Cartoons - are the secret weapon for learning English

XII Международный конкурс научно-исследовательских и творческих работ учащихся
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Cartoons - are the secret weapon for learning English

Арбузова М.А. 1
1Муниципальное бюджетное общеобразовательное учреждение города Новосибирска «Лицей № 12»
Овчинникова Ю.Н. 1Григораш С.М. 1
1Муниципальное бюджетное общеобразовательное учреждение города Новосибирска «Лицей № 12»
Автор работы награжден дипломом победителя II степени
Текст работы размещён без изображений и формул.
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The English language has become more dominant around the world, and it is becoming the language in the field of education as a means of learning and scientific research, of international business, diplomacy, and professions. Moreover, it is the language of modern daily life interaction. In addition, it is the language which is mostly used in tourism, travel, science and technology.

To speak English fluently you need to know a lot of words, expressions, idioms, etc. So, vocabulary is the most important factor in academic achievement for foreign language learners. Without vocabulary building, it is difficult to study grammar, speaking, listening, writing etc.

At a time when the issue of distance learning is more relevant than ever, the fast-moving technology provides people in the area of education with unlimited opportunities. Computers have potential advantages to both the teachers and the students. Learning with computers can be one of the effective ways to help students in the English language learning process. Animation is considered as one small part of the computer revolution which is a very important part of high technology. With the help of innovative methods and materials that multimedia

provide, language learning environments can be more colorful, motivating, challenging and at the same time more supportive for students in the process of learning.

We have made a suggestion that cartoons can have a great impact on children English learning motivation and help them learn and remember new vocabulary faster and more effectively.

The object of our research work is educational animated cartoons and the subject is the advantages and benefits of using them in the English learning process.

The aim of the work is to investigate the effectiveness of using educational animated cartoons in English language vocabulary learning.

We pursued the following objectives:

to study the history of animation and different types of animated cartoons;

to identify positive and negative factors of animated cartoons’ influence on the health, behavior and intellectual development of schoolchildren;

to conduct a survey in order to find out the most preferable cartoons and their heroes among our classmates;

to carry out an experiment in order to determine if there are statistically significant differences in the post-test results between the mean scores of students who learn vocabulary through animated cartoons and those who learn vocabulary through the traditional method;

to create our own cartoon to show the benefits of using them.

In our research work we have found out the advantages and disadvantages of using educational animated cartoons for learning purposes, created several cartoons of different types, analyzed obtained results of the experiment, made appropriate conclusions.

The main research methods were collection, analysis, generalization and systematization of information.

A Brief History of Animation and its Major Types

If we look up the word “animated cartoon” in Merriam Webster’s Intermediate dictionary, we will be given the following definition: a movie that is made from a series of drawings, computer graphics, or photographs of inanimate objects (as puppets) and that gives the appearance of motion by small changes in each frame [Merriam Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary, 2011:15]. To “animate” means literally “to give life to”. “Animating” is moving something, which cannot move by itself [Collins English Dictionary, 2014:13]. It is an optical illusion of motion due to the phenomenon of persistence of vision, and can be created and demonstrated in a number of ways.

Animation history draws back to1880s.

In 1887 a man named H.W. Goodwin invented a celluloid film which could hold images. It was made of gum cotton and gum camphor.

In 1892 a man in France named Emil Reynaud opened a theatre using an invention called the Praxinoscope. It used turning mirrors to reflect images and produce a 10 to 15 minute “moving picture”.

In 1893 using the celluloid film developed by H.W. Goodwin, Edison was able to produce moving film pictures on the wall. The film moved over a series of wheels to produce the pictures.

In 1908 a Frenchman named Emile Cohl produced a film called “Fantasmagorie”. It was a hit, and is known today as the first true animated film.

In 1922 twenty-year-old Walt Disney began his first animation film studio called Laugh-O-Grams. It failed after only a short time but he did not give up on making animated films.

