We previously talked about using comics in K12 classrooms. With so many students and teachers trying out elearning options now, consider going beyond just reading comics written by others and challenge your students with a creative assignment they can really get involved in: have them creating a branching comic! It is a great way for students to explore curriculum materials and concepts more deeply. The process of creating a scene with positive and/or negative choices encourages students to think critically about a topic – any topic!
I know: you’ve got questions about this! Let’s start with the logistics so you can see how easy it is to use Comic-BEE with K12 students:
Technical specs. As Comic-BEE is a cloud-based web application, students only need a modern (HTML5-compliant) browser: no add-ons, extensions or software installs are needed to read or write comics. Comic-BEE does not consume bandwidth like a streaming media service, but certain actions may take longer over slower internet links. Reading a branching web comic works well on tablets and Chromebooks, but for a better experience creating a comic, we recommend using a computer with a mouse, or laptop with mouse pad, and an 11″ screen or larger. We recommend that each student works on her/his own comic, as Comic-BEE does not support collaborative editing of a single comic.
So, what could your students do with Comic-BEE? Here are some suggestions on how to integrate creating a web comic with your class, regardless of what you are teaching:
- Create comics to raise student awareness on topics such as racism, pollution, bullying, recycling, or digital citizenship.
- Give students the opportunity to express their ideas and find their own voice by creating a short comic on a topic of their choosing about social studies, politics or current events, or a personal narrative, e.g., my summer vacation, the best day ever, if I could do anything it would be…).
- Ask students to create a visual instruction manual or “how to” guide on a process related to class, or something they know that they can teach others.
- If you have been covering a particular linguistic, grammatical, sentence or rhetorical device (e.g., metaphors, compound sentences, figurative language, declarative sentences), ask students to create a comic using that device.
- Ask students to visually tell a scene from a story they read in class, but without speech or thought bubbles with words, to develop visual literacy.
- Create a study guide – ask students to identify the key questions and answers for the most recent unit covered in class and create a comic in the format of a quest or adventure where the hero must answer the riddles, or a simple quiz-bowl.
- Give students an image and ask them to create a story that explains the image.
Students won’t need to create a lesson plan for their comics, so after creating their title and description, they can skip immediately to Write Script. You should specify a minimum number of scenes, and the number of different ending scenes for a branching story*. We have found that middle school students can generally complete a comic with a branching script having at least six scenes with two different end scenes (one good and one bad), in 6-8 hours. A comic with fewer scenes or without branching paths may be created in less time. Keep in mind that between writing the script, deciding on characters, laying out the storyboard with script and images, then creating the full color panels and adding details to final comics, students will likely spend at least an hour per scene.
*If you ask students to create a branching web comic, incorporating different paths leading to good and bad outcomes, be sure to review this blog post for ideas on how to develop those different paths.
Our prior experience with middle school students indicates they quite easily understand the user interface for writing the branching script, storyboarding and creating the final, full-color comic. Online help in the application includes videos and documents, and our Help Center has an overview of the process of creating a web comic.
Comic-BEE includes everything your students need to create a comic, including graphic assets for the final comic. Comic-BEE includes a diverse set of character assets as seen below, allowing students to create comics that reflect their world. There are also a wide range of props: computing and tech devices (of course!), application user interfaces, school, home and office furniture, appliances (e.g., TV, “smart” refrigerator, coffee machine), and everyday objects such as balls, light bulbs, food items, trees, backpacks, trash cans and recycling containers.
Students can publish their completed comic on the Comic-BEE server. They will get a link that they can share with you, their parents or with other students. Part of the assignment could be for students to critique comics made by other students, using a set of questions you create. Students could rate their peers’ comics with awards for things like Best Character, Funniest Story, True to Life, Made Me Think, etc.
If you want to evaluate the student comics, you need to consider if they met the minimum number of scenes and determine if there is completed final comic panel for each scene. You may also want to consider the creativity (storytelling, character development), the visual appeal of the final comic (visual layout of text & graphic, use of colors), and the content accuracy (does the comic address the assignment? do story choices make sense?). You can also download a sample evaluation rubric.
One last idea for your online class: we have Content Bundles featuring comics about cybersecurity. In the current circumstances, every student would likely benefit from refreshers about ethics and cyber hygiene. And if you’d like to use one of these comics for a challenge or scored assessment with your students, don’t worry, we still don’t collect any personal information: each student is given an anonymous access code.
If you still have questions about using Comic-BEE as part of your online K12 classroom, or are interested in setting up an academic account, please contact us today!