6 Reasons and 3 Tips: Making Cartoons In School
The most popular post in the short history of this blog was Get Your Students Stripping: A Simple Review of Online Comic Creation Websites back in May 2010. I wanted to honour it by posting some practice tips for teachers on how to utilize these sites. I’m not going to get into extensive details on ‘how’ and ‘when’ to use comics in your classroom. I’m simply trying to provide a little bit of inspiration here. I think that online comic creation sites are a great way to get students developing 21st century skills.
Reasons To Get Your Students Making Comic Strips/Books
1) It’s Fast! Online tools such as creaza and toondoo are so simple to use that you barely even need to show students how the tool works. It takes about 10 minutes to get a class logged in and show them the basic functions the very first time, and than they are working. If they have a good plan, it shouldn’t take very long to finish.
2) Students Have To Think! Science, Math, Social, or English, I can promise you students won’t easily find what you’re asking them to make. Students are forced to synthesize information, and create dialogue from facts. They also must be succinct, adding to the challenge.
3) Students Love It! I’ve gone into over a dozen classrooms to help out with doing cartooning in class. In both middle school and high school, kids love it! Now, if you make them do it all the time, I’m sure the appeal will quickly die, but it certainly is a different type of assignment for them. Everyone likes cartoons, and these websites take the challenge out of having to draw.
4) Its Accessible! Students who might struggle with a writing-heavy assignment due to low levels of literacy can still thrive, and show off what they know!
5) They Live On! On most websites, students not only create their comics but they can get feedback from others. It’s a whole new meaning for literacy, and a new challenge, to get people to rally around your message.
6) Rework and Reuse Old Assignments! You don’t have to come up with a brand new idea and toss out old assignments. Sometimes the easiest way to start making change to your practice is a simple modification. My first cartoon came from an old assignment, where I used to ask students to take on a historical figure in science and write a letter about their own thoughts/discoveries. Now the assignment requires students to create simple dialogue that will portray the same knowledge. Students are creating new stories instead of old reports, and including a visual literacy element as well.
How To Make It Successful In Your Classroom
1) Plan In The Classroom! Get students to plan before you let them ‘play’ on the computer. It is even better if you can give them a graphic organizer (table/chart) to help them. Get students to consider, for each slide: the background, the characters, the prompts, the dialogue. This is really where most of the thinking is going to occur, and so we want them to spend some time here.
2) Show Them How It Works, Before They Plan! I know, I just said planning has to happen first, and that is true, we want students to learn the value of planning ahead. But the planning will be much easier for them if they know how the tool works, what kinds of characters they can choose, backgrounds, prompts, etc.
3) Make Them Explain! Actually, I have students do this for every kind of assignment. When students justify choices they’ve made (and when they know that they will have to justify choices in advance of making them), they tend to put more thought into what they do. They seem to become more conscious of their choices.
Good luck ‘stripping’ in your classroom. If you haven’t tried it yet, I think you’ll really love it. If you’ve used it before I hope I still have given you something to think about. And don’t forget to check out my other blog post where I recommended toondoo and creaza to see why I liked them.
I would like to thank Susana Gerndt, who is my partner from 8am-5pm. This article was written on my own but the ideas have come from work that both her and I have done over the past year.
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