In 1928 Walt Disney released a short film called Steamboat Willie featuring Mickey Mouse and using sound for the first time, and it was an instant hit.

In 1932 Walt Disney developed the use of 3-strip Technicolor animation.

In 1935, Len Lye created a method of painting directly on film strips; he used it in his animated film "Color Box".

In 1972 at the University of Utah, a man named Ed Catmull developed a method of creating computer generated movies. It used scripting language.

In 1993 Apple computer company produced a method for creating 3-D films, and in 1995 Toy Story was released as the first full-length 3-D film. The animation industry would never be the same [URL].

Animation has certainly come a long way in the decades since its debut in the early 1900s. The techniques used by animators to bring characters and stories to life have improved immeasurably over the years. There are different types of animation, but we will mention only three major ones: traditional, stop-motion, and computer. The differences between them are significant.

Traditional animation (or classical animationcel animation or hand-drawn animation) is an animation technique where each frame is drawn by hand.

Stop motion is an animation technique that physically manipulates an object so that it appears to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a fast sequence. Dolls with movable joints or clay figures are often used in stop motion for their ease of repositioning. Stop motion animation using plasticine is called clay animation or "clay-mation". Not all stop motion requires figures or models; many stop motion films can involve using humans, household appliances and other things for comedic effect [Bolgert, 2012:3].

Computer animation means the digital pictures, which can be digitally created. It focuses on manipulation of images in which characters and objects move and interact.

2. The Pros and Cons of Using Cartoons for Educational Purposes

Cartoons are mainly meant for kids. They were previously meant for the purpose of entertainment only. But these days’ cartoons are being extensively used for other purposes as well. They are being used for education and spreading awareness amongst the people in addition to fun and entertainment.

Cartoons have been abundantly used as a teaching aid for a very long time. They have made learning an easier and a better experience for the students. The new generation of children wants to scrutinize almost everything, so they need new techniques for teaching and learning. Multimedia have the ability of capturing the attention of a generation who has grown up with technology. It plays an increasing role in their lives and education. Cartoons snatch attention. Kids always want to enjoy each and every moment. They want to sense fun and humour all the time around them. And it is human nature to correlate cartoons with fun and humour.

Using animated cartoons opens up practical possibilities more than static pictures. Here are just a few advantages of working with animation:

Cartoons lead to a superior understanding. There are many topics which cannot be theoretically understood. They need practical experiences or real life examples. Instead of just writing an example it will be great if it is expressed in the form of a cartoon which will gain concentration of the student and will lead to a better comprehension.

Cartoon can develop public speaking. Cartoons have a lot of characters in them with different individual dialogues. Performing a play will boost the student’s confidence. The students will get a chance to speak or perform in front of the whole class. It will enhance their speaking skills. It is beneficial for the rest of the students as well because they will understand the story in a better way. It will be like a fun session for everyone.

Cartoons are an effective way to learn moral values and good manners. By showing a cartoon video or movie the students can learn how to handle different situations. How to keep up the friendship, differentiating between right and wrong, how to behave in front of others, how to follow own dreams, etc.

Cartoons are a great tool for primary young learners. They can be taught nursery rhymes, alphabetical order, counting series or even physical exercises using cartoons.

Cartoons can make children artists. Cartoons can develop an artistic mind in the students. If a student is told to draw a cartoon character from their own imagination they will show an amazing creation. This will also help in their brain developments as they will have to think how to form dialogues from their story and what kind of cartoon will suit their character.

Cartoons can enhance thinking skills. There are simple cartoon images which have no words or text. They require critical thinking level to interpret what the cartoon is saying.

Cartoons can improve vocabulary. While watching cartoon movies, children can learn a lot of new words. They can learn their meaning and how to use them in sentences. They may also be able to learn how the voice tones or gesture can change the meaning of the whole sentences. They may also learn what words to use on what occasions. The teacher through using animation films introduces the new vocabulary through defining them with objects, pictures and events. Thus, students acquire the new vocabulary and the language by linking them to objects and events from the real world around them.

