MAKEBELIEFSCOMIX: LESSON PLANS
Here are ways some educators use MakeBeliefsComix.com in the classroom. We invite teachers and parents to share your own lesson plans for using our educational resource to teach literacy and reading, English and other languages, as well as other subjects. You can send them via our contact page -- http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Feedback -- or to email@example.com. (Please include your full name, grade, school and town.) For each lesson posted, we will send you a copy of Bill Zimmerman's book, MakeBeliefs: A Gift for Your Imagination.
SECTION 1: LANGUAGE COMPREHENSION LESSON PLANS
SECTION 2: TESOL LESSON PLANS
SECTION 3: FOREIGN LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION LESSON PLANS
SECTION 4: USING COMICS TO HELP CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
SECTION 5: WRITING ABOUT MAGIC PLACES FROM STUDENT MAPS
SECTION 1: LANGUAGE COPREHENSION LESSON PLANS
HELPING STUDENTS UNDERSTAND LITERATURE AND WRITING
Activity A: Comics Conference Primers
Crafted by James Bucky Carter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English Education, University of Texas at El Paso
Rationale: Many teachers, especially those using elements of the workshop approach, like to conference with their students to check in with them regarding their writing, reading, or progress. But, sometimes a student comes to a conference "cold," not sure what to say or talk about. This activity gives the student an opportunity to anticipate the conference while creating an artifact that can assist the teacher in addressing student concerns.
From the literature: "Writing workshop is time for students to draft and for me to confer with individuals or small groups of writers. Giving feedback during the process of the piece has been shownâ€¦as necessary to growth in writing" (Penny Kettle in Write Beside Them: Risk, Voice and Clarity in High School Writing, p.85)
- Consider the topics s/he wants to discuss with the teacher in a conference
- Consider how s/he might like the teacher to respond
- Craft a multi-paneled, hypothetical conversation between the student and teacher using the MakeBeliefsComix maker
- Share the comic with the teacher at the beginning of the conference
- Teacher may desire to model the making and use of the Comic Conference Primer before asking students to create them.
- Students create their own Comics Conference Primer
- Teacher begins conference with student with pleasant conversation and asks to read the Comics Conference Primer
- Teacher and student begin conversation, using the Comics Conference Primer as a prompt.
- Students can be prompted to use the Comics Conference Primers to elicit feedback in peer conferences as well.
Activity B: "If X was Y"
Crafted by James Bucky Carter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English Education, University of Texas at El Paso
Rationale: Character analysis is an important part of learning about literature and life. This activity asks students to choose a character from the Diverse Cast of Characters on the Create Comix page of MakeBeliefsComix (http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/), identity the character as a person from a text they are reading, and then to explain why they chose to match the two figures.
From the literature: "Students assess, or assay, characters by regarding them like family members, next-door neighbors, classmates or other people they know." (Joseph O'Beirne Milner and Lucy Floyd Morcock Milner in Bridging English, 4th edition, p. 146)
- Identify a character using the Diverse Cast of Characters that they feel could represent a character in a text theyâ€™ve been reading
- Explain why they made this choice.
- Compare, contrast, and ask questions of studentsâ€™ choices.
- Teacher should model the activity by choosing a character from a text that is known to the class and creating his/her own If X was Y comic.
- Students choose the character from the Diverse Cast of Characters and match it with a character from the main text they are reading.
- Within the comic, students offer explanation of why they paired up the two characters.
- Students share their comics with peers in pairs, then small groups, then as a whole class (if desired), with the teacher using guided questioning techniques to assist students in comparing and contrasting student artifacts.
Activity C: "Somebody/Wanted/ But/So" 4-Panel Summarizer and Motivation Marker
Crafted by James Bucky Carter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English Education, University of Texas at El Paso
Rationale: The abilities to summarize key events in a story and to consider charactersâ€™ motivations are important to character analysis and gateways to comprehension. Some readers may need help with these tasks, however. Writing "Somebody/Wanted/But/So" sentences helps students focus their attention and can help teachers evaluate how well they understand basic plot and character motivations.
