Cartooning Activities: Sentence Mechanics

In an effort to continue promoting the integration of comics & cartooning in the curriculum, we will post lesson plans and activity ideas on this blog. Teachers will be free to use these lessons with their students. It’s our hope that teachers reading these posts will join the discussion here and share their own ideas and reflections about using comics in their curriculum.

Inspired by our book, Comics in Your Curriculum, Phil Amara recently used comics in his classroom. Here is a look at a lesson he created to do with his students. For all of you teachers out there, take a look at this. Try it out. And let us know your thoughts. Post your reflections, comments, and ideas here for other teachers to use.

(Please be aware that the material below is for classroom use only, and not for commercial use or sale.)

Phil Amara
3rd grader teacher, Guild School, East Boston, Boston Public Schools
Title: “Sentence Mechanics”
Grade level: Third
Curriculum Objective: SWBAT (Students will be able to) create their own story using whited-out lettering balloons and published comics strips.
Criteria: Students will use full sentences with capital letters and end punctuation. They may name a character recognized in the strip, such as Batman, and should use clues in the sequence of comic art to craft their story. But otherwise, the story should be their own.
Supplies: photocopies on 11 x 17 paper of black-and-white comic strips. Material can be three-panel newspaper style, or several pages of a comic book or manga, depending on time constraints and student proficiency level. Supply crayons if you wish to have students color material
Share out: Students will work briefly with peers for review, and then share their work after completion. Work is posted on wall of classroom and then students keep the material in their writing folder as a ‘fun’ reference of sentence mechanics to use for other assignments. you may also allow students to color the material.


What evidence did you find of the kids learning?
Students were motivated by their freedom to create their own stories without restraint. As long as they constructed complete sentences, and took clues from the art, the sky was the limit. The result was eager student work and that wonderful, subconscious, internalization of the criteria that all teachers desire.

How did the use of cartooning help or hinder this learning?
Helped because the criteria was embedded in a ‘fun’ project that linked to BPS (Boston Public Schools) standards, but the students didn’t know that.
What evidence did you find of the kids engagement?
Very engaged, vocal and excited to complete the work and show the work to peers and instructor.
How was the activity for you as a teacher?
Worked great, only challenge is copying and whiting-out the materials.
What would you do differently if you did this activity again?
Make the project longer, challenging students to keep their story going, like their chapter books.
What could you do as an extension of this activity?
Not sure about extension, but an option would be to scaffold it so that less and less information is provided in each panel. So, by the last panel, students are drawing the art and balloon as well as doing the writing. With the wealth of material available in comics form, especially in manga which is typically black and white, it’s fairly easy to connect the activity to science, social studies, what have you.

Try out Phil’s idea in your classroom. Make a variation of your own. Create your own ideas to try in the classroom. Then share them with your colleagues. This and future lesson plans will be saved under the “Activities” category.