FOR TEACHERS: MAKEBELIEFSCOMIX LESSON PLANS
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 -- https://makebeliefscomix.com/Feedback -- or to email@example.com. (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.
SECTION 1: LANGUAGE COMPREHENSION LESSON PLANS
View on line: Helping Students Understand Literature and Writing
Download PDF: Helping Students Understand Literature and Writing
SECTION 2: ESOL LESSON PLANS
View on line: Lesson Plans for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
Download PDF: Lesson Plans for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
SECTION 3: FOREIGN LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION LESSON PLANS
View on line: For Foreign Language Teachers
Download PDF: For Foreign Language Teachers
SECTION 4: USING COMICS TO HELP CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
View on line: Helping Children with Autism Improve Life Skills
Download PDF: Helping Children with Autism Improve Life Skills
SECTION 5: WRITING ABOUT MAGIC PLACES FROM STUDENT MAPS
View on line: What to Do When Student Says, ‘I Can't Think of Anything to Write About'
Download PDF: What to Do When Student Says, ‘I Can't Think of Anything to Write About'
SECTION 6: TEACHING MATH WITH COMICS
View on line: Helping Students Understanding Fractions and Integers
Download PDF: Helping Students Understanding Fractions and Integers
SECTION 7: TEACHING CITIZENSHIP WITH COMICS
View on line: Helping Students Understand How Our Words Can Affect Others
Download PDF: Helping Students Understand How Our Words Can Affect Others
SECTION 8: Using Comic Strips to Teach Current Events
View on line: How Comic Strips Sparks Learning and Engagement
Download PDF: How Comic Strips Sparks Learning and Engagement
SECTION 9: A NOTE FOR TEACHERS ABOUT NEWS LITERACY. THE GOOD NEWS IS THERE’S HELP AVAILABLE FOR TEACHERS.
View on line: A NOTE FOR TEACHERS ABOUT NEWS LITERACY.
Download PDF: A NOTE FOR TEACHERS ABOUT NEWS LITERACY
SECTION 10: DEEP LISTENING TO COMBAT DISCRIMINATION
View on line: Comic Strips Can Help Us Understand Others.
Download PDF: How We Need to Better Hear What Others Are Saying
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 (https://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
Crafted by James Bucky Carter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English Education, University of Texas at El Paso
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." &mdash 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
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.
Concluding Activity: 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!
Expansion Activity: 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.
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.
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.
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 Â¡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.
Lena McCalla Njee is a special education teacher and the author of Autism Inspires and Ivan Gets a Dream House. She was the 2011/2012 Teacher of the Year for the Irvington School District in New Jersey where she currently teaches young children diagnosed with Autism.
My mantra is that all children can learn. Children with autism just learn differently. I have never met a child that I could not teach. Some of the deficits in children with autism are difficulty with speaking and expressing themselves, as well as limited skills in interacting appropriately with other children. They also need support in learning to share and play with their peers. It was a joy to discover MakeBeliefsComix.com. The comic strips created at the web site can be used as a tool to teach expressions of feelings and social skills such as sharing and turn taking.
Helping Young Children with Autism Learn Turn Taking
Learners will be able to wait, share and take turns by using toys and MakeBeliefsComix strips to express themselves and display appropriate behaviors while playing.
Premade large MakeBeliefsComix panel strips projected on a smart board as well as cardboard cut outs of the talking balloons for easy moving around as children engage in the sharing activity. The strips can be personalized with the names of the children, such as BOBBY'S TURN or CAROL'S TURN; preferred toys such as train, ball, doll; audible timer to be set to indicate start and end of each turn. (The timer serves as a cue to help the children transition, and can be used in almost all activities in teaching children with autism.) Use MakeBeliefsComix to create scenario of how to resolve the conflict of two children wanting to play with the ball at the same time. (See comic below.)
