IDEAS EXCHANGE:

HOW WE USE MAKEBELIEFSCOMIX IN THE CLASSROOM AND AT HOME

Helping Discouraged Learners

I just want to thank you for making this available. It has been great for my students with disabilities who have difficulty expressing themselves! Some of my students have never written a story before and they are ‘discouraged learners’. This format gives them a real boost and empowers them to create something. It yields a satisfying outcome that they can feel good about. It is great to see their eyes light up as they engage.
I like to encourage them to see it as an exercise in sequencing events. Because you offer a nice selection of characters and different positions, they can create a simple story that shows beginning, middle, and end. I have been teaching some of them to type and they can put their skills to use.
-- Karin Draper, middle school occupational therapist

Summaries for a Story

After learning all about summaries for a story and the necessary elements, I challenge my students to create a summary for "A Package for Mrs. Jewls" in comic form. The students are working at a higher level than simply identifying important characters and events. They need to use the settings and characters that are in the story and represent them symbolically because the real Louis and Mrs. Jewls and the students are not available as options. There are, however, people and objects that are close enough for them to match. The tools that are provided on https://www.makebeliefscomix.com allow students who wouldn't be able to pull what they are thinking into written or draw the cartoons themselves to share their ideas. Students then add their cartoon to a Google Slide presentation so that I can print them for the hall.

Thank you for providing these tools. Here are the group instructions for the first summary. Each student has a job to complete while they work as a team. You already created a graphic organizer in your notes for “A Package for Mrs. Jewls.” Use it to create a comic that gives a symbolic summary. Below is a guide for jobs.

Characters Setting Events Symbolism
This job finds characters that symbolize who is in the story. They will also add in thoughts and word bubbles. This job will find backgrounds to represent the setting. They can also add objects that help tell the story. This job will be the first job. They need to plan out what events will be included in the summary and guide the character and setting jobs with what to find for each frame. Each events will go in a frame. You can only have 4-6 frames.

This job can add cartoon words like *poof* that add to the story.

You will need to use symbols in your summary for all the jobs of creating the events, characters, and setting.

I use Pep Talks for morning meetings. While I enjoy the topics, I also find that they are great to leave with a sub. It allows them to have the students share in an organized way about a topic that can bring out some deeper thought. They thank me for leaving the pep talks.

Christin Lopez, 5th Grade Teacher, Mountain View Elementary, Harrisburg, PA.

Teaching English

The students in my college-level Chinese classes used MakeBeliefsComix to tell stories related to the subject matter of the week. For instance, when we were learning how to tell directions, they made up a story about a woman who asked the policeman how to get to the hospital because she had to take her kids there.
-- M. Rose retired language instructor, Retired Language Instructor, Monterey, CA

To Help with Speech Pathology

As a speech-language pathologist who works with students via telepractice, I have found MakeBeliefsComix to be a really useful site. I have used the comic strip creator with students on the autism spectrum many times during online speech therapy sessions. I love using this activity to target theory of mind concepts with students. We can create simple (or elaborate!) stories together, and it provides so many great opportunities to interpret and predict the thoughts and feelings of others. It is a fun and effective way to address appropriate social language skills with students of various age ranges.

You can create a really basic/silly comic strip to use with young students, or create something more realistic for use with middle schoolers. I love doing activities where the student can be an integral part of creating the materials, then using the materials we created to target goals. It provides for a really rich and engaging session...and since I work with students online, having the materials right there on the screen is very convenient!
-- Sara Smith, M.S., CCC-SLP, E-Therapy, www.electronic-therapy.com, sara@electronic-therapy.com www.electronic-therapy.com

For Reluctant Readers

I have a neighbor whose grandson, Michael, is a bit uninterested in reading. He balks at any suggestion to read.  He was privately tutored last year with some success. This summer he was taken from one summer camp to the next. He frequently spent time next door with his grandparents. He came over one day bored with the summer heat and his disinterest in anything besides his iPad or tv.  I asked my neighbors if he could learn a new program and help me learn it, too, at the same time (this way he thought all the discoveries were his own!).

Soon we were making his first comic strip (9 sections).  At first he was resistant pretending this was yet another of my brilliant ideas to get him to read.  He suddenly was captivated by the ability to change the backgrounds and move his characters around.  He asked how to spell several words, but remembered the correct spelling as his story progressed.

