Monthly Archives: April 2010

Class of the Month: Elizabeth Cantwell’s Grade 5s!

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

My students cannot get enough of Bitstrips.  They love to create comics, both with assignments and on their own time.  They also enjoy complimenting each other and giving constructive criticism in the comments sections.  A parent told me she can’t get her son to stop doing his (bitstrips) schoolwork.

Your students have made tons of Bitstrips! What kind of stuff have they been about?
We have done four projects.  The first was to create an avatar, of course everyone had a blast with that (especially me).  The second was to create a comic that expressed your personality.  The third assignment was to create a comic promoting Peace on the Playground, an ongoing class generated project to help promote positive behaviors and relationships between and among students.  The last project we did was a superhero verb comic.  The students had to create a superhero and then use the eleven different types or tenses of verbs we learned in our verb unit in their story.  In each of the comics grammar and spelling always counts, so it’s another way to sharpen their editing skills and go over concepts previously learned.
Did you learn anything new about your students through their comics?
I am able to see another side of my students’ personality and, often, I am able to see their unique and often hilarious senses of humor.
How has Bitstrips for Schools helped you teach?

Bitstrips has helped me to teach in that it has given the students a new and fun way to apply their skills.  When combining discussion, notes, reading, and traditional assessments with projects like Bitstrips, I have found that most students are better grasping the concepts of grammar and are scoring higher on our unit tests.  The comics are also effective projects that don’t take as long as traditional papers to grade.

What advice do you have for other teachers on getting the most out of Bitstrips for Schools?
My advice for other teachers is to look through the existing library of sample assignments posted for teachers.  I combined a few of those to come up with my guidelines and rubrics.  Also, use the opportunity to send messages to your students to provide valuable feedback on 1st and final drafts.
You’ve sent us some examples of student work. What can you tell us about these strips and the students who made them?
I chose Sydelle’s Peace on the Playground comic because it exemplifies the major lessons we learned from our guest speaker, Mrs. Gallant, that the main thing that will stop bullying is if bystanders (people who are not the bully or the target of the bulllying, but are there) show they do not approve of the bully’s behavior.  I also think Sydelle did an amazing job of editing to make the bodies really look like the actions she wanted them to be doing.
I chose Connor’s Verb Superhero comic because I think it is funny (Arg, the evil sidekick who really hates yoga), it has all of the elements that I asked for, and all verbs are used well (that was a tough feat).
I chose Tyelor’s because he built kindness and goodwill into his super hero.  I thought the superhero’s power was ingenious.  It could’ve been used for evil and greed, but instead he chose to use the superpower to help others.
The last comic I chose was Chris’s “Bacon’s Trauma.”    Who knew 5th graders, not only understand irony, but can create ironic situations.  I feel it is incredibly advanced thinking on Chris’s part and a very clever idea.
Any interesting stories or anecdotes come to mind about your class and Bitstrips for Schools?
Anecdotes, I would like to send a shout out to Daniel who has created a record 23 comics in his spare time, to Andrew who has created over 30 characters, to Bacon, our class mascot, who has provided inspiration for many comics, and to the entire 5th grade class who has done such an amazing job with the Bitstrips program and absolutely deserve to be Class of the Month!

Major New Feature: Flexible Character Posing!

You may have noticed that characters on Bitstrips for Schools suddenly have a bit more spring in their step – it’s thanks to an amazing new feature that changes the way kids can make comics!  Now every character is like a fully articulated action figure, with the ability to take on any pose imaginable.  Body language adds a whole layer of meaning that goes beyond words – so now students can make their comics more expressive than ever!  The best part is, posing characters is incredibly easy and fun to do.

To manually pose a character, just double-click on it – the yellow highlight around the character and faded background lets you know you’re in ‘Pose Mode’, where you can click on any body part and move it independently. You can also stack arms above or below the body or head, to fine-tune your pose – start by clicking the arm you want to move, and then use the ‘Move Behind’ or ‘Move In-Front’ buttons on the lower toolbar.

When you’re finished posing, double-click anywhere else in the panel to exit Pose Mode.  You can still use any of the pre-set poses from the character control panel at any time, for fast and easy posing.

The Bitstrips for Schools team is thrilled to unlock the power of unlimited body language, and we can’t wait to see what students do with it!

National Writing Project

Bitstrips for Schools is a featured resource this month in the National Writing Project’s Spotlight on Literacy!

The NWP is a unique network of over 200 colleges and universities that works directly with school teachers across America (and beyond) to improve student learning and writing. It’s the largest teacher development program in history and the leader in researching the most effective methods for teaching writing. Students of teachers who use the NWP’s professional development programs perform better than their peers in every measured aspect of writing.

We’re thrilled to be counted among the literacy resources on their site, and are excited to welcome all of the new NWP teachers using Bitstrips for Schools as a writing tool in their classrooms!

Join the effort to make sure that the National Writing Project continues to receive direct federal funding.

Reading With Pictures

We recently discovered Reading With Pictures, a new non-profit whose mission is nothing less than to “utterly revolutionize the role of comics in education.” They believe that comics have a vital role to play in improving childhood literacy, and we wholeheartedly agree. Led by the award-winning comic writer and artist Josh Elder, Reading With Pictures holds workshops at schools across the US, showing educators how comics can engage kids in reading in a way unlike any other medium.

Comics have come a long way since we were in school, making the unlikely transition from contraband to curriculum material. But there’s still a lot of work to do, and Josh’s team is making sure the momentum keeps building – by overseeing the biggest-ever study on the role of comics in education, as well as producing what promises to be an amazing anthology of original comics made specifically for use in schools.

The anthology is due out this summer, but needs all our help to get published. Their fund-raising goal is $10,000 – a donation of just $15 gets you a signed soft-cover edition for your school library when it comes out, $150 gets your likeness on the back cover, and $250 gets you and a friend added as characters in one of the stories! You can also buy school packages at a big discount.

Naturally, we love what they’re doing, and encourage everyone to support their work by reserving their copy of The Reading With Pictures Anthology!