From the literature: "Summarizing a short story or a novel appears to be too overwhelming for many studentsâ€¦Somebody/Wanted/But/Soâ€¦offers students a framework as they create their summariesâ€¦.As students choose names for the Somebody column, they are really looking at characters and trying to decide which are the main characters. In the Wanted column, they look at events of the plot and immediately talk about main ideas and details. In the But column, they are examining conflict. With the So column, they are looking at resolutions [or results!]" -- Kylene Beers in When Kids Canâ€™t Read: What Teachers Can Do (p.145)
- Use MakeBeliefsComix creator to craft a "Somebody/Wanted/But/So" 4-Panel Summarizer and Motivation Marker
- Share their finished product with peers
- Teacher introduces Somebody/Wanted/But/So as a summarizing strategy and as one that help analyze character motivations.
- Teacher models the strategy using a text known to the class, crafting a sentence or two that follows the "Somebody/Wanted/But/So" pattern. Example: "The grasshopper wanted to play all day, but he did not gather food for the winter. So, the grasshopper was starving when winter came."
- Teacher will transfer the sentence onto a four-panel grid, with each word placed in its own panel: Panel 1: Somebody; Panel 2: Wanted; Panel 3: But; Panel 4: So.
- Images and words are added to address each part of the "Somebody/Wanted/But/So" prompt.
- Teacher models how to save and/or print the finished comics
- Students are instructed to do the same.
- Students share their comics at the appropriate times.
Activity D: Logographics for Nonfiction Note-Takin
Rationale: Many states are integrating the Common Core Standards, which suggest to teachers that they need to pay more attention to nonfiction texts. Since classrooms are often fiction-centric, students may need additional help applying skills of analysis to non-fiction texts. As well, many students are assisted by integrating visual note-taking skills into their repertoire of strategies.
From the literature: "A logograph is a visual symbolâ€¦.Logographic cues are designed to offer readers with a high-utility message in a minimum amount of space. Readers can design their own logographs to insert into texts as they read to become "signposts" that show them the direction the text is takingâ€¦. Students should design their own logographs so that the picture has some meaning for them." â€“ Kylene Beers in When Kids Canâ€™t Read: What Teachers Can Do, p.130)
- Assign coded meanings to images from the MakeBeliefsComix maker
- Make multiple copies of each "code image"
- Apply the image to annotate a piece of nonfiction via cutting and pasting the image onto the text
- Alternative: students could draw the logographic images instead of cutting and pasting. This activity is designed to work best with a paper copies that do not need to be preserved.
- Practice using logographics to annotate texts.
- Teacher introduces or reviews elements of analysis for nonfiction
- Teacher introduces logographics as a form on note-taking and analysis.
- Teacher creates images and assigns them to certain elements on which s/he wants to focus. One might decide to use a "Who/What/When/Where/How" model or to focus on character, tone, setting, etc. (See Example)
- Teacher illustrates how MakeBeliefsComix features can be used to facilitate assigning images logographic significance.
- Teacher uses images from MakeBeliefsComix to annotate a short nonfiction selection.
- Teacher asks students to visit MakeBeliefsComix to choose their own images for specified elements of nonfiction.
- Students make keys for their logographic choices to help the teacher know what image suggests what note.
- Students apply their logographics by annotating a nonfiction text.
* This example assumes the teacher wants students to look for important people, dates, opinions, and relationships in a text. Every time a student identifies one of these things, the corresponding image should be drawn or pasted next to it in the text's margins
SECTION 2:TESOL LESSON PLANS
FOR TEACHERS OF ENGLISH TO SPEAKERS OF OTHER LANGUAGES (TESOL) - BECOME A COMIX STRIP WRITER WITH EASE!
