Teaching students to read between the lines can seem quite daunting, but one of the more accessible ways of doing this is by giving students comic strips and asking them to explain the joke in the strip. Mostly, students will be engaged and interested in reading comic strips and each of these inference activities is short and accessible.
As a general rule, the joke of a comic strip is in the final scene and we understand the joke because of a range of clues we are given in the first few scenes. Trying to explain a joke requires students to understand why the joke is funny and to make inferences from the clues in the earlier scenes of the strip.
Let’s have a look at two examples:
Students should read through this “Zits” comic strip and then answer the questions below:
- What does the last scene tell you about how Pierce got into the house?
- How does Mrs D react to Pierce in the first scene and why do you think she has this reaction?
We’re teaching students to follow a basic inference thinking routine of:
- What is the result?
- How did the written piece do this?
Let’s look at an example for a different comic:
- What is Garfield’s reaction to John in the first two scenes?
- How does Garfield react to John in the last scene and why is it different from the others?
In any inference activity, students are looking at individual pieces of information (like they get in each of the scenes in a comic strip) and then putting them together to make the “whole story”. Of course, some students won’t need the first question to help them out. You could start this activity by just giving students question two, and then giving struggling students the first questions as a hint.
To do this activity in your own classroom, you need to ask students to explain the joke in the final scene of a comic strip and then, for the struggling students, provide questions that direct their attention to the details in the earlier scenes.
You can find more comic strips online at a site like this one: https://comics.azcentral.com/ – it has new comics every day. Or, you can do a simple Google image search to find your own favourite comics.
For lots more ideas on teaching inference, come to our online reading workshop next week.