HOW TO USE MAKEBELIEFSCOMIX.COM TO TEACH ESOL
Comic strips provide a perfect vehicle for learning and practicing the English language. Each strip's three or four panels provides a finite, accessible world in which funny, interesting looking characters go about their lives. And students with limited reading or speaking skills are not as overwhelmed in dealing with the size of a comic strip as they may be with a book of many pages.
Comic strips also don't require long sentences or paragraphs to communicate a good story. Only a few words are needed for the characters to reveal their stories. And, anyone who sees a blank talk or thought balloon floating over the head of a comic character wants immediately to fill it in with words and thoughts; doing so is the beginning step to telling a story and an easy path into practicing the English language.
In this English for Speakers of Other Languages section of MakeBeliefsComix.com you will find a variety of ideas on how you can use our comic generator with students who are learning English or improving their literacy skills. They include comic strip writing prompts taken from our free e-books which you can download, printables and classroom activities that I have used in my classes to help English Language Learners express themselves. There also are demonstration videos on how to build comic strips. In addition, your students will enjoy our writing prompts blog, Somethingtowriteabout.com
MakeBeliefsComix.com works this way: users can select from more than 175 fun human and animal characters with different moods -- happy, sad, angry, worried -- and write words for blank talk and thought balloons to make their characters talk and think. There also are story ideas and prompts to help users create graphic stories.
Educators in many countries use the site to teach language, reading and writing skills, and for students in English-as-a-Second-Language programs to facilitate self-expression and storytelling. Students will find the site a resource to be creative, calm down and have fun -- something that is needed as students struggle so mightly in class to master a new language. The site also offers users the capacity to write text in languages other than English, including Spanish, French, Italian, German, Latin and Portuguese. Consequently, many foreign language teachers use the comix site as an educational resource for students to practice the new language they are learning.
HOW TO INTRODUCE ESOL STUDENTS TO MAKEBELIEFSCOMIX.COM
In showing students how to use the site, I usually will first create with them a group comic strip incorporating their ideas. We'll choose a subject for example, such as talking with a friend, having a job interview or deciding what we want to do for an upcoming weekend or holiday, or reviewing something we have been studying in class. Then we'll create a story together, using one or two characters in each panel. The characters become surrogates for ourselves and express our words and thoughts.
I might then begin a dialogue in one of the talk balloons, asking the students to first choose a character and for suggestions for dialogue, and then we'll choose a second character and I'll ask the students for dialogue for that character to speak. We move the story along by continuing to a second panel. To help you, on the main Create Comix page under the blank panels in which you place your characters and talk balloons, there are Dialogue Prompts in the red border (go to http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix). Click on Dialogue Prompts for ideas on how to build your comic strip.
Later, when students start their own comic strips, I encourage them to work with a partner to help each other along. Such collaboration gives students more confidence and ideas in creating a story and is a way for them to communicate with each other.
We have also included a Story Ideas page to give students ideas for comic strip themes, such as: Travel to a Mysterious Place, A Day at School, Write a Love Story, Finding Your Courage, Making Wishes Come True, and A New Fairy Tale. But the assignments you give your students can be as varied as your imagination allows. In fact, if you click on Teachers Resources / 21 Wayspage, you will find a score of ideas for using the site. These might range from practicing vocabulary by writing dialogue for the comic characters to creating a comic about the theme of your lesson that day or about a book the class is reading. Making comic strips provides an easy, fun way to practice sentence structure, to engage in make-believe conversations and practice speaking, to work individually or collaboratively, as well as to practice creative writing and storytelling.
After students complete their comic strips, you can encourage them to print these out so that they have a copy of their work. Doing so validates their efforts. I encourage them to read out loud the comic strips they have created. Students love sharing their finished comic strip masterpieces and can keep them in their portfolios to review and take pride in their hard-earned efforts to create something new. They also like showing their families and friends what they have achieved. The web site also allows students to email their completed comics to others. Creating comic strips thus becomes a fun, enjoyable and empowering learning experience.
I encourage you to share with me the ways in which you use MakeBeliefsComix.com with your ESOL students. With your permission we will share them with other educators who come to this site. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. If you find the materials in this ESOL section useful, please share them with your colleagues and professional groups.