LESSON PLANS FOR USING MAKEBELIEFSCOMIX.COM IN THE CLASSROOM
Here are ways some educators use MakeBeliefsComix.com in the classroom. We invite teachers and parents to share your own lesson plans for using our educational resource to teach literacy and reading, English and other languages, as well as other subjects. You can send them via our contact page -- http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Feedback -- or to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please include your full name, grade, school and town.) For each lesson posted, we will send you a copy of Bill Zimmerman’s book, MakeBeliefs: A Gift for Your Imagination.
HELPING STUDENTS UNDERSTAND LITERATURE AND WRITING
Activity 1: Comics Conference Primers
Crafted by James Bucky Carter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English Education, University of Texas at El Paso
Rationale: Many teachers, especially those using elements of the workshop approach, like to conference with their students to check in with them regarding their writing, reading, or progress. But, sometimes a student comes to a conference "cold," not sure what to say or talk about. This activity gives the student an opportunity to anticipate the conference while creating an artifact that can assist the teacher in addressing student concerns.
From the literature: "Writing workshop is time for students to draft and for me to confer with individuals or small groups of writers. Giving feedback during the process of the piece has been shown…as necessary to growth in writing" (Penny Kettle in Write Beside Them: Risk, Voice and Clarity in High School Writing, p.85)
- Consider the topics s/he wants to discuss with the teacher in a conference
- Consider how s/he might like the teacher to respond
- Craft a multi-paneled, hypothetical conversation between the student and teacher using the MakeBeliefsComix maker
- Share the comic with the teacher at the beginning of the conference
- Teacher may desire to model the making and use of the Comic Conference Primer before asking students to create them.
- Students create their own Comics Conference Primer
- Teacher begins conference with student with pleasant conversation and asks to read the Comics Conference Primer
- Teacher and student begin conversation, using the Comics Conference Primer as a prompt.
- Students can be prompted to use the Comics Conference Primers to elicit feedback in peer conferences as well.
Activity 2: "If X was Y"
Crafted by James Bucky Carter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English Education, University of Texas at El Paso
Rationale: Character analysis is an important part of learning about literature and life. This activity asks students to choose a character from the Diverse Cast of Characters on the Create Comix page of MakeBeliefsComix (http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/), identity the character as a person from a text they are reading, and then to explain why they chose to match the two figures.
From the literature: "Students assess, or assay, characters by regarding them like family members, next-door neighbors, classmates or other people they know." (Joseph O'Beirne Milner and Lucy Floyd Morcock Milner in Bridging English, 4th edition, p. 146)
- Identify a character using the Diverse Cast of Characters that they feel could represent a character in a text they’ve been reading
- Explain why they made this choice.
- Compare, contrast, and ask questions of students’ choices.
- Teacher should model the activity by choosing a character from a text that is known to the class and creating his/her own If X was Y comic.
- Students choose the character from the Diverse Cast of Characters and match it with a character from the main text they are reading.
- Within the comic, students offer explanation of why they paired up the two characters.
- Students share their comics with peers in pairs, then small groups, then as a whole class (if desired), with the teacher using guided questioning techniques to assist students in comparing and contrasting student artifacts.
Activity 3: "Somebody/Wanted/ But/So" 4-Panel Summarizer and Motivation Marker
Crafted by James Bucky Carter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English Education, University of Texas at El Paso
Rationale: The abilities to summarize key events in a story and to consider characters’ motivations are important to character analysis and gateways to comprehension. Some readers may need help with these tasks, however. Writing "Somebody/Wanted/But/So" sentences helps students focus their attention and can help teachers evaluate how well they understand basic plot and character motivations.
From the literature: "Summarizing a short story or a novel appears to be too overwhelming for many students…Somebody/Wanted/But/So…offers students a framework as they create their summaries….As students choose names for the Somebody column, they are really looking at characters and trying to decide which are the main characters. In the Wanted column, they look at events of the plot and immediately talk about main ideas and details. In the But column, they are examining conflict. With the So column, they are looking at resolutions [or results!]" -- Kylene Beers in When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do (p.145)
- Use MakeBeliefsComix creator to craft a "Somebody/Wanted/But/So" 4-Panel Summarizer and Motivation Marker
- Share their finished product with peers
- Teacher introduces Somebody/Wanted/But/So as a summarizing strategy and as one that help analyze character motivations.