Explain to learners that they can play a game with a partner but each has to wait and take turn in order to play. Direction needs to be given one step at a time. Example: "Bobby it's your turn. Take the ball. Roll the ball. Get the ball. It's Carol's turn. Bobby, give the ball to Carol. Carol, it's your turn. Take the ball from Bobby. Toss the ball in the hoop, etc."
Teacher models activity. Set the timer to length of time that you would like your learners to play. Hold up the large talking balloon comic strip – MY TURN or BOBBY'S TURN or CAROL'S TURN. Teacher plays with the ball (bounce, roll, toss, kick). Teacher stops when the timer goes off. Teacher resets the timer. Teacher holds up the large talking balloon strip that says YOUR TURN or CAROL'S TURN. Teacher hands the ball to child.
Child is prompted to play with the ball. Child plays until the timer goes off. Teacher holds up the talking balloon comic strip that says MY TURN. Child is required to give up the ball. Teacher resets the timer and the game is repeated, pairing the child with a partner. Game can be expanded to incorporate more children in taking and waiting turns.
Expansion of activity:
Learners will be able to generalize the concept of sharing and turn-taking as they move in other activities throughout the day. Examples: waiting their turn to get a drink at the water fountain without pushing or getting upset, waiting their turn to wash their hands after painting, waiting their turn for a preferred toy that another child is using, etc.
Helping Young Children with Autism Learn How to Express Their Feelings
Learners will be able to identify feelings such as sad, happy, tired and angry and will be able to express their feelings appropriately by using MakeBeliefsComix comic strips, pictures, signs and words. Each of the many characters offered at MakeBeliefsComix shows four different emotions - happy, sad, angry, thoughtful. Teacher can show students how to click on the characters to see different emotions expressed.
Premade large MakeBeliefs panel strips projected on the smart board showing characters with different emotions as well as cardboard cut outs of the talking balloons which children can manipulate. Even if children cannot identify words as yet, introduce the written words "happy" and "sad" along with pictures of happy and sad face in the talking balloon.
This is an excellent activity to introduce during Circle Time Activity at the start of each day. This activity gives the learners an outlet to express themselves and can provide valuable information for the teacher who can make accommodations for a child who might be sad or angry. Create the large comic strips with different feelings. Teach the children to identify the different feelings by introducing the strips one at a time. Teacher can use hand over hand instructions if the children are unable or unwilling to pick up the talking balloon strips. (In hand over hand instructions, the teacher places his/her hand over the child's hand to direct child's hand in completing the task. If you are using a smart board you can do hand over hand to help the learner click on the balloon which represents his feeling, or if using a cut out help the child pick up the balloon that represents his feeling.)
Teacher sings a good morning song as learners gather for circle time. Teacher presents the talking balloon comic strips with a different feeling on each strip either on a smart board or large cutout cardboard that says HAPPY or SAD or ANGRY.
Teacher asks each child, "Bobby, how do you feel?" The verbal child can say the word as well as pick out his feeling balloon. The nonverbal child will be presented with two balloon strips. "Karen, are you happy or sad?" If child does not voluntarily point to the balloon that describes her feeling, she will be encouraged hand over hand to point to the picture that represents her feeling. Take child's hand and point to each feeling - "Are you happy or sad?" Let go of child's hand so that she may point to her feeling.
As child identifies his/her feeling, teacher acknowledges selection. For example, "Karen is feeling sad." Get the rest of the learners involved. "Who else is sad?" Acknowledge others who are sad. If the child will tolerate being hugged, you can offer a hug. Demonstrate how to give self a hug and tell children to give themselves a hug. Many children with autism can't tolerate being held or touched so you can offer some stuffed toys for children to hug. Continue to probe and question to find out other children's feeling. For example, "Is anyone feeling happy?" For the learners who identify their feeling as happy, teacher can acknowledge by saying, "I am so glad that Jack and Sophie are happy." Teacher can teach song, "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands, (snap your finger, stomp your feet etc.)" or invite children to sing if they already know it. Teacher can extend lesson to teach various emotions.
