for short films to use in class. It’s user-friendly as it allows you to refine your search in terms of genre, style and topic. Meanwhile for edgier and more independent clips, it’s worth checking out:

Your favourite image(s) to use in class:

Difficult to pick out one here, I guess of the images that feature in my handbook Working with images, the ones I return to again and again are 1) the subversive images from Adbusters, 2) Edward Hopper’s paintings and 3) Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs.

Useful  video teaching tool  

I’m interested in teacher and student presentations using tools such as Present Me which allow you to show your slides on one side of the screen while you present them…

View original post 143 more words


–       How to create an image book using Bookr

The first step is to go to and to write the title of the book and the author’s name. Then you can type one or two key words about your topic in the search field (tags), and using these tags you can search your images on Flickr and also search randomly for others’ images. After the search through the Flickr images, the site will show you the results. Once you find the image that you want to use, click on it and you will see it on the page. Then click on the bottom right corner of the page to turn to the next page, just like a book. Now you can use some of the images from the previous search or you can start a new search. Also, you can turn as many pages as you want, and add more pages, simply by clicking on the + sign. Each time you click on the + sign, two new pages will be added. When you are done with your book, click on ‘publish this book!’ After that you will have the option to email the book or to use a number of social networks to share it. Also, you can get a link to your book.

In the session we had about visuals in language learning materials, we looked at tools like Bubblr, Bookr and Flickr to create our own materials. The following two links are examples of two photobooks that were created on Bookr. The first (English signs) is an example made by our tutor Paul Slater, and is a combination of images with text. The second link (countries, capitals and flags) is another example but is created by me, and it contains only images.

In this post I would like to talk in more depth about the fruitful discussions we had in this session, and the design processes. We looked at Jolly and Bolitho’s materials writing framework. Following their dynamic (flexible) five stages or steps can really help teachers in the process of producing appropriate materials that meet their learners’ needs. Using this framework, I will explain why I used Bookr to create my own materials. The first step in Jolly and Bolitho’s framework is the identification of a need. My personal experience in teaching in intermediate (middle) school (grades 6 to 9) has shown me that the amount of vocabulary increases gradually. However, I have noticed a massive jump in the amount and difficulty of the vocabulary from grades 6, 7, and 8 (where the vocabulary is almost the same) to grade 9, which is the last year in the intermediate level before secondary school (grades 10, 11, and 12). I had the chance to teach this level, grade 9, and it is almost impossible to cover the amount of vocabulary in one or two hours, and even sometimes in three! Most of the time we use the vocabulary as a warm-up exercise or an introduction to the lesson, and for that reason we cannot spend much time focusing only on vocabulary. This is the reason why I think using visuals (images) can be a possible solution to this issue. Images can have more impact on learners than oral explanations or definitions. Bookr is considered to be a new tool because it uses technology, and it is an opportunity to attract students, as the images are recent and relevant to the lesson, because ‘coursebook images, for example, are often treated simply as decoration – as background to the more important text’ (Ben Goldstein, 2008, p: 1). On Goldstein’s blog there is also some great stuff about images and tasks that I would recommend you to have a look at. I found an interesting image that is related to the context of my Bookr photobook (countries, capitals, and flags). You can see the collage of football fans who have painted their faces with their countries’ flags, and in this task he suggested the following question ‘How many World Cup competing countries can your students identify, and what happened to them in tournament?’; he was talking here about the last World Cup, in Germany in 2010.



For example I can use both these sources (my Bookr and Goldstein’s image) for my context while teaching a lesson or whole unit about countries or peoples around the world. It would be a good start for a lesson to elicit some information, and would encourage students to participate by using their knowledge and background about countries. I would be including an image that might be related to the context AND to their interests, e.g. football. The next exercise or task would be to ask them if they know which country is which by looking at the flags, with some help or hints like the language they speak or the capital, or we can start from a different point by giving the name of the country and asking the students what they know about the country, its capital, and the language spoken there.

This can create an environment where the students enjoy visuals that help them to give attention to the lesson. It is a way of engaging learners both effectively and cognitively in the language learning process, and Tomlinson (2011) supported this idea. I think it is really important for us teachers to provide our learners with effective engagement through the use of Bookr or any other tools, as research has shown that this can increase learners’ retention.

After the great discussion we had in the class, we came up with the conclusion that we can use Bookr in two ways – with text or without. It depends on the context in which you are teaching in, and the specific needs of your learners. An interesting idea on which we built our discussion is how different people see different things, and how images might be seen as a language with its own vocabulary. The idea of using use a text with the images or not also depends on how effective the images are. Teachers can choose to use text or not to use it, as they have the best knowledge of their own specific teaching situation.


IMG_3568 IMG_3569

–       References:

Ben Goldstein’s blog at

Goldstein, B. (2008) Working with Images: A Resource Book for the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jolly, D., & Bolitho, R, (2011) The Process of Material Writing. In Tomlinson, B. (Ed), Materials development in language teaching (pp. 90-115). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Advantages of Using Visuals (images)

Advantages of Using Visuals (images)

‘The way we learn, and subsequently remember, bears a strong relationship to the way our senses operate. This means that we, as educators, cannot afford to ignore the fact that a very high proportion of all sensory learning is visual’ (Avgerinou & Ericson, 1997: p. 287). A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it can also hinder language learning. The result of looking at an image may differ from one person to another, because it depends on the perspective from which you look – your own perspective. All students look at images from different perspectives, and that is probably why perception affects learning. Previous studies have shown that there is a relationship between images and the acquisition of a foreign or second language. This is an important area of investigation for researchers and ESL/EFL teachers, so that they can study how images can be used as effective materials in the foreign or second language-learning field. Teachers should be able to identify the needs of their learners and the purpose behind using images in the classroom. They should choose images cautiously, as these are used to reflect a lesson’s complexity.

‘Input in various modalities is now being used in language teaching because multiple modalities are believed to improve language acquisition’ (Sydorenko, 2010: p. 50). The increased use of multimedia materials in language learning has led to teachers and educators expressing an interest in modality of input. This is in addition to the use of multimedia that allows learners to have exposure to the target culture, through authentic input, and motivates them by using a different learning style. Images are one example of using multimedia as an input for vocabulary learning.

–       Advantages of using images

Images can facilitate learning, as they can be more detailed, and can help students to predict information. Also, learners can try to analyse images, and a meaningful discussion can be created in the classroom as the learners express their ideas and opinions about the images. This is a way in which teachers can elicit information from students. The combination of images and text may encourage students to participate, and help them in the process of learning a foreign or second language. For example, Bookr offers this kind of combination.

Bookr is a great new tool for using images in classrooms, with text or without. It is a tool for creating online books using Flickr pictures, and that explains the name itself: Book and ‘r’. Bookr is an interesting web application, especially for Flickr users. The application was developed and created by the Pimpampum team, You can create your own virtual book from Flickr images in the Creative Commons content or from your own Flickr images, by using the search engine and tags. It is free for anybody to use, and there is no need to sign up to the website. In the next post I will talk about my personal experience with Bookr.

–       References:

Avgerinou, M., & Ericson, J. (1997): ‘A review of the concept of Visual Literacy’. British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 28, (4): 280-291.

Sydorenko, T. (2012) Modality of input and vocabulary acquisition. Language Learning and Technology 14. 2:50-73.