I want to share his excitement when he realized he had control of the “monster” he created and the ability to make him talk and move around the screen.  He was SO involved with creating it and then kept going!  I tried to change something and he was resistant to any help (good for him!).  The fact that this program is computer based is a “win win.” How much easier to say “let’s  play with this fun program" rather than lets read a book!

As a seasoned teacher my heart swelled with appreciation for this website! He was learning!!!!  We reviewed his work and he grinned with a bit of a twinkle in his eyes! We sent it to his mother at work and made a hard copy for his grandparents.  His mother is now helping him with this site.
 -- Jody Miller Lowry,  RN BSN MA,  Bradenton, Florida

Communication Tool for Social Problems

I introduced MakeBeliefsComix to students, some of whom have autism or intellectual disabilities, as a creative outlet to help them communicate and deal with social problems.  I had the kids make three- or four-panel comic and put in characters and speech bubbles, and they’d type in the words.  That’s when I learned that the kids were being bullied, or they were frustrated they couldn’t do something their peers could do.  There were all kinds of things they had to confront that they couldn’t talk about, but they could write about it using a cartoon.

I also approached the school’s administrators to stop the bullying, and used the comics to teach all students how to navigate socially.  As soon as kids would misbehave, I’d invite them to create a comic and tell me about it.  The cartoons allowed students to feel safe describing their experiences.
-- Sharon Eilts, special education teacher, Sunnyvale, CA. (These comments are from an interview Ms. Eilts had with Brain & Life Magazine.)

Creating Dialogues

I am a teacher from Hong Kong. Thanks very much for sharing such a wonderful and creative idea with the teaching community. I just used it in my English class to help students create dialogues which are needed for their story writing assignment. Even those who are not so motivated in learning English found the work fun, and I can feel their sense of satisfaction (as if they have achieved something)."
-- Vicky Mann

For Stuttering Children

The site is used with school age children who stutter... The children build up a story and then they have to describe it in front of a group. This will help the children to practice fluency techniques, to practice appropriate eye contact, to practice sequencing skills and also to help creativity. It is fun and motivating. It acts as a desensitization exercise for children who fear speaking in a group."
-- Dr. Joseph Agius, Speech Language Pathologist and Fluency Specialist, Speech Language Department, Malta

To Make Writing More Fun

I used … MakeBeliefsComix.com …with a group of students in a writing club and, especially for those who are more visual, it became a great way for the students to have a little fun, think through organizing from one panel to another (sequencing first, next and last).

After they created their comic strip online, they printed them out and we used them as a graphic organizer to write a full blown story. The kids looked at the first frame, wrote an introduction that set the stage for what happened there and they often included dialogue as well as a narrator's voice. Since we know comics are snapshots in time, they then asked themselves '’what's missing between this panel and the next?'’ and filled it in with their words.

It ended up being a great tool and several students wrote more than they ever had before as a result."
-- Cathy P. Miller, Independent Literacy Consultant, TLA, Inc. Huntsville, AL

For Children with Autism

As the mom to a little boy with autism, I just wanted to thank you for your free MakeBeliefs Comix. I don't know whether you know much about autism, but in very general terms, lots of these kids are extremely visual learners and they are a bit blunted in their ability to recognize how others around them are feeling.

I use PowerPoint to make little ‘'social stories'’ for my son … on a regular basis, as I've found that humor and visuals can really reach him. Sometimes my little stories are about not leaving the backyard…other times, they introduce new vocabulary words and are about cowboys whose horses get stolen so they are reduced to riding cows! Whatever is needed, I produce.

At any rate, a friend just recommended your MakeBeliefsComix site and it's like Santa came early! The fact that the characters look charming, one can customize the conversations, AND that there are various emotions shown make this a site I'm going to recommend to all my fellow special needs parent friends.
-- LeAnne Cantrell, Mandeville, Louisiana

Dear readers,

Please contribute to our ideas exchange and let us know your best practices in using MakeBeliefsComix with your students and children. By sharing your ideas you help enrich our site and make it more useful to others.

Write to billz@makebeliefscomix.com
Thank you.