Teacher can extend lesson to teach various emotions.
Follow Up Activity:
Learners can be encouraged to express their feelings on blank comic strip balloon through painting and drawing. Praise whatever the children paint as their feeling even if it's a dot or a line. Each day they can draw or paint a different feeling which can be made into a My Feeling Book. Learners can work with teachers, too, using MakeBeliefsComix to select characters who show different emotions and then type into talk balloons next to the characters words such as "I feel happy" or "I am sad" or "I feel angry." Perhaps there is even a simple happy or sad story that can be created as a comic strip to illustrate this emotion. These comic strips can be printed out and pasted together in a notebook.
There are also special printables offered in the printables section of MakeBeliefsComix that were created for students on the Autism Spectrum that show the comic characters talking about their feelings; these can be a jumping off board for a teacher to create her own interactive comic strips. See special Autism Spectrum Printables on MakeBeliefsComix.com.
To learn how other teachers and parents use MakeBeliefsComix.com to work with children with autism, see our Autism Resource page.
For a useful article on how comic strip generators like MakeBeliefsComix.com are used for students with autism, please read this article in SpecialEdConnection®.
Kim Stafford, an author and poet, is associate professor of the Graduate School of Education and Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon, and director of the Northwest Writing Institute.
Activity: Writing about Magic Places from Student Maps
Rationale: To banish the sentence "I can't think of anything to write about," invite students to draw a map of their childhood neighborhood, identifying key landmarks that can become stories in writing, or scenes in drawings.
Students will: Draw a map of a neighborhood they know from direct childhood experience, including home, school, houses of friends, hiding places, climbing trees, dangerous dogs, and other features of their experience with home ground.
Teachers could model the activity by drawing a map on the board of their own childhood neighborhood—ideally including some quirky, or "secret" information only a kid would know.
Students then draw their own maps, while the teacher circulates around the room, questioning, responding to map elements as they appear, encouraging students to add more detail.
Students make a "Key" to their maps, numbering locations and identifying on a separate page story-details of things that happened at particular locations.
Students each share one story from their map with the class, as a way of kindling new memories from their classmates. Everyone then adds new elements to their own maps.
Students then write stories about their places—the incidents that most intrigue them from the process of making the map. These incidents can then become rich beginnings for stories, poems, essays, comics, or art.
Students can be encouraged to create comic strip stories at MakeBeliefsComix.com about the highlighted notations on the drawn maps. These comic strip stories can be the first step in encouraging students to create longer essays or even autobiographies of the key moments in their lives.
Created by Janice Dwosh, gifted specialist, Boulder Creek Elementary/Paradise Valley Unified Schools in Phoenix, Arizona
Grade level: 5th and 6th grades (gifted)
Common Core Standards: Fractions or Integers 5th-6th grade
(see below for other math topics that can be used)
iPad application utilized or website: Make Beliefs Comix iPad app or website (www.makebeliefscomix.com), and Khan Academy www.khanacademy.com
Materials required: iPads or Chromebooks, fraction or integer lessons (math books)
Procedures: After lessons and review on fractions (equivalent, simplifying, adding and subtracting, or multiply or dividing), or an integer lesson (absolute value, add or subtract, multiply or divide), students will be asked to develop a short lesson to reteach to the class. Each student will be given a different topic related to fractions/or integers to review with the class. Before developing their lesson each student watches a similar lesson on Khan Academy first to prepare. Each group develops a four to eight squares on the storyboard as a draft before putting the lesson on the comic strip. Students are required to take notes as a study guide for the upcoming quiz. Any other clarifications or corrections are made by the teacher, as necessary, before the quiz.
Evaluation/Assessment: The teacher will print the comic strips to evaluate as well as share for the class on a bulletin board. The evaluation can be based on appropriately demonstrating step by step the procedures of the lesson, utilizing examples, etc. They will also have to share the lesson with the class.
