20+ Tips and Resources to Engage Learners with Comics

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 9.13.56 PMIncluded in the Digital Tips Advent Calendar and part of the Effective Technology Integration category

At a young age, I was interested in comic books, which was really how I learnt to read. ~ Nicholas Cage

Comics can be powerful learning tools. The mix of art, dialogue, character expressions, and frames engages learners and is brain-friendly. Moreover, comics break down a story’s plot and text into bite-sized chunks that are supported with visuals. This is much easier for our brain to process than reading a large amount of text on a page. Additionally, comics are an effective way to introduce your learners to digital storytelling. Many of the comic creation tools are easy to use allowing the learners to fill in their frames by clicking on a choice of characters, props, scenes, and more presented to them. Your learners will be able to quickly create a story, view it, and share it with their friends and family. Comics come in many formats and types to support and engage struggling readers as well as advanced readers. Creating comics engages students and encourages them to explore vocabulary, summarize information, and contextualize what they learn in a creative way. Creating comics is also being accepted as an effective way to teach complicated writing. Nick Sousanis, a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, wrote his PhD dissertation entirely in comic book form. View examples of his work on his blog, Spin, Weave and Cut. The following tips and free resources will help you engage learners with comics.

Ideas

The following are a few ideas to get you started using comics with your learners. Watch the recording of my webinar on this topic here!

  • Use as reading material
  • Create writing prompts- Makebeliefscomix.com has over 350+ free printables to use as writing prompts
  • Retell a historical event
  • Write dialogues
  • Introduce a lesson
  • Summarize readings
  • Teach idioms and phrases
  • Post an interview
  • Explore societal issues
  • Explore the language in jokes
  • Explore political issues
  • Introduce yourself or another person
  • Show how to accomplish a goal
  • Explore the meaning behind quotes
  • Give visual instructions- Howtoons.com is full of great instructional comics
  • Highlight the rules
  • Math word problems
  • Tell the news
  • Explore various definitions of a word
  • Visualize research

Resources

Click on any of the icons to be lead to that comic creator. Scroll down to see written descriptions of each tool.

  • Make Beliefs Comix– Two, three and four panel comics that you can create in multiple languages. 350+ free printables for teachers
  • Kerpoof– create videos, comics, and more with this free tool
  • Comics Head– IOS and Android app to make comics. Best one in my opinion that allows adding your own images along with their library of characters, backdrops, and more.
  • Friendstrip– IOS and Android app to make comics. Frames set and students can fill in the story.
  • Creaza– Create comics, make movies, edit audio, and more! Embed in a blog or wiki.
  • Bubblr– Create your comic strip with Flickr pictures and add bubbles to tell your story!
  • Comicmaster– Cool graphic novel creator.
  • Stripgenerator– You don’t have to register in order to create a comic.
  • Bitstrips– Not free, but offers a 30-day free trial and includes more educational support (e.g., activities) than most other comic generators.
  • Comic Strip Generator– You can upload photos or use web images in addition to their library of ready-to-use images.
  • Garfield– You can create comic strips or (in Comics Lab Extreme) comic books.
  • ToonDoo – The site allows students to share their comics, comment on other comics, and even save and edit a copy of a comic.
  • Phrase It– Add speech bubbles to pictures.

Challenge:

Try any of these ideas or tools with your students and tell us how it went.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachersor my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/ShellyTerrell, and on her blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/presentations

3 comments

  1. Dear Shelly

    Thanks so much for this really useful and well-researched blog post on the effective use of comics. I feel very honoured to be mentioned in your post! Creating comics with students is fun and very rewarding. Also, I agree the use of comics makes the lessons so much more memorable.

    Best wishes

    Janet 🙂

  2. Hi Shelly,
    This is very useful blog especially for young children as it is an asset in education because of its Motivating power, which enables you to improve your vocabulary and learning skills.
    Thanks

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