Tamara Kirson, named The New York Times 2009 ESOL Teacher of the Year and ESOL instructor at the New School in New York, shares how she uses MakeBeliefsComix.com in her essay, "MakeBeliefsComix: An Article About Using Comics to Teach English - Become A Comic Strip Writer with Ease!" Her article was originally published in the Fall 2009 issue of ProLiteracy's Notebook.
To help students, especially ESOL students, to develop writing fluency through an entertaining, engaging and nonthreatening format; to encourage students to convey feelings and ideas creatively.
The activities below are based on MakeBeliefsComix.com. When students use this site, they seem to forget they are writing in another language and, instead, focus on the joy of creating a "comix" strip!
Before using the web site with students, explore the Teacher Resources section. Take a look at the YouTube video on that page. The web site is suited to any level of language learner. Students may write as little as one word to a more extensive dialogue. They may choose one character or multiple characters. Students can work on their own or in pairs. The comix are easily printed out for classroom sharing and for display.
Ask students to bring in an example of a favorite comic strip, whether in English or their home language. There are often well-known comics that they love from their home countries.
Conduct a discussion about the purpose and value of comic strips. (To begin, model a discussion by presenting a favorite comic strip of your own. This discussion will help students develop an understanding of what makes a good comic strip and the value of comic strips for language learning.) Ask students:
- Why do people read comic strips?
- What kinds of episodes are describe in comic strips?
- How are feelings conveyed in comic strips?
- How can reading and writing comic strips help with language learning?
Present the opportunity for students to become comic strip writers themselves! Explain that they will begin by exploring MakeBeliefsComix.com on their own.
Introduce the web site and briefly describe each of the tools: the writing window, the characters, the emotions, the panel choices, balloons, colors, and prompts. Let students "play" for about l5 minutes.
Once students have become familiar with the features, ask them to write their first comic strip about comic strips! Their strips will address the questions that were discussed in Activity 1 (above). For example, two characters might be talking about comic strips â€“ what they are, and how people react to them. A group of characters might be discussing how they feel when they read comic strips, or how they learn language by writing comic strips. The possibilities are limited only by the imaginations of the students.
Review the discussion about comic strips, asking students to state the main points that came out of the discussion. To focus their writing, have each student choose one of the discussion questions as a prompt for his or her comic strip.
Print out and share the first set of comic strips. At this point, comfort with the web site elements and the story content are more critical than mechanics.
One of the strengths of the web site is its applicability to classroom studies. The pleasure of creating a comic strip is enhanced by relating the content to classroom instruction. In this way, the joy of writing is integrated with the rigor of academic study. For this activity, the students will work with vocabulary they have studied based on their classroom reading and writing. If you havenâ€™t yet developed a vocabulary list, this is the time to do so!
Now review the vocabulary your class has been learning to ensure that students understand the meanings of the words, what part of speech each word is, and how each word can be used. Students will select five new vocabulary words to incorporate into their comic strips. Ask students to choose the theme or topic of the comic strip. They must include the five pre-selected new vocabulary words and use the correct word form of each.
Expansion Activity: After they have completed their comic strips, have the students read their strips aloud, leaving out the vocabulary words. Other students in the classroom must "fill in the blanks" with the correct word in the correct form. Depending on the students' reading level, you may have them refer to a list of the vocabulary words on a board or chart or to lists in their own notebooks. Or you can ask students to activate their memories only!
To reinforce and further promote a deeper understanding of concepts the class has been working on, have students create a comic strip that addresses the main ideas of a particular topic. (This year, my students have been studying ethics and the environment. The guiding study question has been about how we protect our flora and fauna, whether in zoos or the rainforests.)
Explain to students that they will be writing a comic strip based on a specific topic they have been working on in class. Have students share their ideas. Next, pose a question to students that will generate global thinking about the issues under study in the classroom. Have students answer that question by creating a scenario in their own comic strip.
Concluding Activity: You may wish to have a "Comix Celebration" and post all of the strips that the students have written to celebrate their writing progress. Students can walk about and read all of their classmates' comic strips. This is an ideal time to invite other classes in for a community reading!
