Cartoons are available at numerous sites on the web. You should check your local copyright status and the the copyright notices on the site before using them in class. Some of these sites include material specifically for use in class.
Some ideas for using cartoons in class are included in our article: Create a topical class.
The following sites are searchable:
- Political cartoons USA Includes material for teachers
- Cartoonstock UK
- About.com Political humour
- The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists Includes material for teachers
More cartoon sites can be found at Cartoon Archives.
Fill in the blanks
- Find a short cartoon whose context and narrative is clear from the drawing(s) alone.
- Blank out the dialogue, and present it to the class.
- The students write the missing dialogue.
- The students compare their version with the original.
- The teacher presents (a) cartoon frame(s) with the images blanked out but with all dialogues and/or captions intact.
- After explaining/checking understanding of any difficult language within the text, the teacher instructs the students to sketch what they imagine the original picture to be.
- The teacher monitors, checking that the sketches are "on topic".
- The students compare their ideas with the original version, when any misunderstandings of the text will become apparent and can be highlighted.
Cartoons often contain clear contexts in as little as one frame, so they are ideal for presenting new language to a class.
- Short cartoons with dialogues are presented to the class.
- A gist then detailed/specific information reading task is set with feedback to check comprehension.
- The teacher guides the students to discover a grammatical structure or lexical item within the cartoon dialogues.
- Presentation or practice of the language folllows.
The instant contexts generated in cartoons, especially those found in the works of Gary Larson, also provide excellent opportunity for controlled grammar practice. Grammatical structures such as the present simple, present continuous, present perfect, present perfect continuous, past simple, past contiuous, future with "going to" or "will", future perfect, future continuous and conditionals.
- The teacher selects a short cartoon of one to three frames such as this one (net search: "Gary Larson cartoon anthropologists"), .
- Note: careful selection of the cartoon is important.
- The cartoon is presented to the class, who complete comprehension tasks.
- The teacher instructs students to write sentences commenting on the cartoon in the designated grammar structure. For example, using the above cartoon (see link) we can produce the following comments in the grammatical structures listed above:
- "The indians live in a hut"
- "The anthropologists are getting out of their canoe"
- "The anthropologists have brought a notepad"
- "The indians have been watching TV"
- "The indians decided to become modern a long time ago"
- "One hour ago the anthropologists were trying to find the village"
- "The anthropologists are going to study the indians"
- "The anthropologists won`t find the TV"
- "By this time next week, the indians will have reconnected their telephone"
- "In one month`s time, the anthropologists will be writing a book about the indians` culture"
- "If the indians aren`t quick, the anthropologists will see their luxury items"
An up-to-date political or controversial cartoon, cut out of a daily newspaper, can provide the necessary stimulus to get a class debate or discussion going. If the cartoon is found in the students` native language, then a preliminary task for the class might be to corectly translate any text found therein.