Show me any teenager, no matter their nationality, who doesn't know the Simpsons. That is why, when I started my summer remedial support program, I thought of using their comics as a way to outreach students and make them see the brilliance of reading through comedy and quality life lessons. So, having found some nice pdf versions of some comics I shared them on the students' Edmodo classroom and assigned them to read the first story, which is only 14 pages long. It had an instant effect and the students responded favourably instead of the normal moans and groans associated with summer reading.
The easiness of producing questions for such stories cannot be understated. You can type up fifteen to twenty questions in no time at all. That is becasue I suggest producing surface comprehension questions. You should focus on the surface nature of the narrative, and that way, at the very least, you can undwerstand if the students have read the stories or not. The students don't want to be bogged down with seriously thought-provoking teasers during their summer holidays down by the pool. Getting the to read in the target language at all means you have succeeded somewhat.
Apart from the students just simply enjoying the story of Homer
and his family of rather adorable characters, you can get the students to pick up on new vocabulary items along the way. Once they find some, they can then find the meanings and write sentences or mini paragraphs to show that they have understood what they mean and how best to use them in written English.
I went into the comic first and looked for the words I thought the students might not have seen before. This way I can check once they all respond on Edmodo with their sentences or mini paragraphs to see they have found them all. The list is below
I always keep an answer key on my google drive so that I have instant access to the information for either feedback day or when we return to class. Since the advent of google drive I have made this a must-do thing for myself, and it has meant a lot leass time spent faffing around looking for answers to questions you maybe made three months earlier. I thank my colleague Brentson for convincing me of overly planning each unit we prepare, and providing ourselves with these real time answer keys.
The final part of the activity is to make a quiz based on the questions you found when you were reading through the comic. As I wrote earlier the majority of the questions are surface from the narrative just to keep the students aware they are being monitored for their summer school work. I will throw in perhaps a teaser that also gets them to think more about the theme or storyline, but it is just to vary the question type. Nothing too heavy. In this quiz that question was basically testing whether the students could work out that the Simpsons creators like to have a wee social commentary going on in the sub text.
This image is from Edmodo Quiz feature, and it is set up as short response questions. I prefer those to multi-choice or T/F for reading, since students tend to guess and don't read properly if you chose the latter two types. It also gets the EFL students to practice using the proper syntax in their answers.
Once they have done the quiz and had feedback of right or wrong and why, I get the students to write a wee testimony saying whether they liked the comic or not, and hopefully why. The last part is more difficult to get them to do in the summer, but it is always nice to see what they think anyway, if they write one.
So, all in all the experiment was good, and I will be adding more comics for the students to work on. It is refreshing for them and a lot less tedious than heavy-laden prose for them to try and read in the summer holidays. I wish you luck should you want to try this idea also with your own students...there are links to the materials below this image