- Teacher models the strategy using a text known to the class, crafting a sentence or two that follows the "Somebody/Wanted/But/So" pattern. Example: "The grasshopper wanted to play all day, but he did not gather food for the winter. So, the grasshopper was starving when winter came."
- Teacher will transfer the sentence onto a four-panel grid, with each word placed in its own panel: Panel 1: Somebody; Panel 2: Wanted; Panel 3: But; Panel 4: So.
- Images and words are added to address each part of the "Somebody/Wanted/But/So" prompt.
- Teacher models how to save and/or print the finished comics
- Students are instructed to do the same.
- Students share their comics at the appropriate times.
Activity 4: Logographics for Nonfiction Note-Taking
Rationale: Many states are integrating the Common Core Standards, which suggest to teachers that they need to pay more attention to nonfiction texts. Since classrooms are often fiction-centric, students may need additional help applying skills of analysis to non-fiction texts. As well, many students are assisted by integrating visual note-taking skills into their repertoire of strategies.
From the literature: "A logograph is a visual symbol….Logographic cues are designed to offer readers with a high-utility message in a minimum amount of space. Readers can design their own logographs to insert into texts as they read to become "signposts" that show them the direction the text is taking…. Students should design their own logographs so that the picture has some meaning for them." – Kylene Beers in When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do, p.130)
- Assign coded meanings to images from the MakeBeliefsComix maker
- Make multiple copies of each "code image"
- Apply the image to annotate a piece of nonfiction via cutting and pasting the image onto the text
- Alternative: students could draw the logographic images instead of cutting and pasting. This activity is designed to work best with a paper copies that do not need to be preserved.
- Practice using logographics to annotate texts.
- Teacher introduces or reviews elements of analysis for nonfiction
- Teacher introduces logographics as a form on note-taking and analysis.
- Teacher creates images and assigns them to certain elements on which s/he wants to focus. One might decide to use a "Who/What/When/Where/How" model or to focus on character, tone, setting, etc. (See Example)
- Teacher illustrates how MakeBeliefsComix features can be used to facilitate assigning images logographic significance.
- Teacher uses images from MakeBeliefsComix to annotate a short nonfiction selection.
- Teacher asks students to visit MakeBeliefsComix to choose their own images for specified elements of nonfiction.
- Students make keys for their logographic choices to help the teacher know what image suggests what note.
- Students apply their logographics by annotating a nonfiction text.
* This example assumes the teacher wants students to look for important people, dates, opinions, and relationships in a text. Every time a student identifies one of these things, the corresponding image should be drawn or pasted next to it in the text's margins.
FOR TEACHERS OF ENGLISH TO SPEAKERS OF OTHER LANGUAGES
BECOME A COMIX STRIP WRITER WITH EASE!
Tamara Kirson, named The New York Times 2009 ESOL Teacher of the Year and ESOL instructor at the New School in New York, shares how she uses MakeBeliefsComix.com in her essay, "MakeBeliefsComix: An Article About Using Comics to Teach English - Become A Comic Strip Writer with Ease!" Her article was originally published in the Fall 2009 issue of ProLiteracy's Notebook.
To help students, especially ESOL students, to develop writing fluency through an entertaining, engaging and nonthreatening format; to encourage students to convey feelings and ideas creatively.
The activities below are based on MakeBeliefsComix.com. When students use this site, they seem to forget they are writing in another language and, instead, focus on the joy of creating a "comix" strip!
Before using the web site with students, explore the Teacher Resources section. Take a look at the YouTube video on that page. The web site is suited to any level of language learner. Students may write as little as one word to a more extensive dialogue. They may choose one character or multiple characters. Students can work on their own or in pairs. The comix are easily printed out for classroom sharing and for display.
Ask students to bring in an example of a favorite comic strip, whether in English or their home language. There are often well-known comics that they love from their home countries.
Conduct a discussion about the purpose and value of comic strips. (To begin, model a discussion by presenting a favorite comic strip of your own. This discussion will help students develop an understanding of what makes a good comic strip and the value of comic strips for language learning.) Ask students:
- Why do people read comic strips?
- What kinds of episodes are describe in comic strips?
- How are feelings conveyed in comic strips?
- How can reading and writing comic strips help with language learning?
Present the opportunity for students to become comic strip writers themselves! Explain that they will begin by exploring MakeBeliefsComix.com on their own.
Introduce the web site and briefly describe each of the tools: the writing window, the characters, the emotions, the panel choices, balloons, colors, and prompts. Let students "play" for about l5 minutes.
