Collaboratively adapting graded readers into comic strips

Robert James Lowe, Matthew W. Turner, Rikkyo University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Direct and reported speech, comics, graded readers, collaboration
  • Learner English level: Pre-intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: High school and above
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Activity time: 1-2 hours 
  • Materials: Graded readers, writing and drawing materials, comic strip caption template, handout containing questions 


In EFL classes, reading is often a passive activity in which students practice skimming and scanning techniques before answering some questions to check their comprehension. More active approaches to reading may involve discussion questions about a text, writing a new ending to a story, and so on. The activity here presents a new way for learners to process a text and demonstrate their comprehension. Through the use of graded readers and subsequent production of short comic strip captions, learners are encouraged to actively transfer information from one source to another in an engaging and creative way. When the activity is done with a whole class, these abilities can be extended to the collaborative adaptation of an entire book. This activity assumes and utilizes the students’ knowledge of certain grammar forms, such as direct and reported speech, and could be positioned towards the end of a reading skills course. 



Step 1: Find a suitable graded reader in accordance with your students’ level. It should be short and contain only a few concise chapters, each a few pages long with the language level reflecting the ability of your students.

Step 2: Make enough photocopies for small group work. For example, one chapter can be shared between two or three students. If students have access to their own copies, encourage students to use them. Consider any copyright infringements before making photocopies.    

Step 3: Put together a worksheet containing a series of blank captions in the style of a comic book (see Appendix A). 



Step 1: Arrange students into small groups, ideally one group for each chapter in the graded reader depending on class numbers and practicalities. Randomly assign each group a chapter or two from the book. Label each group with a letter (A, B, C, etc.) making sure these are random and unrelated to the order of their corresponding chapters.

Step 2: Instruct students to read the chapter(s) from the graded reader and make notes about key plot points, characters, dialogue, and so on. Allow ample time to record and plan the necessary information.

Step 3: Bring students together and show them the blank comic strip template (see Appendix A). Encourage students to transfer their notes to the blank comic strips provided using the compiled notes on their chapter(s). Monitor their progress.

Step 4: Allow students enough time to finish the language transfer. Any unfinished images can be left for homework. 

Step 5: At this stage, students still won’t know the correct order of the entire narrative. Hand out a series of questions to the group (see Appendix B) and instruct students to exchange information about their chapters. 

Step 6: Elicit from students the agreed order of the narrative by getting everyone to stand in a line holding their comic strips. Correct as necessary. 



For an advanced class or writing-orientated class, this activity can be reversed, with the students adapting a comic strip into a narrative. 



This activity helps students engage with a text on several levels. Not only will they have to understand the narrative and characters, but also have to understand direct and reported dialogue in order to change one into the other. In addition, they will be encouraged to focus on the descriptive language in the text to produce visual depictions of scenes. This activity can stimulate the learning of new vocabulary, challenge learners’ comprehension of the text on a deeper level than is often required, and engage them in practicing the transfer of dialogue from direct to reported speech. The students will leave the class with a piece of work they can be proud of collectively.



The appendices are available below.