Adaptations: Pairs could be used to support those students not able to complete the project on their own. Also pairing heterogeneously may help to support those students not understanding the lesson completely. Students can also develop word problems utilizing their strategy to help prepare for the quiz.
Reflection/comments: This lesson was extremely successful in my 5th and 6th grade Honors math classroom. The students learned about how to organize a lesson, how to develop and prepare to teach a lesson, and how to find appropriate examples for each lesson. It was a real eye opener! 6th graders have also used it successfully for a variety of math topics (integers, percents, exponents, the 8 mathematical practices).
This has worked in grades 4-6 for all math topics as a review for end of unit, and for checking for understanding. It can be differentiated by level, topic, method of presentations, and number of students in a group, etc. It has been a very successful tech project using iPads and Chromebooks and is recommended for flexible/ability grouping activities. I have utilized it for integers, percents, fractions, decimals, exponents, as well as the eight mathematical practices.
The following rubric can be used for evaluation (change as needed):
|Technology math lesson integers (or other math topic)
|Points available||Points earned|
|tech lesson includes:|
|text/words that make sense 6||6|
|pictures/characters that fit with lesson||3|
|organized and interesting||2|
This lesson plan was contributed by Andrea Moncayo, who has an MA in Digital Teaching and Learning, and is a computer teacher at the Glendora Unified School District in California.
Goal: We have talked about how the words we say are sometimes very hard to take back, even the words that we tell ourselves can end up hurting ourselves. You are going to create a small comic strip demonstrating a character who gets hurt by words spoken by others, but who also finds a solution in dealing with this problem.
1. Use this website http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/# and choose the “3-panel square” (Friends who need an extra challenge box can use the 4-panel square).
2. In the first box, create a scene to demonstrate a unique quality of a character (who can represent a student).
3. In the second box, posit a problem that the character (student) might face when someone isn’t nice to her or him. The problem can be stated by another character.
4. In the last box, provide a solution for your main character (student) in dealing with the problem.
5. Save picture and turn in through Google Classroom.
**MUST BE FAMILY FRIENDLY! (No writing in inappropriate words!)
|Proper website used||The student did not create a comic strip with using a comic strip website generator.||The student created a comic strip, but not from the teacher’s list of websites.||The student used the comic strip from the website provided.|
|Box 1 (Intro)||The student did not introduce the character.||The student attempted to introduce the character, but it was not clear that it was an introduction.||The student introduced a character with a bubble thought.|
|Box 2 (Problem)||There was no sign of conflict in the box.||The student added characters, but it was difficult to tell what the conflict was.||The student demonstrated a problem that the character has.|
|Box 3 (Solution)||There was no sign of solution to the conflict.||The student attempted to demonstrate a solution to the conflict, but it was difficult to tell.||The student demonstrated a solution to the problem.|
|Saved and turned in||The student did not turn in image.||The student attempted to turn in through Google Classroom, but there is no attachment.||The student saved the image as PNG and submitted through the Google Classroom.|
Use a 2 square panel- Introduce your character and problem in box 1 and solution in box 2.
Use a 4 square panel- to add one extra box to the story
By Bill Zimmerman, Creator of MakeBeliefsComix.com
Comics + the news + classrooms all go together.Let me tell you why and how.
My happiest memories as a kid center on Sunday mornings when my father would leave the house early in the morning to pick up some jelly donuts and also bring back an armload of newspapers. I’d grab my beloved funny sections to read about the latest adventures of my comic heroes and enter their exciting, imaginary worlds. The comics made me happy and helped me become a great reader.
After going through the comics, I’d rustle through the rest of the newspapers to learn what was happening in the real world, to read about famous people, to see how others in the world lived their lives, and, of course, to look at the great photographs. The newspaper was my daily treasure chest – I never knew what exciting piece of information I’d discover each day.
