How are teachers using comics in their classrooms?
ToonDoo, Pixton, and MakeBeliefsComix are web 2.0 comic making tools that encourage students to think creatively and apply learning. These tools eliminate some of the frustrations students can face when asked to draw characters or complete creative assignments, allowing them instead to focus on the creative and content aspects of an assignment. Students will be able to analyze material in new ways using these programs. The use of cartoons in teaching has so many advantages; Comics give life to boring lesson plans, they promote student engagement, they prolong student attention spans, and they also enhance students communication and language skills.
ToonDoo and Pixton offer free individual plans and paid subscriptions for educators. For teachers lacking funds to purchase educator licenses, the individual free plans at least offer each student who enrolls a way to create cartoons and comics for free. MakeBeliefsComix does not require a login in order to create on their site which is a great feature for younger students. Below are my reviews and examples of creations made on each of these exciting websites.
ToonDoo is a free website where kids can create comics. Students can create their own one to three-panel comic strips using this simple online tool. The program includes many cartoon figures, voice bubbles, and more. One great feature of this website is that created comics can be emailed, embedded, and downloaded/saved.
While I did have fun making the Halloween Reads comic above, I did find a few negative aspects of this website. The negatives that I noticed were the limited fonts, characters, and other graphics. Layouts seem to be more limited on this site as well. Although I personally enjoyed using ToonDoo, I imagine that it might be a bit young for the high school students at my campus. This program might work well at an elementary level campus though because of the ease of use and limited options.
Pixton is very a user-friendly web-based program designed as a safe way for kids to create comics online. It is absolutely free, and it is the perfect tool for people who don’t have confidence in their artistic abilities. Pixton comics can be created in 40 different languages which makes it accessible for all students of all levels.
I thoroughly enjoyed using Pixton to create a “Why Read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” comic (shown above). I found a template on the site which made it easy for me to create something a little more involved. The comics were easy to create and modify which made the program really fun. One really cool feature that I didn’t notice in the other programs was the ability to manipulate the characters’ poses and facial expressions. These features really make the comics come to life.
I can definitely see teachers students and students using this program, especially in ELA and language classes. The only downfall that I found was the inability to download the comic unless you upgraded the program.
MakeBeliefsComix offers a fun comics-creation tool for kids and educator resources for language instruction. Kids get a detailed explanation about how to use the tool, and they can choose from different characters, objects, background colors, and dialogue. Finished comics can be printed or emailed. The comic characters are very diverse, and MakeBeliefsComix goes a step further than other sites by including comics that will help with social skills in addition to educational skills.
MakeBeliefsComix also includes instruction ideas including writing prompts and lesson plans at http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/How-to-Play/Educators/. The twenty-five ideas listed under this link will work with almost any content area and grade level. There are also currently six language options and 500+ printables that cover a multitude of subject matter. With specific sections even for Special Education students and English as a Second Language students, this resource is invaluable. I have already shared many of the resources from this page with English language arts, Spanish, and ESL teachers because the ideas are amazing!!
Although I enjoyed working with all of the sites, I can see myself using Pixton the most for creating my own comics, storyboards, and character charts. I can also see having advanced secondary students using this site because it is fairly involved and more complicated than the others. I can also see myself using MakeBeliefsComix but more as a reference tool than as a creation tool for myself. I see so many great ideas on this site and know that teachers and students will benefit from those ideas.
The blog article, Comics in the Classroom: 100 Tips, Tools, and Resources for Teachers is a great source of information for anyone interested in using comics in the classroom.
Here are a few ideas on how to use comics in the classroom that I picked up from the blog post:
- Timelines (history, events, sequences)
- Historical figures (history of, life of)
- Dialogue punctuation
- Character analysis
- Plot analysis
- Pre and Post-Writing Tool
- Literary Elements
- And the list goes on….
Now it is time for you to explore and create with your students!!!
Comics in the Classroom: 100 Tips, Tools, and Resources for Teachers – 2015’s Top Teaching Degrees: Compare Programs by Cost, Location, Size. (2009). 2015’s Top Teaching Degrees: Compare Programs by Cost, Location, Size. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from http://www.teachingdegree.org/2009/07/05/comics-in-the-classroom-100-tips-tools-and-resources-for-teachers/
Creating Cartoons: Pixton & ToonDoo | Teachinghistory.org . (2017). Teachinghistory.org. Retrieved 28 March 2017, from http://teachinghistory.org/digital-classroom/tech-for-teachers/25056
Make Beliefs Comix – Website Review. (2017). Commonsensemedia.org. Retrieved 30 March 2017, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/website-reviews/make-beliefs-comix
Pixton – Web 2.0 Tools – New Possibilities for Teaching and Learning – Confluence. (2017). Wiki.itap.purdue.edu. Retrieved 28 March 2017, from https://wiki.itap.purdue.edu/display/INSITE/Pixton