I use to have a bad taste in my mouth about comic books. Not necessarily because of data or something I read about them being a bad influence, I simply was not into comics. I grew up in a house full of girls…like straight up GIRLY girls and comics just weren’t our thing.
As I began teaching ten years ago, I never really had comic books on my classroom bookshelf and I never had a demand for them from my fourth grade students. When I taught kindergarten, I would get a few here and there from the DC Comics collection as readers for my students who were reading on a second grade level or higher. Then out of nowhere, comics exploded. I started seeing them everywhere and for all ages. I’m not sure if it was because I had blinders on or just never really had the demand for them, but now, I feel like I can’t get enough of them.
I was reading several YA books and novels last summer and discovered how they make comics for even books such as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I think comics are wonderful and relatable for so many students. It’s a way for them to understand better and sometimes to cope, according to a piece from The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore.
These are fun to use on your phone and to add a fun touch to blogs, websites and syllabuses, but below are some actual sites I tried in order to make some fun comic strips. I tried each site for something different. All had their ups and downs though and none were perfect by any means.
Let’s start with a site called Toondoon. Ever heard of it? No? Yeah, me either. So this site was great in a couple of ways. For starters, there were lots of FREE elements. You could add several panels to your comic as well as choose from a plethora of comic characters with backgrounds and pieces. You could even search for specific things which I thought was handy. One thing I didn’t care for (and spent WAY too much time on to not get right) was the ability to create a character in the likeness of you (or whoever you want it to look like). I did feel like it was easy to use and save and/or share. You can click on button and copy the same panel onto the next so you can have some of the same elements, but change whatever you need as you go. You also can change the expressions of the characters easily and the posture too. I created a three panel comic strip below that would be useful for the first few weeks of school. A teacher could even had it printed and posted outside the door to the classroom as a reminder of what to bring to class and what to begin working on when the bell rings. I used a stock character since I was unable to create one in the likeness of myself.
The next website I tried was called Pixton. I actually really loved this site except for one (kind of big) thing…you are SOOOOO limited on what you can use for free. I was thinking of recreating the same comic strip I did with Toondoon to compare, however, I realized after clicking around, that you have 3-4 backgrounds you can use for free. They are all of dinosaurs and volcanoes. 🤨 Since this was what I had to work with, I decided to create a little strip for the beginning of a lesson over dinosaurs. It was kind of fun and honestly I began to think back to my own second grade classroom, Mrs. Zinkie’s class, and think about all the things I learned about dinosaurs. (She was amazing!) Besides the fact that you are limited to the backgrounds and expressions and such that you can use, the rest is pretty fabulous. You can create your own characters very easily. You can share and print and download your comics with no problems AND you can create classes and share comics with your kids! How wonderful! I finished this comic off with a question which could easily be answered with students creating their own comics! I thought that was pretty awesome.
Click on the comic to enlarge.
The last site I tried and succeed with was Makebeliefscomix which is free and doesn’t require you to sign up in order to create a comic. I used this site to create a simple remake of a personal narrative I did when I taught kindergarten writing. This would be perfect to stay up all year for your littles like kindergarten and first grade as an example during their writing time. My older students (4th-5th graders) would enjoy creating their own stories using this site! You could even use it for students to recreate a story they read.
Click the image to enlarge.
I had a lot of fun making these, but I won’t lie, there was a lot of frustration also. I think the most user friendly one for teachers would be the Pixton site. It was friendly enough to create and put your own spin on your comics, as well as share and have a whole class option. Even if one has to pay for it, I think it would be a worthy investment. The most kid friendly comic making site would be the Makebeliefcomix site since there is no need to sign in. It’s limited to stock images they have, but for young students just getting started, it would be great! Definitely a good place for beginners.
I think the ways I illustrated I used the comic creating sites would be the exact way I would encourage teachers at my campus to use them. I would also think they could be used as print outs in different areas of the library for when I am not physically able to help students. Those areas and times could be when I am with a class, but a student can’t remember how to do self-checkout, or for the procedures for beginning and cleaning up the makerspace area. They could even be used to remind students how to sign on and off the computers within the learning commons. Honestly, students are so responsive to comics and that means they could be used virtually anywhere and for all contents.
***I did attempt to download an app for my iPad called Tellagami. However, the app was outdated and said it wasn’t updated by the developer to work on iOS 11 or newer. I also noticed the reviews for this app were old…the newest one being from 2016.
Know of any new comic maker sites or apps? Feel free to share with me in my comments section!