I grew up to become a newspaper reporter and editor and also worked with the best cartoonists and illustrators for my newspapers and for the books I wrote. For many years, too, I created a syndicated newspaper page to teach youngsters about current events. I taught writing and reading, too, to literacy students and 12 years ago I launched this free web site, MakeBeliefsComix.com, where youngsters can create their own digital comic strip stories. Educators worldwide use it to encourage student literacy and creative expression.
All this to say that newspapers and comics go hand in hand beautifully in the classroom, providing a painless way for students to learn language arts, to better understand current events and history and to foster creativity.
With my great love for comics and newspapers, I challenge teachers for the new school term to set up a daily 20-minute comic strip segment during which your students create comics about what they’ve read in the newspaper and discussed in class. By so doing students explore the news in greater depth. They can create their daily comics diary entrees by using either MakeBeliefsComix.com or by simply drawing their own comics with pencil or crayons. (Stick figures are fine, too.)
The basic idea is to encourage each student to first read an article from a newspaper and then create comic strips summarizing or commenting on what is in the news. Let the comic characters express the students’ thoughts or questions or opinions about what they read. If they do this on a daily or frequent basis, and print out the comics they created, over the course of a school year your students will build wonderful portfolios of art summarizing all the interesting things they learned from exploring the newspaper.
To begin, first look upon the newspaper as I do, as a deep, daily replenished treasure chest of fascinating information waiting to be explored or commented on. Start with the front-page news stories, then work your way to the different sections that appear over the course of the week – from business to the arts to science to entertainment to the health pages, to the letters to the editor and editorials, along with the weekly news review and, of course, the rich book and Sunday magazine sections. Let your students choose the section they love best. Each section is waiting for students to put together their comics in which their comic characters talk about the issues raised on these news and feature pages. I promise you this: the minute a student starts creating a comic strip to deal with the news she is reading, she will begin owning the information in the article and on the way to fully engaged with the news. These informed students will become our informed citizens.
Let’s just start with the front pages with their stories on the spate of horrific school shootings. Creating comic strips provides an opportunity for students to discuss this terrible situation and to air their views and feelings . Why not have students creating a comic strip in which the comic characters raise and answer such questions as: What do you think should be done to prevent future deadly shootings at schools and elsewhere? Is it a good or bad idea to arm teachers with guns to protect students? Should students go out on strike to force legislators to deal with this problem? What can students to about violence at school? How can a school better handle problem students who may be prone to violence? Let the students share the comic strips they create with classmates and friends to promote discussion and debate on this very important subject.
Or, how about a comic-making session on the hurricanes and flooding events of recent times. A student reading about the tragic stories emerging from this disaster – people separated from their homes, worried about their elders and their pets, desperate from losing everything important in their lives – will find many thoughts coming to the fore. One of the first questions we ask ourselves is what would be it be like to be in the place of those experiencing such havoc? What treasures would we hope to salvage from the disasters? How would we survive? What if we lost loved ones? What can communities do to protect themselves?
So take the next step: why not create a comic strip in which students ask themselves: what would be the most treasured possessions they’d grab to take with them if they were forced to leave their home? Hard choices: a family pet, family photos and documents, a beloved book or possession? Or put together a comic dealing with what it would be like to rescue people stranded by the flooding? Such comic-making also encourages empathy for others, something we need to encourage in our young people.
Take another major front page news story – the possibility of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that shields from deportation young undocumented immigrants (known as ‘’dreamers’’) who were brought to the U.S. as children. What’s going to happen to these young people if they are forced to be deported? Perhaps a student will want to create a comic strip in which he has characters express the ‘’dreamers’’ fears and disappointments. Again, creating such comics encourages your students to place themselves in the shoes of others. Let the characters in the comic strip also debate the pros and cons of Congress’ enacting legislation to legalize these dreamers.
