How to Successfully Integrate the Multi-modal Learning in English Classes Using Comics

– Author: Magdalena-Simona Trușcan, EFL teacher at ‘Mihai Bacescu’ Technical College Falticeni, Romania –

The present paper aims at highlighting the benefits of using multimodal learning in English classes based on comics as teaching aids. Why choosing comics? One plausible explanation is offered by Deb (2016), who states that ‘using comic materials in a communicative language classroom has many benefits such as low students anxiety, spontaneous participation of students, better verbal and written communication skills, improved retention, increased joy of learning, and a more congenial classroom atmosphere’.

A first step forward is to talk about the many existing definitions or assumptions allotted to multimodality and how language teachers can make the most of this domain in the classroom. The collection of definitions from different sources refer to multimodal literacy as the way people become literate in creating or understanding a written text through different modes which ‘include speech, gesture, written language, music, mathematical notation, drawings, photographic images, or moving digital images’ (Mills & Unsworth, 2017). Considering that social networking and communication changed the way we perceive the world around us, why not take advantage of all these meaning-making resources and integrate them into the classroom environment to enhance our students’ linguistic skills and competences?

Another step forward has been made in this respect by the research work of the EdComix consortium in the Erasmus+ project[1] which offers English teachers, trainers and educators practical guides to support learning by creating and using comics for pedagogical learning needs in the English class. Within the comic genre, it is the graphic and the linguistic elements which stand for inseparable key elements when approaching a multimodal theory. To be more specific, according to numerous semiotic and linguistic analyses, comics do possess such ‘super powers’ as they make use of a whole arsenal to convey meaning: various framing displays, text, drawings, dialogue, posture, emotions, noise, colour. All these elements coexist and confer meaning as a ‘multimodal ensemble’ (Kress, 2010, p. 28).

Creatively integrating multi-modality through comics in our language classes has numerous benefits, for the simple fact that students have different learning needs, as well, which pertain to different modes: written, spoken, visual, audio, spatial and gestural. Consequently, comics – either paper-based or digital – offer learners a suitable environment to develop a large palette of skills and competences using various senses. Furthermore, the narrative thread and the way people, objects and places are represented in comics connect the students with the real world by reflecting social experiences from which they can derive meaning and form personal assumptions.

Now, the reasonable question would be: How do I use multi-modal information to enhance my students’ learning? The answer is closer and more convenient than one might think. As a teacher, establish first the learning objectives settled according to your class needs. It is presumed you already know the language level of your students, hence in tailoring your lesson you need to know what kind of information you are going to deliver to your students, how you are supposed to do this and which materials and resources can sustain active participation in the lesson.

For a multi-modal learning based on comics, a whole range of already existing printed or digital comic strips or pages are waiting to be part of the educational process, on condition that they are thoroughly examined by the teacher in order to determine class appropriateness. Although these ready-made materials are accessible and their content matches the topic of the lesson you want to teach, the vernacular vocabulary together with slang or the complexity of syntax requesting for additional effort to explain it may discourage the teacher from using them. In this respect, the EdComix project members have designed lessons and digital comic strips created for various learning purposes, aiming at offering English teachers and trainers an innovative tool and encouraging them through training guides to create their own comic strips or pages for their classes. Moreover, the content of each language scenario is adapted for learners with special needs and allows flexibility through diversified topics relying on students’ interests and preoccupations.

The enclosing definition offered by the Harvard psychologist and educator Lazear (2008) highlights the role played by multimodality in learning: ‘In a nutshell it means that the more different ways you learn something the more you will really learn it! The more different ways you learn something, the more you will remember it! The more different ways you learn something, the more you will genuinely understand it!’ Engage your students’ senses by inviting them to become active participants in the educational scenario. Do not be afraid to change or leave the beaten path if the learning methods do not cope with the challenges in the classroom. Play, laugh, have fun with your students and learn side by side. Frankly speaking, you will be thrilled to see how many things they know about the surrounding world through comics!

[1] The EdComix project aims to create a methodology to make the most of comics as a pedagogical tool for inclusive English language learning, and to provide teachers and students with the tools to create their own comic pages for innovative pedagogy. This project (2019-1-FR01-KA201-062855) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. More about the intellectual products of the project can be consulted following the guiding material at the project address.



Deb, P. K. (2016). Comics as a means of humor and minimizing classroom anxiety. IUP Journal of English Studies, 11(1), March, 66. Retrieved from: English Studies Journal | Comics as a Means of Humor and Minimizing Classroom Anxiety (

Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. London: Routledge.

Lazear, D (2008). “Multi-Modal” Learning. A Different Kind of Smart! A Different Kind of Learning! The David Lazear Group and New Dimensions Press. Retrieved from: Multi-Modal Learning David Lazear (

Mills, Kathy A. and Unsworth, Len ( 2017). Multimodal Literacy. Education. Oxford University Press, 2021. Retrieved from:

Multimodal Literacy | Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education

Pictures used: personal archive

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