Comics Creation + [Insert Skill/Content Here] = Fun While Learning
Small groups of students giggle and talk together excitedly as they huddle around a computer. Their assignment is to create a cartoon strip of a conversation incorporating small talk phrases they have been practicing so they can learn the proper contexts in which to use them. They help one another navigating the Make Beliefs Comix web tool and using the phrases and writing sentences correctly. After, the groups do a gallery walk and visit one another’s computer stations, learning by seeing numerous examples of implementing the language they have been studying.
Make Beliefs Comix, a free online comic strip creator, has been around for a while. It has won recognition from education organizations for its ease of use and flexibility to fit with a wide variety of student populations and learning objectives.
Dozens of topics for prompts span a wide range of skill levels and content areas, from ‘About You’ to ‘Civil Rights’ to ‘Dream Seeds’ to ‘Sports’. Some example activities for prompts are:
1. As a low-key and humorous way to begin to delve into the concept of how point of view shapes the content and style of a text (College and Career Readiness Standard Anchor 6), hand out the following, found in the Animal Fun topic in the 350+ Printables section: Imagine you could read this cat’s mind. What’s it thinking about? and give a few example responses, such as, ‘I’d really love some fish right now,’ and ‘Why is she sitting in my sunny spot? I want to take a nap there.’ Invite a few students to come up with more responses, then have small groups fill in their handout. Collect all ideas generated, and share their responses with the whole class. Note them on the board in a column labeled ‘Cat’.
Elicit the concept of point of view by bringing out that students had to step into the shoes of the cat in order to come up with their responses. Give an example of what the person in the handout might be thinking, such as, ‘I’d love to pat you, but I’m not sure you’re in the mood.’ Invite the class to offer more possibilities, noting the responses in a column labeled ‘Person’.
Tell the class about your first day in a country, or invite a friend that immigrated to share his or her story in person, via webcam, or in a recording (in which case provide a photo if possible to help students feel closer). If needed, practice with your friend in advance so the language level is accessible to students.) Ask the class comprehension questions, such as, ‘What is this person’s name? Where did she/he come from? Where did she/he arrive in the United States? How did she/he feel?’ and other questions that fit the content as well as your class’ language level and interests. Have the account repeated if needed. Invite a few volunteers to share their stories, or the real or imagined experience of a friend, relative, or historical figure.
After, distribute the image above, found in the ESOL Comix Strip Starters menu within the ESOL/Literacy section: What was your first day in the United States like? Give students the option to talk in pairs first, and choices as to how they wish to respond, such as in writing using the handout, talking into their phone’s voice recorder, or creating a picture on the handout or digitally. This could be a springboard to projects such as listing common issues and supports and creating a print or video resource for other immigrants shared via the web or the local community cable station.
- Several characters are a bit silly, which some students will find fun while others may find a bit childish.
- The comic creator is available in Spanish, and the app store offers a free version and a paid version that is ad-free. In both the online and app versions, comics can be saved, emailed, and printed (if the mobile device has that functionality). Periodically, the site author adds resources.
Video tutorials showing how to use the site:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJu4rUQ0T74 (English, aimed at educators)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkGANfT9oqU (Spanish)
We all know that having fun and creating are important ingredients for learning, and Make Beliefs Comix fits the bill.
Have you tried this in your class? Let us know about your activity in the comments!
Tech Tips for Teachers