Expansion Activity: Students may use the site to send birthday greetings, invitations, and tales of their successes. Adult students may engage with their children by writing comix with them.
SECTION 3:FOREIGN LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION PLANS
FOR FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHERS
Jennifer Brunk taught Spanish and English as a Second Language at the university level for over twenty years. In addition, she taught English to immigrants and Spanish to children in elementary school, daycare, homeschooling groups and private classes. She also blogs about resources for teaching Spanish to children on her website Spanish Playground.
I have used comic strips with Spanish and ESL students of different levels and they have always enjoyed the activities. Comics lend themselves to all kinds of entertaining and effective ways to learn language.
Comic strips work well with students learning a language because:
- The graphics support the language and create a context with a setting, objects, and characters who show emotion and action. When a teacher creates a strip, these factors contribute to comprehensible input. When students make the strip, the same elements support comprehensible output.
- The language in comic strips is entirely dialog. The absence of third-person narration with description makes the language more accessible.
- The language in comics is realistic, spoken language. This is often something I want to focus on in class.
- Comics are short. Many students find it is less intimidating to fill talk balloons than to write a paragraph of text.
- You can use comic strips with any age or level.
- Activities with comics are high-interest and fun.
Comic strips can be used in language classes in many different ways. Here are a few suggestions:
- Cut apart the panels of a comic strip or copy it out of order. Students put the panels in the correct order.
- Give students the complete strip in order with empty talk/thought balloons. Provide the sentences to fill in the balloons and let students order the dialog.
- Give students a comic strip with half of the dialog and have them create the other half.
- Select several vocabulary words and ask students to use them in a comic strip. You can create the strip with empty balloons (or use one of the blank templates), or let students make their own.
- Present a setting or a problem and have students create a comic strip.
- In groups of three (or four), give each student a three- (or four) panel comic strip with empty talk balloons. The strips can be the same or different. They each fill in the balloons in the first panel and then they all pass the strip to the person on their right. Everyone fills in the next panel in a logical way. They continue passing the strips until the comics are complete. Be sure to have three- and four-panel strips available in case you end up with groups of different numbers.
- Incorporate culture into comic strips. For younger students, this could be as simple as including a reference to food, a holiday or a place. Older students can create strips about cultural stereotypes or current events.
- Focus on a specific grammar point that you would like students to practice. Here are a few possibilities:
- To practice direct object pronouns, ask students to make a strip with an object, but to only refer to the object once as a noun (anywhere in the strip). In the rest of the dialog, the object will be represented by the pronoun. Example of a comic strip to practice direct object pronouns.
- To practice comparisons, ask students to create a comic strip with two characters making comparisons. Remind them that they can scale the objects and people to create differences in size. Example of a comic strip to practice comparisons.
- To practice narration in any tense, give students a comic strip and ask them to rewrite it in another tense.
- Give students a comic strip to establish a scene and ask them to continue it using the past tenses or the future tense. For example, to practice narration in the past you could give students the strip Â¡Yo no lo tengo! and ask them to write the sequel in which the character explains how she came to have the phone in her pocket.
- Consider using the generator for activities other than making traditional comic strips. The graphics in the generator are an amazing resource for learning language because they provide a visual context. You can use them to practice vocabulary or grammatical structures. Here are a few possibilities:
- Have students put a different character in each panel and use a talk balloon to have the characters introduce and describe themselves. The characters can also explain what they are doing or feeling.
- Have students put an object in each panel. Ask them to describe the object or explain why it is important to them.
- Have students create a number of different panels with several characters or objects in each but no dialog. They describe the panels to each other in pairs and their partner identifies which panel is being described.
- Have students create panels with characters and objects to demonstrate prepositions. They can work in pairs to describe their own pictures or their partner's picture.