Do your students follow sports? Skip to the sports section. There, you might read a piece about football player Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who knelt for the national anthem before National Football League games. He was protesting against social injustice, especially the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police. Each of us may have different opinions about Kaepernick’s gesture – he makes some people very angry, others very proud of what he did. So, then, how about a comic strip where comic characters comment about his surprising gesture and debate whether or not he did the right thing? It’s always good to get two sides of a story. Would your students do what Kaepernick did? Let the comic strips answer that question.
Today, did you overhear your students’ talking about what’s on television tonight, or what’s streaming? Take a look then at the TV page. Can’t find anything good? Suggest to your students that they can do better and use today’s comic strip to storyboard a brand new film or reality program, They’ve already got the characters to select from MakeBeliefsComix; now all they need to do is come up with great ideas for future programming. Isn’t this a great way to encourage creativity and imagination? Coming up with their own ideas empowers students.
One of the most interesting newspaper features is the letters to the editor section. Recently, a group of writers focused on how to resolve the North Korean crisis between the United States and the threat of war over that nation’s threat to use nuclear missiles against the U.S. Wouldn’t this be a provocative subject for a comic strip in which students, working in pairs, came up with a comic strip offering proposals for the United States to consider in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear threat? Let the comic lay out whether it’s war, negotiation, more sanctions, or something else. Students have their own perspective and ideas worth sharing.
Onto the business section which recently featured an article about Lego, the toy company cutting 1,400 jobs because children are more interested in mobile devices for entertainment, than they are in building blocks. Ask the students for their comic strips to suggest some new games or products for Lego that might bring back young consumers. You can send these ideas to Lego. Or, perhaps they’ll use their comics to recall the types of things they constructed with the blocks when they were younger.
There always are great ideas for comic strip stories from the editorials, essays and columns that appear on the Op Ed pages. Why not have students create a comic about one of the positions taken by a newspaper editorial writer or columnist? Or, have the students in their comics ask a columnist about her job, how she become a journalist, what part of her work she is most proud of. Send her these comic strips. I am sure she would welcome such feedback from young people and maybe they’d even provide fodder for future columns.
In the arts section, there was a recent article about how a girls movie version of the book, ‘’Lord of the Flies,’’ is planned. It’s based on the 1954 novel that examined the inherent evil of humanity through an island of boys without adult supervision. Comic strip assignment: Your students are writing the script and using comic strips to storyboard the new movie – how would they adapt or change the story now that girls will play the main roles? Will the girls be as cruel as the boys or will they find a better way to cooperate and survive? Comics can help your students think creatively and develop new ideas.
Here’s another idea: ask your students to imagine they are reviewing a new book they read for the book review column. Have them present their review in the form of a comic strip in which they summarize the plot and say what it is they liked about the book or what they’d like to see changed. Do they have ideas for a sequel? Or, how about a comic story about what happens to the characters after the book ends? A fun way to get them to use their imaginations and write!
Then, onto comics! The New York Times recently published a wonderful, beautifully executed comic strip serial on Sundays about the true story of a family’s journey from Syria to America. Titled ‘’Welcome to the New World’’ and created by Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan, the comic strip records the adventures – bad and good – of this family as its members build new lives here. It’s offers perfect proof that a comic diary drawn by students can be a great and rich adventure, too. What better way than comics to tell stories about our lives and the world in which we live!
Here Are Some More Ideas for Students Creating Comic Strips
Teachers can also create comic modules using photographs from a newspaper. Let’s say it’s early in the new year when the President is slated to give his annual State of the Union Address. Cut out a photo of the President from the newspaper and paste a blank balloon next to his mouth, with an instruction on the page for the students: Give Him Some Words to Say.
In teaching about the current nuclear missile crisis between the United States and North Korea, cut out a photo of President Trump and of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and again paste two large balloons next to each one’s lips with the headline: Imagine President Trump and Kim Jong-un are meeting in your school yard. What should they say to one another?
Or, each year when the Nobel Prizes are about to be presented, have student bring in photos of themselves and paste blank balloons next to their face with the headline: Imagine you are giving the speech to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. How would you start your speech? What is the message about peace that you’d hope to convey?