Using animation films helps students to develop listening, speaking and reading skills. This strategy provides an environment with native speakers, real texts and thousands of real- life images. Furthermore, learning outside the traditional room using technologies like animations and movies through computers encourage students to learn [Собкин, 2006:73].

Although the use of animated cartoons has many pros there are some cons that can’t be ignored.

Every parent thinks that watching too many cartoons can affect their child’s health. It may affect his eyes or his brain development.It is obvious that there is nothing good in sitting all day in front of the TV, watching cartoons. This can only weaken kids’ eye sight, or may lead to spine curvature disorders.

Lack of physical activity also creates problems with obesity.

Furthermore, many experts stress negative impact of cartoons on speech development of children by the age of three. Psychologists claim that watching cartoons is a passive activity in which there is no interaction required for proper speech development.

It is also thought that if a child watch cartoons he will start to behave like a cartoon hero.While watching cartoons, children often identify themselves with the characters. However, the problem is that these characters are usually inappropriate for any identification, since they are too aggressive, or have supernatural powers: they can fly, shoot spider web from the wrist, jump from the top of a skyscraper on the buildings nearby, throw a lightning bolt, run faster than the wind, fall from the 10th floor and stay unharmed, beat 15 criminals single-handedly, and similar. These aggressive characters may easily turn into role models [Terehova, 2007:304].

Opinion Survey Results

According to the aim and objectives set in our research work we conducted a survey among the parents of our class and asked them the following questions:

How much time does your child usually spend watching cartoons?

a) half an hour a day

b) from one hour to one hour and a half a day

c) two hours and more

Do you think watching cartoons can affect your child’s health?

Do you agree that watching cartoons for a long time can have a great influence on child’s behavior?

Besides, we asked them to explain their point of view.

Analyzing the answers we realized that 80% of surveyed parents don’t let their children spend more than one hour and a half a day watching cartoons because it will definitely influences their health. But they think that a right amount of time spent on cartoons will help in child’s development and education. Moreover, most of the parents are sure that watching cartoons for half or one hour will not have much effect on child’s behavior. This also depends on the type of cartoon the child is watching. If the cartoon character behaves positively in his role it will have a good effect on the child (see Appendix 1).


What is more, we conducted a survey among the pupils of the fourth grade in order to find out the most preferable English cartoons and cartoon heroes. The most popular cartoons were “Muzzy in Gondoland”, “Gravity Falls”, “Teen Titans”, “Adventure Time” and “Magic English”.

“Disney Magic English” is a fun way for children to learn the English language along with their favourite Disney characters. The interactive lessons bring educational adventures to life with stories, songs, and games. “Muzzy in Gondoland” is an animated film first created by the BBC in 1986 as a way of teaching English as a second language. They are both aimed to make children familiar with British culture, enhance their knowledge of the English language, help enrich their vocabulary and improve listening comprehension.

“Gravity Falls” is an American animated television series created by Alex Hirsch and Disney Television Animation for the Disney Channel and Disney XD.

The action takes place in the summer in the fictional town of Gravity Falls in Oregon, where the twins Dipper and Mabel Pines go on vacation to their great-uncle Stan, who owns a souvenir shop - "tourist trap". At first, the heroes are bored, but soon they discover that something supernatural is happening in the city. Dipper accidentally finds a diary number three in the forest, the author of which is unknown. It details the anomalies of Gravity Falls. Dipper immediately decides to learn the secrets of a strange town and find the author of the diary, but at every step Dipper and Mabel are in danger. The surroundings of Gravity Falls are full of mysterious places, anomalies and strange creatures.

“Adventure Time” is about a young boy and his dog. The show includes many adventurous trips undertaken by the boy along with his faithful companion in the magic land. During their trips they come across with monsters and are made to fight with them. This cartoon series upholds the value of true friendship.

