from Educators' eZine
The Funny Pages Help Students Address a Not-So-Funny Problem
Bullying is a problem at every level of education. Every school has its own way to address the problem, but are these techniques effective? Do they ever make a deep impression on the students? Does the bullying ever go away? Not Likely.
My school is no different from any other; we have implemented programs to combat bullying, but the bullying persists. Then, after experimenting with some new software, I got the idea to make bullying awareness important and exciting for my third-and fourth-grade students by having them create comic strips using Comic Life, one of the new programs available for Macs. With the aid of ready-made templates, word bubbles, pictures, etc. its users easily create a comic strip.
Here is how I used Comic Life to connect my students to a real world issue that they face.
Step 1: Getting Started
I first got the students energized about the program by allowing them to create simple comic strips introducing themselves. We used this as a jumping-off point to address questions such as: what makes a good comic strip; what makes them easy to read, etc. Additionally, we looked at comic strips from the local newspaper to better grasp how comics were set up. This was also an excellent opportunity for our comic book aficionados to share their collections with us. This led to a great discussion about how these new authors could make their comic better and what they would do differently the next time.
After pairing students, I gave each team thirty minutes to brainstorm ideas about bullying to which they had been victims or had simply witnessed. They then created a rough draft/storyboard of their comic strip about bullying. They had to include the types of pictures needed as well as some ideas for dialogue. To make this a cross-disciplinary experience, I had them keep in mind some of the strategies learned in health class about how to diffuse a bullying situation. I also insisted on story and plot — just like commercially-available comics, theirs needed to have a beginning, middle, and end. Most important, their story had to suggest a solution to the problem that could be used by a real student in a similar situation.
Step 2: Gathering Pictures
Their next task was to gather the pictures for their comic strips, using one of three options.
- the "capture" feature of Comic Life. It uses the computer's built-in iSight camera to place images into the comic. The only problem is that it lacks the option to save the pictures. You must use the captured image before you can take another and if not you lose the image.
- take pictures using Photo Booth, a program that utilizes the iSight camera to take pictures. It also allows the students to apply different effects to the pictures and it allows them to save the pictures for later use.
- use a digital camera and upload them to the computer and then use iPhoto to edit them. Because our school owns just five digital cameras, most groups chose Photo Booth for their pictures.
Step 3: Placing Photos
The next step was to place the photos in order and to create the comic strip. By leaving some of the boxes empty they could add lettering (word art) either using one of the program's templates or creating their own (another of the program's very nice features.)
Step 4: Word Bubbles and Text
Now it was time to add word bubbles and other text to show what the characters were saying or thinking. Since Comic Life offers multiple types of bubbles we had the opportunity to discuss the significance of the different types of bubbles available, as some designate thought, some designate actual speech, and others even emphasize the way something is being said. Another feature of the program is lettering and captions. The lettering, very similar to WordArt, can be manipulated into a desired shape and students can change its font and style. I was at first puzzled about how to change the color of the lettering, but one of my students showed me how to select the "Details" tab instead of the "Libraries" tab, giving me the options to edit the style attributes and the letter attributes. The "Details" tab also allows editing of page attributes, such as the style of the background. Comic Life also offers Spell Check, which works just like that in MS Word, even with the red and green zigzags.
Step 5: Finishing up
The final step was for the students to peer-review each other's comics before they could be printed and shared. Besides printing the comic strips for display, Comic Life also allows students to share them via their "dot-mac" Other sharing options are to export to HTML, to iPhoto, or to QuickTime.
In retrospect, this was a great activity for studying the topic of bullying. It allowed the students to address the various issues they see on a daily basis while displaying their creativity in a new and fun way. Their comic strips, hung in the halls for the rest of the school to see, won a lot of great compliments from other students and staff on the great job they did. The health class teacher even asked for copies to use with future classes!
There are still other uses for Comic Life. It would be a unique way for students to give a book report. Comic Life is also a creative way to show the steps to a math problem or a science experiment. The possibilities are limitless for integrating Comic Life into real life!