This English class from Byngmount Beach Public School really understand comics, and have made some wildly imaginative educational Bitstrips under the guidance of their teacher, Lindsay Porter. Here’s what she has to say about her class:
Tell us about your students’ reaction to Bitstrips for Schools.
The students love using Bitstrips, both for school assignments and for their own enjoyment at home. It really offers them a different way to express their knowledge on a topic – a way that provides them with the opportunity to be creative and interact with each other and with me using technology that they love. It’s not often you hear cheers ‘yay!’ when you tell your class they’re going to be writing summaries…but you do when you tell them they get to write their summary as a comic in Bitstrips.
Your students have made tons of Bitstrips! What kind of stuff have they been about?
When I was first introduced to the website I assigned a few of the sample shared activities for the kids to use to play around with the site and get familiar with it. The ‘family portrait’, ‘knock-knock joke’, and ‘express your feelings’ activities gave the students the opportunity to learn how to manipulate the props, use appropriate speech bubbles and caption boxes and change their character’s facial expressions and body positions to match up with what they were writing. They’ve made comics in response to a drama activity based on the book, ‘Not a Box’, as well as a health assignment where they need to get across the health risks of smoking. Their newest assignment is a procedural writing activity and we will be looking at using Bitstrips to present written summaries of non-fiction texts. I also get quite a few ‘silly’ or ‘just for fun’ kind of comics submitted for sharing too…and these are always interesting to look at!
Did you learn anything new about your students through their comics?
I think each activity that the students participate in on the site provides a way to learn more about them…from the dynamics of their family to their interests and sense of humor. It’s been interesting to catch all the new pieces of information that they put out there while creating their comics.
How has Bitstrips for Schools helped you teach?
Bitstrips for Schools is a great motivational tool for reluctant writers. Students who would normally shut down at the thought of a traditional writing assignment end up asking to stay in at recess to work on their comics. Knowing that I have something to help differentiate for those students and sustain their interest in a classroom task makes my job a little easier.
I also like having the opportunity to respond to student’s work at any time and post responses for them so that they can edit and revise their work. It gives me the chance to interact with each student and talk to them about their writing, in writing! The look forward to reading my posts about their work and they really do take my comments and tips to heart and work hard to make improvements.
What advice do you have for other teachers on getting the most out of Bitstrips for Schools?
Start with something fun. Make your avatar with your class and spend time at school allowing them to play around making their own characters and exploring all the things available to them. Take the time to make your own comics and familiarize yourself with all the tools available so you can easily introduce them to the kids. Allow particularly proficient students the chance to teach the rest of the class something interesting that they figured out. Once the kids realized all that they could do with the website, it made completing the assigned activities much easier.
You’ve sent us some examples of student work. What can you tell us about these strips and the students who made them?
This was a comic the students completed after we read the book, “Not a Box” by Antoinette Portis as a starting point for a drama activity. It was just meant as a fun way to get more familiar with the website using something that they had all had fun with in another class.
The ‘No Smoking Please!’ comics followed our health unit on substance abuse.
We used one of the shared activities to work on matching text to character expressions/body language. Many of the students in the class are ESL and not particularly comfortable with the keyboard yet either, so a lot of time is spent editing simple sentences such as the ones below for proper grammar and punctuation use.