Monthly Archives: December 2009

Class of the Week: Deborah Zamin’s Grade 8s!

Deborah Zamin’s Grade 8 class from John English Junior Middle School has been making some fantastic group-work comics about responsibility and empathy.  They’re our final class of the week before the holiday break.  Here’s what Deborah has to say:

Tell us about your students’ reaction to Bitstrips for Schools.

They really enjoyed working on their assignments and I was so impressed by the volume and depth of their stories. Even from the get go, with the creation of the class avatars – they were enthusiastic. I think they enjoyed being able to login to our class and find their name on the class roster for them to click and get going and that was neat. The media literacy itself assignment was a rather serious topic on Responsibility and Empathy and yet the comic strip genre did not impede them in any way from conveying their message in an appropriatel way. I really liked the way website allowed us to transcend genres.  The comics did require use of the steps of the writing process as well – many groups went through multiple drafts. We discussed how crucial those steps are in drafting a written essay as well.

Your students have made tons of Bitstrips! What kind of stuff have they been about?

Responsibility & Empathy stories (aligned with the Toronto District School Board’s Character Education Program whereby one character attribute is promoted per each month of the school year). Also, I assigned a shared activity from the site’s shared activities on Emotions. Many students also had fun exploring comic creation and submitted ‘fun’ and ‘spoofy’ comics for me and the class to share. I encouraged their creativity and enthusiasm.

Did you learn anything new about your students through their comics?

Absolutely. Making it fun means kids will write more. The website was a student-centered versus teacher-centered unit wherein students become tutors of other students and even taught me about the many features as we went along. I observed that the site is accessible and encourages all learning styles. It was similar to writing their own mini graphic novel, which is a popular genre among students.

How has Bitstrips for Schools helped you teach?

It has emphasized the relevance of media literacy in classroom teaching.  The students are comfortable with and enjoy using technology and it promotes communication among them.  Bitstrips was exceedingly easy to use to prepare a class assignment, it is accessible, intuitive and straightforward  The Bitstrips lent itself well to use of our interactive SmartBoard in the lab and other media such as video, film, music and photography. When it came time to present their projects, it was really neat to see the multiple forms of technology they incorporated into their work all originating from the creation of their comics. There was nothing to dislike about the site – I had fun myself with comics.

What advice do you have for other teachers on getting the most out of Bitstrips for Schools?

Start by viewing activities that other teachers have shared and attempt one with your class. Go through the classroom set up of names and design your own avatar to demonstrate your own motivation. Have fun with it! Give students school time to work on their projects… it is time consuming.
It is fun as a group project.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Happy Holidays to you all. You are doing a great job!

Responsibility and Empathy by Kathleen, Ioana, Jillian, and Andrew.


Art Update: Fall and Winter Scenes

Winter has officially arrived this morning on Bitstrips for Schools – we’ve added several new fall and winter scenes to the art library as well as over 40 new props. Enjoy!

Class of the Week: Louise Zimmerman’s Grade 11s

This high school English class from Vero Beach, Florida provides some great examples of how Bitstrips for Schools can be used to teach sophisticated concepts to advanced students.

Tell us about your students’ reactions to Bitstrips for Schools.

They were really excited to do something totally different as an assessment. We do a lot of analytical writing, so it was a nice change of pace.

Your students have made tons of Bitstrips! What kind of things have they been about?

There were two separate assignments. One was during our Persepolis unit. Persepolis is a graphic novel memoir, and I wanted the students to internalize visual syntax and semantics by seeing how hard it is to create tone with images. They were asked to create an autobiographical strip. The other assignment was during a Jane Austen unit in which students were asked to depict a scene from the book.

What advice do you have for other high school teachers who are thinking about using Bitstrips for Schools?

Think about their avatars. I didn’t specify that my students look like themselves in the virtual classroom, and I was very surprised at the very creative ways they expressed themselves as avatars.  Learn the software so that your expectations are reasonable. I did a strip myself as an example for my students.

Did you learn anything new about your students through their comics?
I learned LOTS about my students in the autobiographical assignment. We had some very interesting class discussions based on some of what we learned.

How has Bitstrips for Schools helped you teach?

The Language Curriculum now incorporates visual literacy. I can’t think of a better tool for exploring that.

What advice do you have for other teachers on getting the most out of Bitstrips for Schools?
Be clear in your expectations. Students seem to be more comfortable with stricter guidelines: number of frames, content, etc…

You’ve sent us some examples of your students’ work. What can you tell us about these strips and the students who made them?
It’s really tough to choose which ones to share!  Our unit about the book Persepolis generated some very interesting discussions about identity. One of my students Linh did a strip about the struggle with identity he went through as an American boy growing up in his Vietnamese household.

The Jane Austen assignment generated some interesting versions of scenes in the book. Eric W’s strip was simple, but it conveyed quite a lot about the characters.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks for a great website!