Respond to News by Making Your Own Comics!
If “Welcome to the New World” or the all-comics edition of The Magazine have inspired your students, maybe they’re ready to start creating their own comics and characters that respond to the news in some way — whether by debating hot-button issues, expressing their own opinions about something they’ve read or heard, or anything else.
One easy way to start playing with ideas is through the free, online tool at MakeBeliefsComix.com. Created by Bill Zimmerman, a former newspaper reporter and editor, the site, he believes, can be especially helpful for struggling students, or students who are learning English, since it makes practicing language and expressing ideas both easy and fun. “Each strip’s three or four panels provide a finite, accessible world in which funny, interesting-looking characters live and go about their lives,” he says.
Teachers seem to agree. An article in The Atlantic, “The Power of Digital-Comic Therapy in Schools,” tells how teachers like Lauren Fardig-Diop, who manages something known as the PASS room (Positive Alternatives to School Suspension) at a high school in the Bronx, uses the site:
Fardig-Diop says [Make Beliefs Comix] is an effective tool to manage classroom behavior and serious learning issues. Three years ago, she introduced the site to her special-needs students; the idea was that by making comic-strip stories using the site’s comic strips and printables, they had a way to communicate their ideas and emotional issues.
Jeremiah, Jasherah, and Paula began to redirect their anxieties and fears into vibrant comic strips. Created by the best-selling children’s author Bill Zimmerman, Make Beliefs Comix — with its comic-strip-making section complemented by the site’s printables and hundreds of writing prompts — helped Fardig-Diop inspire her students to tell their own stories, identify and recognize their pent-up feelings, and empathize with others in highly social, reactive situations.
“The PASS room is like a second home to me,” said Jeremiah, who’s been suspended numerous times for emotional outbursts and wandering into other school areas without permission. Considered a very bright and talented student by his teachers, Jeremiah hopes to go on to college. “At home I use Make Beliefs Comix comic strips with my younger brother. It helps me with my anger and calms me down a lot.”
Mr. Zimmerman recommends showing students how to use this comic generator by creating a group comic first, perhaps by choosing an issue in the news many care about and creating two characters who can interact in the first panel. Next, students can work in pairs to start to learn how to make a story. CLICK HERE to read the entire New York Times article!