Comics are familiar to most kids, and we all know students are more engaged and the work is more meaningful when we find a way to relate to their interests. Tapping in and harnessing the power of comics in the classroom might just be the carrot on a stick you've been looking for to encourage your students to approach the writing process in a new and different way. (And make it fun!)
- Comics are motivating
- Comics use big words (average 53.5 rare words per thousand!)
- Words and pictures together increase recall and problem solving
- Comics enrich the skills of accomplished readers
- Comics support beginning and struggling readers
- Comics support English language learners
Online Comic Creators
In keeping federal internet privacy guidelines in mind and my work with elementary students and teachers, I often look for tools that do not require registration (or that registration does not require an email address, after checking the Terms of Service carefully) or an account to use, since a lot of times the students I'm working with are 13 and under. With this in mind, my current favorite comic creators are...
Make Beliefs Comix is a free tool that comes with many different layouts and characters to choose from, with tons of options when it comes to sizing and arranging the different elements in your layout. Kids add speech bubbles and their own text to their creations. Make Beliefs does not require an account to use, but the downfall is that you can't save your work without an account. But never fear... there are LOADS of educator resources, including lesson plans, story starters and printable templates, which will help the younger crowd without an account prewrite before creating their comic so that they can finish in one sitting and print.
Chogger is another free creation tool with many of the same options, but includes the added benefit of being able to free-draw images from scratch OR upload existing pictures you have on your computer or webcam. There are lots of editing options with this tool, and every frame can have its own unique look.
Comic Master is yet another free tool that does not require registration or an account to use. (Again, optional for 13 and up in order to save your work but not necessary.) Comic Master refers to itself as a graphic novel creator, and has a wide variety of editing and customization options as well as tons of characters, props, and special effects to choose from. Comic creation is simple with intuitive drag and drop functionality; it's super user friendly! I love that this tool's got a really immersive graphic novel feel to it as you work AND there's educator resources, too. Comics created with Comic Master can be short and sweet, or span multiple pages. Students can download or print their creations when finished.
But I'm not a good artist!
Some students may shy away from the comic creation process because they don't think they're very good artists. There are plenty of resources that allow students to pick from premade characters and clipart, or even upload their own photos, which takes the drawing component completely out of the picture. This is also a nice way to help students really focus more on the development of the story rather than worrying about their drawing abilities. (Or their perceived lack thereof.)
Most of the previously mentioned tools have some kind of premade art available to use, or the ability to upload images from your computer or webcam instead of drawing. Two other tools that offer this functionality include WriteComics and Witty Comics, if you're looking for purely writing-centered comic creators.
Using Comics in the Classroom
There are all kinds of ways you can use comics in the classroom to support standards, engagement, and student learning. You could...
- Share a current news story or retell details from a current event
- Present research material to show what you've learned
- Create directions or steps in a process / instruction manual
- Practice conversational foreign language words and phrases
- Turn a well-known story into a comic format
- Write a brand new story
- Build a comic strip from a story starter
- Tell a joke
- Interview someone - either in current real life or a fictional interview of a historical figure
Reading With Pictures - Resources for Educators
Love the idea of integrating comics, but not sure how to get started? Check out Reading With Pictures, a hub for learning and advocating for comics in the classroom. They provide tons of educator resources with a searchable database, all free. Reading With Pictures is the creator of The Graphic Textbook, a graphic novel/comic book format textbook for schools. They. Are. AWESOME.
Do you have any other great ideas on how to incorporate comics in the classroom? Celebrate #ComicsOutLoud today by sharing this post or its resources with your fellow educators and become an advocate for comics in the classroom!
Keep up with my favorite comic resources as I continue to build on my Pinterest board: Comics in the Classroom.