This post is co-authored by Ditch That Textbook’s Matt Miller and Cori Orlando, a teacher on special assignment (TOSA) from Simi Valley, California. Find her blog, Leading in Limbo, at leadinginlimbo.weebly.com.
We (Cori and Matt) are betting that comics are a memorable part of your childhood, whether they were the color comic strips in the Sunday newspaper or comic books.
If not, then it was probably animated comics — cartoons!
They’re visual. They’re colorful. Adults and children alike flock to animated movies at theaters when they’re released.
There’s a draw that comics have on our lives. Graphic novels and comics draw in reluctant readers, and making comics taps into our students’ creative side.
Quinn Rollins writes this about comics in his book, Play Like a PIRATE:
It’s funny that we endorse combining pictures with words as a good way to tell stories to young children, but as they get older, we want children to abandon their picture books. I’d argue the things we valued as children still have value for us as adults — and at every age in between.
There is power in students having to go through the creative process. They need to synthesize their thinking in order to produce. Higher level thinking occurs when students create a non-linguistic representation of their ideas.
Plus, it lets students tap into their inner creativity — which is a fun and even effective practice in the classroom. Letting students pursue their creativity not only increases students’ engagement in class but also empowers them to take ownership of their learning.
Google Drawings and Slides is a great medium for giving students this creative outlet. It lets them create a framework with shapes, add speech/thought bubbles, and insert images in one place.
Here’s a quick walk-through of how we’d get started making comic strips in Drawings or Slides …
You can create a four-panel comic strip as simply as with two lines (horizontal and vertical) to divide it into four equal sections. Here’s a template so you can see it.
PRO TIP: Hold in the “shift” key while drawing lines to make them perfectly horizontal or vertical.
You can resize your Google Drawings or Slides to make them wide like traditional newspaper comic strips. Go to File > Page setup > Custom. Choose the size you’d like. In this template, I made it 8 inches wide and 3 inches tall.
PRO TIP: Draw a rectangle. Copy/paste it as many times as you need it. Arrange them next to each other with equal spacing in between. Then highlight all four rectangles and resize them at the same time to fit the page! (See image at right.)
If you’re feeling brave, really mix it up! Here’s one I (Cori) created where the panels aren’t anywhere near the same size! The first slide has drag and drop speech bubbles and callouts that might assist your students in getting started.
You have SO MANY options for adding images to your comics! Here are some of our favorites:
Add a background behind the panels to make it pop. Use images as the background (can use Creative Commons images through Google search inside of Drawings) or just use a color or a texture … whatever! Choosing a background gives students another opportunity to decide and justify that decision.
Add speech bubbles, thought bubbles and narration using the shapes tools. Speaking or thinking for a character is also higher-level thinking. Students must know a lot about their topic to be able to put themselves in another person’s shoes and think for them!
Create one page with Drawings. Create multiple pages with Drawings. Or create a whole comic book by designing them on separate slides in a Google Slides presentation! Then download as a PDF (digital comic book) or embed in a webpage.
Many teachers think that a classroom with less than one device for one student is a disadvantage.
In fact, it can bring out a learning environment that wouldn’t exist if each student was working 1:1.
Here are some of the benefits of pairing students up with a partner on just one device:
By giving students a chance to explain their thinking, it kicks the level of critical thinking up a notch. Justifying your thinking is a higher level on Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. Students can explain their creative decision making, from the background, to the expression on their faces in the selfies they took and the dialogue that they chose. This promotes metacognition, where students are thinking about their thinking.
You can add an additional layer of deeper thinking by letting students create a screencast video to explain their comic. Using a free screen recording tool like Screencastify (screencastify.com), students can display their comic and justify what’s in it and its significance. This lets them practice their skills in video creation and amplifies their voice.
How could comic strips fit what you do in the classroom? If you’ve used them before, what suggestions do you have? Please share them in a comment below!
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