Once students have become familiar with the features, ask them to write their first comic strip about comic strips! Their strips will address the questions that were discussed in Activity 1 (above). For example, two characters might be talking about comic strips – what they are, and how people react to them. A group of characters might be discussing how they feel when they read comic strips, or how they learn language by writing comic strips. The possibilities are limited only by the imaginations of the students.
Review the discussion about comic strips, asking students to state the main points that came out of the discussion. To focus their writing, have each student choose one of the discussion questions as a prompt for his or her comic strip.
Print out and share the first set of comic strips. At this point, comfort with the web site elements and the story content are more critical than mechanics.
One of the strengths of the web site is its applicability to classroom studies. The pleasure of creating a comic strip is enhanced by relating the content to classroom instruction. In this way, the joy of writing is integrated with the rigor of academic study. For this activity, the students will work with vocabulary they have studied based on their classroom reading and writing. If you haven’t yet developed a vocabulary list, this is the time to do so!
Now review the vocabulary your class has been learning to ensure that students understand the meanings of the words, what part of speech each word is, and how each word can be used. Students will select five new vocabulary words to incorporate into their comic strips. Ask students to choose the theme or topic of the comic strip. They must include the five pre-selected new vocabulary words and use the correct word form of each.
Expansion Activity: After they have completed their comic strips, have the students read their strips aloud, leaving out the vocabulary words. Other students in the classroom must "fill in the blanks" with the correct word in the correct form. Depending on the students' reading level, you may have them refer to a list of the vocabulary words on a board or chart or to lists in their own notebooks. Or you can ask students to activate their memories only!
To reinforce and further promote a deeper understanding of concepts the class has been working on, have students create a comic strip that addresses the main ideas of a particular topic. (This year, my students have been studying ethics and the environment. The guiding study question has been about how we protect our flora and fauna, whether in zoos or the rainforests.)
Explain to students that they will be writing a comic strip based on a specific topic they have been working on in class. Have students share their ideas. Next, pose a question to students that will generate global thinking about the issues under study in the classroom. Have students answer that question by creating a scenario in their own comic strip.
You may wish to have a "Comix Celebration" and post all of the strips that the students have written to celebrate their writing progress. Students can walk about and read all of their classmates' comic strips. This is an ideal time to invite other classes in for a community reading!
Students may use the site to send birthday greetings, invitations, and tales of their successes. Adult students may engage with their children by writing comix with them.
LEARNING TO USE MAKEBELIEFSCOMIX.COM
Paula Michelin is ESOL Instructor at the Center for Immigrant Education and Training, La Guardia Community College, Long Island City, N.Y. Here she shows how she uses MakeBeliefsComix.com with her intermediate adult English as a Second Language Students.
The goal of this activity is to familiarize intermediate adult English as a Second Language (ESL) students with the MakeBeliefsComix website and its many possibilities for creating comic strips and helping students improve their creativity, problem solving and writing skills.
STEPS:Students can work individually or in pairs based upon their computer skills level and computer availability. Tell students they will create their own comic strips using this web site.
- Students go to www.makebeliefscomix.com home page and click on the tab "ENTER HERE!"
- Tell students that the first thing they will do is to explore each character. Ask students to click on a character to make it appear in the Selection Window at the lower left of the page. Make sure students understand that by clicking on the red arrows under the window, they can check out four different versions and emotions within the same character. Once they have found the one they like, they can add that character to the panel by clicking on it.
- Tell students to click on different scenes and objects on the far right to become familiar with all the options they have when creating the comic strips. Ask them to practice moving the objects to the front or to the back, making them smaller or bigger and adding different colors to the background.
- Finally, have students check the different sizes and shapes for the speech bubbles.
Once students are familiar with all the possibilities and tools in creating comic strips, give them the tasks below and have them come up with their own comic strips:
CHARACTERS: A vampire talking to an angry baseball player.
PLOT: Think of a situation or a problem using the characters above. Remember that comic strip dialogues are short and funny!
TOOLS: Use the tools listed below to create your own comic strip and have fun! - Choose blue background by clicking on Background Colors boxes at lower right. - Choose two panels to make the comic by clicking on Panel Choices boxes at lower right.
CHARACTERS: Clown holding a pie and a girl on a wheel chair.
PLOT: Think of a story, a situation or a problem using these characters. Remember that comic strip dialogues are short and funny!
TOOLS: Use the tools listed below to create your own comic strip and have fun - Select locker room background. - Choose three panels.
