There are many ways to use comic strips in speech-language therapy. One for instance is related to social skills. The technique called "Comic Strip Conversations" was developed by Carol Gray in 1991. In her book with the same title, she outlines how to use comic strips in therapy to discuss various social skills. You do not need to be an artist to use Comic Strip Conversations. Basic conversation symbols involved in this strategy include at least two people (it takes two to have a conversation) and a speech "talk" bubble.
Draw a person your conversation strip box in a situation. Then think about what the person is going to say. Speech bubbles can be different shapes to emphasize thought, talking, direction of speech, emotion, and loudness. Words in speech bubbles can be all capitals or bold for loud speech/yelling and small or italicized for quiet speech/whispering. In addition, various colors of text or within the speech bubble may help to visualize emotions of the speaker (for example, green would mean happiness and red would mean anger). Finally, write your text using appropriate size, shape, and color to help visualize and convey the message. Use multiple boxes to showcase what happened next in an event. Comic Strip Conversations can be used similarly to Social Stories in the fact that you can show how to act in certain social situations or they can be used to show an event that needs to be problem solved after it happened. For example, if a student throws a pencil on the floor and yells at his teacher that he does not want to do his work, a Comic Strip Conversation can be used to illustrate what happened. One image may show the student throwing the pencil on the floor and the teacher's expression on her face as sad or mad. The next box may show the teacher reprimanding the student verbally. The third box may show the student reacting to the teacher physically or verbally. Carol Gray states that when using a Comic Strip Conversation, to let the child lead the activity. Have the child give his or her perspective and state how the situation happened, have them help draw it or write it, and then discuss a different perspective such as the teacher's perspective or a classmate's perspective in a positive manner. Draw that out as well and end the Comic Strip Conversation showing what the student can do positively if the situation arises again. This was also a brief overview of Comic Strip Conversations, so definitely I recommend checking out Carol Gray's book for more information!
(An example of a Comic Strip Conversation with Spongebob characters from Illinois State University's website)
Comic Strips can definitely be used to tell a story. We have all seen these in the newspaper and book stores. They show visual representations of emotions/situations through words, artwork, facial expressions (sometimes exaggerated), and text. One way to use comic strips in speech-language therapy is to have students write their own comics! Make sure to tell them to have some characters, a problem/joke/event happening in the story, a sequence of events, and some dialogue. Then, have the students color it in and share their stories with their friends! This works on expressive language skills, emotions, and articulation/fluency/voice (if the students read it aloud). You can even have students write a comic using as many words with their speech sounds in the speech bubbles!
Use comic strips to discuss emotions, problem solving, and qualities of a character. Read a scene from a comic book and discuss the emotions of a character by looking at his or her facial expression as well as how he or she reacts verbally. Discuss how a problem can be solved or what a character should do differently. Finally, discuss qualities of the character using adjectives for his or her looks and personality. This is a great way to work on receptive language and social skills!
There are many resources for comic strips both online and app-wise. Two websites where you can create your own comic include Marvel's Create Your Own Comic and Make Beliefs Comix. Both resources are free to use and are interactive with clip art.
Another great website that has free printables, including some comic-strip related ones, is Sparklebox. Sparklebox is a great educational website that you can download thousands of images and resources from to print and use in your classroom. It is based in the UK, but you can download most of their worksheets/posters using American English words. Below are some images of their comic strip worksheets/banners.
Finally, some applications that I have found for creating cartoon comic strips include:
- ComicStrip - CS (iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad)
- Comic Creator (iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad)
- PhotoComic (iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad)
- Comic Book! (iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad)
- Comic Life (iPad)
- Comix Maker (Android)
- Comic Strip It! (Android)
- Storyboards (iPad)
- Cartoon Studio (iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad)