Comics – a powerful tool for reading, writing and oral communication [with Marie-Hélène Marcoux]

**Article originally published in French.**

Comic strips: an attractive learning resource

Over the past 20 years, children’s comics have really taken off in Canada. Considered a “medium” that encompasses several genres, comics are literary works in the same way as novels and albums. This is a brief summary of the discussion that took place during our virtual workshop, Comics in primary school – a powerful tool for reading, writing and oral communication, led by Marie-Hélène Marcoux on April 25, 2023.

Collaborative reading: three types of activity

Collaborative reading is a discussion led by a facilitator and readers as they read, based on questions given orally (Beck and McKeown, 2003). According to the research, such an approach seems to motivate students more, and gives them more power over their reading by making them actors in it. Students develop a wide range of cross-curricular skills: critical thinking, the ability to analyze and argue, but they also hone their social skills by learning to exchange ideas, to name but a few!

“In a large group, we have access to all the students’ systems of representation.
It’s much richer than if I stay in my place alone! ”

marie-hélène marcoux

Author’s questioning activity

Objective: understand what the author means

This is a group reading session in which the teacher guides the students, drawing their attention to specific elements that affect the author’s choices.

We examine textual language (choice of words, meaning, etc.): what’s the cartoonist trying to tell us? What do we need to imagine to find what’s missing? … but also graphic language (drawing, color, point of view, etc.): why did the cartoonist use this kind of box? What does this sign of movement mean?

Text questioning activity

Objective: make comprehension processes observable

After a group reading session, we discuss our understanding of the text. With their books closed, the youngsters try to answer the questions posed by the adult moderating the discussion. The three-column table is completed as you go along. Then we return to the comic to confirm or refute the hypotheses made by the group.

We agree We don’t quite agree We don’t know
e.g. relationship between such and such a character   

Collaborative reasoning

Objective: observe students for future interventions

This session questions the students during and after the reading around a question or tension raised by the text itself.

Marie-Hélène Marcoux’s advice: choose questions in advance, expect to have to ask others, follow readers as they explain their ideas, value and analyze mistakes as a group.

Writing workshops and mini-lessons

During the workshop, Marie-Hélène Marcoux suggests planning a writing workshop in three stages (50 minutes): learning, writing and sharing. In two books published by Chenelière, she suggests playful workshops based on Quebecois comics, and guides teachers step by step in their planning. Inspiration for your sessions…

Looking for reading ideas?

Over the course of the workshop, many suggestions for reading for young people and teens emerged.

About Marie-Hélène Marcoux, author, trainer and consultant.

After teaching at primary and secondary levels, Marie-Hélène was a pedagogical consultant for over 10 years. Today, she is an educational trainer and consultant, and a lecturer at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. She is also the author of La BD au secondaire and La BD au primaire, both published by Chenelière Éducation. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Fédération internationale des professeurs de français (FIPF) and was present and vice-president of the Association québécoise des professeurs de français (AQPF) from 2010 to 2018. As a teacher, reading is at the heart of her preoccupations, and as a literary scholar, comics are one of her passions, which she wishes to use to promote the pleasure of reading among children and teenagers.

Workshop summary written by Alison Cattani-Nardelli