CHARACTERS: Choose your own characters.
SITUATION: One character is the supervisor and the other one is the employee. The supervisor asks the employee to work overtime, but the supervisor refuses to pay overtime. What is going to happen when the employee tells the supervisor that he/she is entitled overtime pay?
TOOLS: Choose your own background and objects.
When students are finished with these tasks, ask them to post their stories on the classroom walls. Students walk around the room and view their classmates’ comic strip. Click on the link below and check out one comic strip created by a student.
FOLLOW UP:As a follow up activity, students can choose some of the characters from the MakeBeliefsComix website and write a comic strip based on a situation, or problem related to a book or newspaper article they are reading or have read. This will allow students to become a “character” in the story and freely voice their opinion and point of view on how a certain situation should be dealt with. The creation of the comic strip gives students a chance to analyze the situation and think carefully about how to respond to it. In addition, students who are not artistically inclined are still able to create something artistic.
FOR FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHERS
Jennifer Brunk taught Spanish and English as a Second Language at the university level for over twenty years. In addition, she taught English to immigrants and Spanish to children in elementary school, daycare, homeschooling groups and private classes. She also blogs about resources for teaching Spanish to children on her website Spanish Playground.
I have used comic strips with Spanish and ESL students of different levels and they have always enjoyed the activities. Comics lend themselves to all kinds of entertaining and effective ways to learn language.
Comic strips work well with students learning a language because:
- The graphics support the language and create a context with a setting, objects, and characters who show emotion and action. When a teacher creates a strip, these factors contribute to comprehensible input. When students make the strip, the same elements support comprehensible output.
- The language in comic strips is entirely dialog. The absence of third-person narration with description makes the language more accessible.
- The language in comics is realistic, spoken language. This is often something I want to focus on in class.
- Comics are short. Many students find it is less intimidating to fill talk balloons than to write a paragraph of text.
- You can use comic strips with any age or level.
- Activities with comics are high-interest and fun.
Comic strips can be used in language classes in many different ways. Here are a few suggestions:
- Cut apart the panels of a comic strip or copy it out of order. Students put the panels in the correct order.
- Give students the complete strip in order with empty talk/thought balloons. Provide the sentences to fill in the balloons and let students order the dialog.
- Give students a comic strip with half of the dialog and have them create the other half.
- Select several vocabulary words and ask students to use them in a comic strip. You can create the strip with empty balloons (or use one of the blank templates), or let students make their own.
- Present a setting or a problem and have students create a comic strip.
- In groups of three (or four), give each student a three- (or four) panel comic strip with empty talk balloons. The strips can be the same or different. They each fill in the balloons in the first panel and then they all pass the strip to the person on their right. Everyone fills in the next panel in a logical way. They continue passing the strips until the comics are complete. Be sure to have three- and four-panel strips available in case you end up with groups of different numbers.
- Incorporate culture into comic strips. For younger students, this could be as simple as including a reference to food, a holiday or a place. Older students can create strips about cultural stereotypes or current events.
- Focus on a specific grammar point that you would like students to practice. Here are a few possibilities:
- To practice direct object pronouns, ask students to make a strip with an object, but to only refer to the object once as a noun (anywhere in the strip). In the rest of the dialog, the object will be represented by the pronoun. Example of a comic strip to practice direct object pronouns.
- To practice comparisons, ask students to create a comic strip with two characters making comparisons. Remind them that they can scale the objects and people to create differences in size. Example of a comic strip to practice comparisons.
- To practice narration in any tense, give students a comic strip and ask them to rewrite it in another tense.
- Give students a comic strip to establish a scene and ask them to continue it using the past tenses or the future tense. For example, to practice narration in the past you could give students the strip ¡Yo no lo tengo! and ask them to write the sequel in which the character explains how she came to have the phone in her pocket.
- Consider using the generator for activities other than making traditional comic strips. The graphics in the generator are an amazing resource for learning language because they provide a visual context. You can use them to practice vocabulary or grammatical structures. Here are a few possibilities:
- Have students put a different character in each panel and use a talk balloon to have the characters introduce and describe themselves. The characters can also explain what they are doing or feeling.
- Have students put an object in each panel. Ask them to describe the object or explain why it is important to them.
- Have students create a number of different panels with several characters or objects in each but no dialog. They describe the panels to each other in pairs and their partner identifies which panel is being described.
- Have students create panels with characters and objects to demonstrate prepositions. They can work in pairs to describe their own pictures or their partner's picture.