SECTION 4:USING COMICS TO HELP CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
Lena McCalla Njee is a special education teacher and the author of Autism Inspires and Ivan Gets a Dream House. She was the 2011/2012 Teacher of the Year for the Irvington School District in New Jersey where she currently teaches young children diagnosed with Autism.
My mantra is that all children can learn. Children with autism just learn differently. I have never met a child that I could not teach. Some of the deficits in children with autism are difficulty with speaking and expressing themselves, as well as limited skills in interacting appropriately with other children. They also need support in learning to share and play with their peers. It was a joy to discover MakeBeliefsComix.com. The comic strips created at the web site can be used as a tool to teach expressions of feelings and social skills such as sharing and turn taking.
Helping Young Children with Autism Learn Turn Taking
Learners will be able to wait, share and take turns by using toys and MakeBeliefsComix strips to express themselves and display appropriate behaviors while playing.
Premade large MakeBeliefsComix panel strips projected on a smart board as well as cardboard cut outs of the talking balloons for easy moving around as children engage in the sharing activity. The strips can be personalized with the names of the children, such as BOBBY'S TURN or CAROL'S TURN; preferred toys such as train, ball, doll; audible timer to be set to indicate start and end of each turn. (The timer serves as a cue to help the children transition, and can be used in almost all activities in teaching children with autism.) Use MakeBeliefsComix to create scenario of how to resolve the conflict of two children wanting to play with the ball at the same time. (See comic below.)
Explain to learners that they can play a game with a partner but each has to wait and take turn in order to play. Direction needs to be given one step at a time. Example: "Bobby it's your turn. Take the ball. Roll the ball. Get the ball. It's Carol's turn. Bobby, give the ball to Carol. Carol, it's your turn. Take the ball from Bobby. Toss the ball in the hoop, etc."
Teacher models activity. Set the timer to length of time that you would like your learners to play. Hold up the large talking balloon comic strip â€“ MY TURN or BOBBY'S TURN or CAROL'S TURN. Teacher plays with the ball (bounce, roll, toss, kick). Teacher stops when the timer goes off. Teacher resets the timer. Teacher holds up the large talking balloon strip that says YOUR TURN or CAROL'S TURN. Teacher hands the ball to child.
Child is prompted to play with the ball. Child plays until the timer goes off. Teacher holds up the talking balloon comic strip that says MY TURN. Child is required to give up the ball. Teacher resets the timer and the game is repeated, pairing the child with a partner. Game can be expanded to incorporate more children in taking and waiting turns.
Expansion of activity:
Learners will be able to generalize the concept of sharing and turn-taking as they move in other activities throughout the day. Examples: waiting their turn to get a drink at the water fountain without pushing or getting upset, waiting their turn to wash their hands after painting, waiting their turn for a preferred toy that another child is using, etc.
Helping Young Children with Autism Learn How to Express Their Feelings
Learners will be able to identify feelings such as sad, happy, tired and angry and will be able to express their feelings appropriately by using MakeBeliefsComix comic strips, pictures, signs and words. Each of the many characters offered at MakeBeliefsComix shows four different emotions - happy, sad, angry, thoughtful. Teacher can show students how to click on the characters to see different emotions expressed.
Premade large MakeBeliefs panel strips projected on the smart board showing characters with different emotions as well as cardboard cut outs of the talking balloons which children can manipulate. Even if children cannot identify words as yet, introduce the written words "happy" and "sad" along with pictures of happy and sad face in the talking balloon.
This is an excellent activity to introduce during Circle Time Activity at the start of each day. This activity gives the learners an outlet to express themselves and can provide valuable information for the teacher who can make accommodations for a child who might be sad or angry. Create the large comic strips with different feelings. Teach the children to identify the different feelings by introducing the strips one at a time. Teacher can use hand over hand instructions if the children are unable or unwilling to pick up the talking balloon strips. (In hand over hand instructions, the teacher places his/her hand over the child's hand to direct child's hand in completing the task. If you are using a smart board you can do hand over hand to help the learner click on the balloon which represents his feeling, or if using a cut out help the child pick up the balloon that represents his feeling.)
