Using Cartoons to Work on Problem Solving Skills and Wh- Question Answering

Categories: Curriculum Ideas

I know I promised a multiple exemplar post and some more info on discrete trial! But I just don’t want to jip you on these vitally important (no sarcasm – seriously.) topics. I’ve got a lot to say. Once I get on a good data/ABA driven rant – lord knows it’s gonna be a while. So we’ll have to wait on that one! Another quickie (but goodie!) today. I realized this morning that my there-aren’t-enough-minute-in-the-day problem is really stemming from my inability to.get.out.of.bed. Ugh. The snooze button has become my best friend and let’s just say – we have gotten plenty of quality time lately. Gotta work on that…

I did something a little unconventional today. I let my kids watch tv. Gasp. I had a particularly difficult lunch time this afternoon. It seemed like preteen hormones were raging. And I’m not using ‘raging’ figuratively. So one particularly nasty pinch bruise and a few minutes of wrestling two students off each other later, needless to say I was not quite in the mood to run guided reading groups. In desperation for a few moments of solace, I scrolled through my coworker’s iPad and somehow landed up on ABC’s app. I told you – desperation. I noticed ABC had two Charlie Brown specials available on demand. I quickly clicked on the Thanksgiving special thinking this was the perfect excuse for a few minutes of well earned down time.

If you haven’t seen Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Special, the first few minutes lay out the scene of a typical Charlie Brown problem situation. He unintentionally agrees to let 3 friends come over for Thanksgiving but he is actually going to be at his grandma’s house so won’t be there. While half listening to the cartoon voices, my teacher wheels got a turning. Don’t you love how the best lessons come up on the fly sometimes? Ahh problem solving, making inferences, and wh- questions galore! I leapt at the pause button before the movie could continue!

With my reading group boys, we had a really conversation about the problem Charlie was in and what he should do to solve this issue. ‘Should’ is SUCH a hard question! It helped to write it out on the board:

I was really impressed with my kiddos. I think having the video helped to visualize the problem better than when we read or talk about these similar issues. Well duh – children with autism struggle with language so of course the visuals of the movie are going to help. My mind is racing now thinking of more ways to use this approach!

We talked about how Charlie’s friends would feel if they go to his house and he wasn’t there (‘They would be disappointed!’ said one of my cuties!). We talked about if that was good friend behavior, about why Charlie accidentally said yes, and about how Charlie should approach fixing this issue. We did lots of ‘who’ questions – who thinks they are coming to Charlie’s for Thanksgiving?, who’s house is Charlie going to?, who told the friends they could come over? etc. There were also a lot of opportunities for ‘Wheres’ and tons of ‘Whys’ (hardest one of all!). After talking about it a bunch and some practice answering plenty of questions, we did a mini writing activity. We wrote about what Charlie Brown should do in this situation and what would happen if he let his friends came over while he was gone. Great imaginative writing!

I am planning on rewatching the intro scene of Charlie Brown tomorrow during morning meeting and working on a longer writing assignment. I want to work on making some connections to real life with this scenario.

If you have an iPad – I highly recommend checking out Charlie Brown on the ABC and give this activity a whirl. I’m obviously beyond pleased with the results 🙂


  1. super impressive:) I love the random instruction. I sometimes have the same types of moments and think….wow…I couldn’t have planned that!

  2. Haha! I know, right? Gotta love impromptu lessons 🙂

  3. Hi. This is a great post, and I love using cartoons to help with WH questions and problem solving. I just noticed something at the start of your post you might not be aware of. You use the term “jip,” which is actually a hurtful term. It comes from the term “gypsy,” implying one who cheats, stereotyping the Romani (gypsy) people. I am sure it’s not intentional, but I wanted to make you aware so you can choose another, more respectful term. Thank you for the post.


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