Cartooning Your Way to Student Motivationby: Derek Sallis, Audrey C. Rule, and Ethan Jennings

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Unmotivated, underachieving students pose a huge challenge for teachers. One way to motivate and stimulate student interest in a topic is to use humor. Humor can help students make new connections in learning and improves retention of information (Garner 2006). In this article, the authors describe how they integrated art and literature with science to encourage curiosity through the exploration of rocks, crystals, and fossils; to fuel interest with science trade books; and to translate newly acquired science information into funny cartoons. The cartoon-making activities engage students while they learn Earth science concepts and develop their abilities to visualize and combine ideas in new ways.

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Reviews (10)
  • on Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:55 PM

Cartooning can provide motivation for even the most apprehensive of learners. The educator can provide the resources, give the objectives, and then stand back and serve as a guide on the side, while the scholars engage in drawings to explain scientific concepts and/or processes. I love it!

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:08 AM

Sallis, Rue and Jennings have created a unique approach to understanding science content by creating cartoons. Embedded in making these cartoons, students are required to demonstrate higher order thinking skills (analysis and synthesis) as well as support skills required for the 21st century such as communication and creativity. The approaches used by Sallis, et al allowed students to become engaged with the material and simultaneously access the students’ prior knowledge through the engagement. Sallis et al provide examples of students’ cartoons as well as a link to cartoon examples to help spark the students’ creativity in making their own cartoons. One of the most interesting parts of the authors’ work with these students is that they were conducting a remedial literacy class, not a science class. By allowing students to manipulate fossils, rocks, minerals, etc while reading a text, students were more eager to learn about the materials that they were handling. They found that the students were fully engaged in their reading and actually shared their knowledge from the texts with their peers. Sallis, Rue and Jennings have shared a wonderful technique in which to connect science content and literacy skills within under-achieving children; however, this technique would also be extremely useful for all children within different science courses.

Kathryn Kennedy  (Saint Paul, MN)
Kathryn Kennedy (Saint Paul, MN)

  • on Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:43 AM

Using nonlinguistic representations, like cartooning, helps students reinforce the concepts that they are learning. I like the guided nature of this activity. The teacher provides students with possible clip art and content vocabulary. Students create short cartoons that represent geologic concepts. Although this activity is designed for a middle school class, I could use it with my high school earth science class.

Ruth Hutson  (Westmoreland, KS)
Ruth Hutson (Westmoreland, KS)

  • on Fri Jan 14, 2011 9:35 AM

I marveled at the idea of cartooning in class. I knew it would be a great idea for motivating students. Authentic activities are excellent motivators for most low achievers. I have tried cartooning in my class as a choice of product but it is rare that someone will select it. I have used comics to engage my students in concepts. The boys really enjoyed my attempts but I had to have other activities for the rest of the students to select.

Nikki T
Nikki T

  • on Thu Dec 30, 2010 11:49 AM

I plan on using this in my classroom as a station activity. This is an excellent activity for students at all learning levels

LeRoy A
LeRoy A

  • on Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:21 AM

“Humor can help students make new connections in learning and improves retention of information (Garner 2006).” This article is an example of how art-reading and science can come together to produce an activity that engages students and fosters retention of information. An activity information sheet for the teacher is provided which explains the four components of this process and addresses the approach of this technique. The culminating activity is an original cartoon about science issues. This is a great way to engage the underachieving learner as well as create a successful formative assessment for the student.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Sun Oct 10, 2010 10:01 PM

This resource provides strategies for you to set-up and support your students in science cartooning. My MS students immediately connected with this activity and I utilized cartooning in an earth science assessment along with an assigned set of vocab words on the rock cycle.

Alyce Dalzell  (Peyton, CO)
Alyce Dalzell (Peyton, CO)

  • on Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:47 PM

In this article, the authors outline a detailed lesson that integrates literature, science, and art for the purpose of communicating science literacy. Citing research regarding analyzing, improving, and creating cartoons the authors demonstrate an increase in student achievement and student motivation. In this lesson, students begin with a hands-on investigation of interesting rock samples. After getting students excited about rocks, the teachers introduce books on various Earth science topics. Teachers then introduced the idea of making humorous cartoons by showing colorful and humorous examples of Earth science cartoons. Finally, students are encouraged to create their own humorous cartoons. As part of the article, the authors include a detailed activity sheet and they include information about the lessons correlation to the National Science Standards. This is an excellent article for increasing student motivation and a great idea for engaging students. I look forward to try

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

  • on Sun Oct 10, 2010 10:00 PM

This resource provides strategies for you to support your students in an easy and organized manner. My MS students immediately connected with this activity and I utilized cartooning in an earth science assessment along with an assigned set of vocab words on the rock cycle.

Alyce Dalzell  (Peyton, CO)
Alyce Dalzell (Peyton, CO)

  • on Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:35 PM

This is an easy-to-read article which describes how a sixth grade science class, studying rocks and minerals, used humor and cartooning to enhance the student's learning and subsequent academic achievement. They decided to use this approach to aid some of their reluctant learners to be more engaged in the learning process. By developing a lesson that begins with hands-on exploration of rocks and minerals, then giving the students access to a variety of print resources related to the topic, and finally giving them clip art backgrounds to develop cartoons to demonstrate their understanding of rocks and minerals. While I feel this is a nice approach to use with students and does capitalize on those who would enjoy this type of activity, I didn't feel the authors built the lesson as effectively as they might have to ensure the students mastered the science content indicators.

Dorian Janney  (Gaithersburg, MD)
Dorian Janney (Gaithersburg, MD)

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