In working with literacy students, I have even taken comic strips from the Sunday funny pages of other newspapers, whited out the words in the talk balloons and asked students to create their own dialogue. Isn’t that a fun way of encouraging students to write and think imaginatively.
The Benefits of Students Keeping Comic Strip Diaries
By creating comic strip diaries, whether through comic generators like MakeBeliefsComix, or through drawing or with pictures cut out from the newspaper, students will realize that they can create their own stories and make art. They will learn that they, too, are capable of generating their own learning materials, their own memoirs, and that their "take" on the world is so very special. Moreover, the process of using drawn characters and writing words for them to say or think provides a way for students to digest and integrate the key information they read in newspapers or watch on television . This will also help them in English class, history, social studies, journalism or science and math. Such comic strip diaries also provide a way for a student to comment about her daily life in and out of school.
The Rationale for Using Comics with Students
From my own teaching with youngsters and adults, I knew intuitively that enabling struggling students to write and tell stories by building comic strips online would help strengthen their emerging English-language skills and make the difficult job of learning English or other subjects a much easier, more enjoyable experience. That is why, in part, I created MakeBeliefsComix.
You see, comic strips provide a perfect vehicle for learning, for practicing language and expressing ideas. Each strip's three or four panels provide a finite, accessible world in which funny, interesting looking characters live and go about their lives. And students with limited or emerging reading or writing skills are not as overwhelmed in dealing with the size of a comic strip as they may initially be with a book of many pages.
Comic strips don't require long sentences or paragraphs to tell a good story. They encourage students to write and create because only a few words are required for the characters to go about their lives and reveal their stories. And, anyone who sees a blank talk or thought balloon floating over the head of a character wants immediately to fill it in with words and thoughts; doing so is the beginning step to telling a story.
Step by Step: Guiding Students on How to Use MakeBeliefsComix.com
Generally, in showing students how to use this comic generator web site, I will first create with them a group comic strip incorporating their ideas. This becomes a great class collaboration. We’ll choose a subject we’ve read about in the newspaper --global warming, for example, and how this may be changing our lives. Then we’ll create a story together, using one or two characters in each panel. The characters become surrogates for the students to express their ideas without embarrassment.
In filling the first comic panel template I ask students to choose a character and for suggestions for dialogue, and next I’ll ask for more dialogue for another character to speak. Then we’ll try to move the story along by moving to a second panel. Later, when students start their own comic strips, they are encouraged to work with partners to help each other along. Such collaboration gives students more confidence and ideas in creating a story. In working together students -- especially those learning English -- improve their language skills as they come up with the words and ideas for the characters to express.
This lesson plan is adapted from one created specially for The New York Times Learning Network; a part was included in the Network’s guide on using comics in the classroom.
This article was especially written for MakeBeliefsComix by Howard Schneider, executive director of the Center for News Literacy, Stony Brook University.
The shocking images that unfolded in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, have underscored numerous challenges for sustaining and protecting our democracy. But arguably one of the most urgent is how we can prepare students to become more discerning news and information consumers, especially on social media. Studies by researchers at Stanford University have found alarming deficits on the part of students at every level in identifying reliable news sources online. Students are often easily misled by bogus websites, deceptive social media posts, and manipulated video content. The consequences, of course, can be disastrous.
THE GOOD NEWS IS THERE’S HELP AVAILABLE FOR TEACHERS!
More than a decade ago, my colleagues and I at Stony Brook University in New York launched the Center for News Literacy to train the next generation of college students to separate fact from fiction and to use critical thinking skills to interrogate rather than consume news and information. Two years ago, we began working with area school districts and K-12 teachers to adapt our material for middle schools and high schools
Resources and more information are available at the Center’s main website: http://www.centerfornewsliteracy.org/ and at the Center’s Digital Resource Center for educators.: https://digitalresource.center. And Stony Brook is not alone. There are other useful resources, lesson plans and training materials available, especially at these sites
- The News Literacy Project: https://newslit.org
- Mediawise: https://www.poynter.org/mediawis
FINALLY, SOME EDUCATORS HAVE ASKED ME:
"HOW EARLY CAN WE START PREPARING STUDENTS?" MY ANSWER: "IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY."
