Making Curriculum Pop

FUN BACK-TO-SCHOOL-IDEA:
STUDENTS CREATE BIOGRAPHICAL COMIC STRIPS TO INTRODUCE THEMSELVES TO CLASSMATES AND TEACHER

Looking for a sure-fire fun activity to break the ice with your students at the beginning of the new school term and to learn more about them? Then encourage them to create a biographical comic strip about themselves and their families or one summarizing the most important things about their lives that they are proud about?

They can do so by drawing the comic strip by hand or by doing so online with the free online comic strip generator, MakeBeliefsComix.com, which was selected by Google and UNESCO as among the most innovative sites to encourage literacy and reading for students of all ages.

At the site, students can select a cartoon character to represent themselves. They then can fill in blank talk or thought balloons in which they write about themselves, talk about their families or special hobbies and talents, or about where their families come from. After students complete their strips, encourage them to exchange their comics with classmates to learn more about each other. Students can also create comic strips that summarize what their individual interests are to help a teacher learn more about them.

The idea of creating biographical comic strips is one of 21 ideas to be found at http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/How-to-Play/Educators/ that show how comic-strip making can be put to use for encourage writing, reading and storytelling by literacy and English as Second Language students.

Students also can use the comic characters as surrogates to talk about and examine their lives, their problems, their challenges and anxieties. A student, for example, could create a comic in which the characters reflect on a particular experience, such as dealing with a school bully or with a problem at home or with a friend. The process of creating the strip provides a way for a student to think through and resolve these problems.

Another thing a teacher can do with the online comic strips is to have students create stories with new vocabulary words that are being taught or to practice language structure and conversation. They can even practice new foreign languages they are learning by writing their text in the languages they are studying. In addition to English, the site accepts characters and accent marks from languages such as Spanish, Latin, German, Italian, French, Portuguese.

MakeBeliefsComix.com was created by journalist Bill Zimmerman who has authored more than 15 books to help people of all ages find their writers’ voices. He teaches writing to immigrants at the College of Mount St. Vincents Institute for Immigrant Concerns in New York City.

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Replies to This Discussion

the comic strip "stategy" is a great idea specially for my ELL students...to just be ABLE to participate and for all students to be able to express through a comic strip.
I like the idea of using this site to make a personal biography. MakeBeliefscomix.com a href="http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/" target="_blank"> I also feel this site will come in handy when I work with our Level 5 ESL classes on their biography research unit next fall. We were looking for a final assessment of the biograghy research project that would be visual and with a minimum amount of text, this should be fun and innovative for our ESL students.
Dear Ms. Leahy,
Thank you for the feedback for personal biographies on MakeBeliefsComix.com. I'd love to see some of the comic strips your students make with the site, and I welcome their feedback on how we can make the site more fun and useful to them and to you.
Best wishes,
Bill Zimmerman
The comic bio is not only a fun way to greet students at the beginning of the year, but serves as an informal assessment of a students literacy, creativity and perhaps a background glimpse of life outside of school that educators might not see or hear about.

In such a diverse nation it is critical to discover the strengths, weaknesses and interests of our learners in order to create an instructional environment that is equitable, challenging, engaging and dare I say "fun". This is a great lesson.

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