Teacher sings a good morning song as learners gather for circle time. Teacher presents the talking balloon comic strips with a different feeling on each strip either on a smart board or large cutout cardboard that says HAPPY or SAD or ANGRY.
Teacher asks each child, "Bobby, how do you feel?" The verbal child can say the word as well as pick out his feeling balloon. The nonverbal child will be presented with two balloon strips. "Karen, are you happy or sad?" If child does not voluntarily point to the balloon that describes her feeling, she will be encouraged hand over hand to point to the picture that represents her feeling. Take child's hand and point to each feeling - "Are you happy or sad?" Let go of child's hand so that she may point to her feeling.
As child identifies his/her feeling, teacher acknowledges selection. For example, "Karen is feeling sad." Get the rest of the learners involved. "Who else is sad?" Acknowledge others who are sad. If the child will tolerate being hugged, you can offer a hug. Demonstrate how to give self a hug and tell children to give themselves a hug. Many children with autism can't tolerate being held or touched so you can offer some stuffed toys for children to hug. Continue to probe and question to find out other children's feeling. For example, "Is anyone feeling happy?" For the learners who identify their feeling as happy, teacher can acknowledge by saying, "I am so glad that Jack and Sophie are happy." Teacher can teach song, "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands, (snap your finger, stomp your feet etc.)" or invite children to sing if they already know it. Teacher can extend lesson to teach various emotions.
Teacher can extend lesson to teach various emotions.
Follow Up Activity:
Learners can be encouraged to express their feelings on blank comic strip balloon through painting and drawing. Praise whatever the children paint as their feeling even if it's a dot or a line. Each day they can draw or paint a different feeling which can be made into a My Feeling Book. Learners can work with teachers, too, using MakeBeliefsComix to select characters who show different emotions and then type into talk balloons next to the characters words such as "I feel happy" or "I am sad" or "I feel angry." Perhaps there is even a simple happy or sad story that can be created as a comic strip to illustrate this emotion. These comic strips can be printed out and pasted together in a notebook.
There are also special printables offered in the printables section of MakeBeliefsComix that were created for students on the Autism Spectrum that show the comic characters talking about their feelings; these can be a jumping off board for a teacher to create her own interactive comic strips. See special Autism Spectrum Printables on MakeBeliefsComix.com.
To learn how other teachers and parents use MakeBeliefsComix.com to work with children with autism, see our Autism Resource page.
WRITING ABOUT MAGIC PLACES FROM STUDENT MAPS
Kim Stafford, an author and poet, is associate professor of the Graduate School of Education and Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon, and director of the Northwest Writing Institute.
Activity: Writing about Magic Places from Student Maps
Rationale: To banish the sentence "I canâ€™t think of anything to write about," invite students to draw a map of their childhood neighborhood, identifying key landmarks that can become stories in writing, or scenes in drawings.
Students will: Draw a map of a neighborhood they know from direct childhood experience, including home, school, houses of friends, hiding places, climbing trees, dangerous dogs, and other features of their experience with home ground.
Teachers could model the activity by drawing a map on the board of their own childhood neighborhoodâ€”ideally including some quirky, or "secret" information only a kid would know.
Students then draw their own maps, while the teacher circulates around the room, questioning, responding to map elements as they appear, encouraging students to add more detail.
Students make a "Key" to their maps, numbering locations and identifying on a separate page story-details of things that happened at particular locations.
Students each share one story from their map with the class, as a way of kindling new memories from their classmates. Everyone then adds new elements to their own maps.
Students then write stories about their placesâ€”the incidents that most intrigue them from the process of making the map. These incidents can then become rich beginnings for stories, poems, essays, comics, or art.
Students can be encouraged to create comic strip stories at MakeBeliefsComix.com about the highlighted notations on the drawn maps. These comic strip stories can be the first step in encouraging students to create longer essays or even autobiographies of the key moments in their lives.