A few years ago, at a summer News Literacy workshop for college instructors and high school teachers, a second-grade teacher arrived. I was baffled. But the director of the workshop urged me to wait until the participants made their final presentations.
“I bet you’re all wondering how a second-grade teacher can teach News Literacy?” the teacher began. Then she explained how she would read her class the story of the “The Three Little Pigs.” Predictably, students would express horror and outrage at the menacing Big Bad Wolf and offer sympathy for the poor, victimized pigs
A short time later, she would read her class, “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs,” a book written by Brooklyn schoolteacher Jon Scieszka and illustrator Lane Smith that tells a far different story. In this version, the wolf tells a reporter how he approached the pigs to innocently borrow a cup of sugar and wound up being falsely arrested
“So who do you believe”? the teacher would finally ask her students. After a long pause, a small hand would inevitably go up. “We really can’t tell who’s right until we get both sides of the story,” the student would say “And that’s how I’m getting my students ready for News Literacy in the second grade,” the teacher said, prompting a hearty round of applause
This lesson plan on using the techniques of deep listening was written by Caryn T. Davis, adult ESOL instructor at the City University of New York, who was honored by The New York Times for ESOL Teacher of the year and is recipient of the New York City Literacy Assistance Center’s Literacy Recognition award.
Information for Teachers—What is Deep Listening?
(Teachers can read this for their own background, and/or read parts to their students.)
What is Deep Listening? It’s a way to focus on a person when they are telling a story and just listen to them without interrupting them, asking questions, or sharing similar stories with them. It means that when the person is telling us their story, we look at them as best we can and show them our full interest and full attention. It means we put our devices away and just really, really listen. We try to open our hearts and minds to those who are speaking to us.
Now, consider pairing such listening with creating our own comic strip stories about our life experiences or those we have learned about racism and sexism in an effort to understand and eliminate racism from our own minds and our communities. Comics can help us be comfortable to experiment with our own creativity as we learn new ideas and master the practice of deep listening.
With deep listening, when we tell our story, we decide that it’s OK to feel the feelings we may have about our story, if we have them, and show them sometimes while we tell the story if we want to. Sometimes people laugh when they tell their story, sometimes cry, sometimes yawn and sometimes even sweat! When we are listening deeply to someone, we want to welcome their feelings if they express them to us. It’s usually a good sign they feel supported by us!
Showing our feelings can remind us that we are human. Many of us have been taught that showing feelings isn’t a good idea most of the time, and many people have trained us to stop showing these feelings by saying, “You’re a big girl and big girls don’t cry” or “Stop yawning, you’re making me tired.” But, all of these expressions of emotions are just part of what it means to be a human being, and believe it or not, letting these feelings out when we need to may feel uncomfortable or strange at first, but it gets rid of the feelings that can bother us.
For example, when we cry, crying doesn’t make us have more grief, it gets rid of previous feelings of grief. Are you surprised? Basically, it’s helpful to remember we don’t need to be afraid of our feelings or other people’s feelings. And, getting more comfortable showing or listening to feelings can help us think better about everything.
Practicing deep listening can also help us eliminate all kinds of oppression, such as racism and sexism because we can often think better after we share our stories. Racism and sexism keep us separated and isolated from each other a lot of the time so when we can remember that someone else is human, and they are good inside, we can have better relationships with people similar and different than us because we are listening deeply and with respect to them. We might even be able to solve problems more quickly related to racism and sexism. Finally, when we do Deep Listening, we don’t ever talk about what we heard another person say again. Confidentiality builds trust and stronger Deep Listening.