The children who watch cartoons online are thrilled when they come across with young superheroes. “Teen Titans” depicts superheroes who are teenagers. It is a very interesting program since the episodes are full of actions. The theme is the superhero has to fight with bad guys who are trying various methods to destroy the world. The show also carries messages of friendship and relationship. The dialogue in this series is very natural and the language is simple so that children can understand easily and develop their oral communication skills.

Experiment Results

It is undeniable that vocabulary plays a very important role in language learning. It is hard to master the four language skills without mastering or understanding a number of vocabulary because it is fundamental in language learning. There are two kinds of vocabulary: active vocabulary and passive vocabulary. Active vocabulary refers to the words the students understand, can pronounce correctly and use them constructively in speaking and writing. On the other hand, passive vocabulary refers to the words, which the students can recognize and understand while they are listening to someone speaking, but they do not use them in speaking or writing.

There are various ways to teach and learn English vocabulary, in which using visual aids, especially movies or animated pictures, is considered one of the most useful and effective ways.

We decided to carry out an experiment in order to determine if there are statistically significant differences in the post-test results between the mean scores of students who learn vocabulary through animated cartoons and those who learn vocabulary through the traditional method. Our class is divided into two English groups. The first group uses only student’s books, workbooks and class CD for learning and practicing new words and expressions at their lessons, while the second one prefers working with animated cartoons as well.

For our experiment we have chosen the topic “Food and cooking” given in one of the modules in our student’s book “Spotlight 4”. We found there twenty-seven words on the topic (lemon, beans, mango, butter, coconut, flour, pineapple, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper, tomato, rice, bread, eggs, cheese, juice, potato, biscuit, pizza, bar, kilo, jar, packet, carton, bottle, tin).

The pupils of the first group did all reading and writing tasks, made a project “My favourite dish”, learnt new words and wrote a spelling test.

The pupils of the second group with their teacher did the same tasks but they also decided to watch and work with a series of an educational course for children “Disney Magic English” called “Cooking. It’s delicious”. It is a firework of scenes familiar to kids from Disney cartoons with simple English dialogues and explanations, songs that need to be learned and sung, and interactive tasks. The series offers more than forty new words and expressions on the topic (to be hungry, to be thirsty, to make a sandwich/soup, it tastes delicious, it looks good, it smells fantastic, to be ready, mix together, in the oven, it’s fun to eat/to cook, etc.) including those we have in our student’s book. They watched a cartoon, learnt and sang two songs, reproduced the dialogues between the main cartoon heroes and made their own ones.

In order to check all the students’ knowledge after the topic had been studied we created a video quiz (see Appendix 2), offered it to our classmates and received the following results: 90% of the students from the second group coped with the task excellently; the rest of them had only a few errors. Besides, they noticed that they remembered new words much easily working with cartoons and had a great pleasure. However, only 50% of the pupils from the first group managed to do the quiz without mistakes. Half of their group has never heard and used some of the words and expressions on the topic (see Appendix 3).


(Print screen from video)


To make our work complete and to prove the advantages of using animated cartoons during the lessons of English we have created our own cartoon based on a famous rhyme “Nonsense Alphabet” written by Edward Lear. The cartoon was used to help students of the second grade to memorize the English alphabet and enrich their vocabulary with a lot of new words and students of the fourth grade to get acquainted with Edward Lear’s poetry (see Appendix 4).

APPENDIX 4 (Print screen from video)


So we came to the following conclusions.

Though there are some cons of using animated cartoons that cannot be ignored, there are a great number of benefits.

Using educational animated cartoons in order to enlarge vocabulary and to memorize new words and expressions quickly has superiority over the traditional method in learning English language vocabulary.

Using educational animated cartoons adds variety to the range of learning

situations and provides students with a better learning environment which reflects on their achievement in English language vocabulary.

From our point of view, educational animated cartoons cannot only grab students’ attention but they can also teach them a lot of new things. From pre-school to junior classes, cartoons play a very important role. Instead of creating a stressed and monotonous atmosphere they create a relad and enjoyable atmosphere.


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