Monthly Archives: May 2010

Class of the Month: Shannon Powell’s Grade 7s

A hallway display made by Shannon’s Grade 7 classes at Central Montcalm Middle School

Tell us about your students’ reaction to Bitstrips for Schools.
My students are addicted to this program. I could hardly keep them off it, and they were happy to have new assignments and complete them so they could share with the rest of the classes.  Having a purpose in playing really kept them interested in what they were doing.

Did you learn anything new about your students through their comics?
Some of students really surprised me with their sense of humor.  For others, I found a source of motivation to complete assignments and yet another genre to add to our writing workshop possibilities.

Interestingly, it was my overall lowest-performing class that accomplished the most during the days we worked on these assignments.  They were the quickest to catch on to the program, discovering all the tricks and features and then creating multiple characters and comics in addition to those that I required.

How has Bitstrips for Schools helped you teach?
In the writing workshop, I am always looking for more genres to offer to my students as writing possibilities. This was one that many students were eager to try out and even experiment with for other classes.  Some of my most highly reluctant writers were among the first to accomplish the assignments I gave, and proved that they can write after all.

Also, I teach a 9-week exploratory comics class, and many of the students struggled with the art of comics. Their lack of drawing ability held back the possibilities of what they could create, and in effect stifled their imaginations. With this program students don’t have to be limited by their drawing talent.  And the feature where we can upload and even search for our own images will mean that anything we can think up is possible!

What advice do you have for other teachers on getting the most out of Bitstrips for Schools?
I would spend some time creating your own character first, and even a short comic, maybe one that introduces the program or is an example of the first assignment. Learn as much as you can so that you can show your students how to run the program. Then do a simple activity or two so that students have time to play around with the program and get to know its capabilities.  By the time they finish the introduction, you should have a good idea of where you could use the program next, fulfilling some more of your curricular needs. Ask other content teachers if they have any ideas so that you could combine subject areas.  One of our social studies teachers wanted to use the program to make brochures for other countries her students were studying, and math or science concepts could easily be explained through comics as well.

Your classes have completed a bunch of activities. Are there any that stand out?

“Our Favorite Books” has been very popular in our building (where we posted a display of students’ work). Even two weeks after the display went up, we have students in other classes stopping to look and read what we’ve done. Many of them will begin conversations with their friends, noting which books they’ve read and then discussing those books right there in the hallway. The librarian has loved it, too! I’m going to keep it up for the beginning of next year, to give the new 7th graders ideas for reading material. Some of my favorites:

Hanna’s comic was interesting because she went outside the box and created a one-panel comic that still included everything in the rubric and more.  I like the picture she included of herself on the back wall:

And Tyler’s stood out because of his sense of humor. I have often felt this way, as I believe many book lovers have, and seeing it in print just makes it that much funnier (plus it’s MY favorite book of the year):

And finally, outside of our classroom, one activity that really stood out was created for another teacher, and needless to say, she was completely impressed. The assignment usually comes to her in the form of a poster, she said, and this student’s submission blew her away. The students were asked to take her, “The Queen of Skateboarding,” on a tour of the best skate parks in the US. Here is what one of my ELA students turned in:

I am already excited about using this program next year, and have even brainstormed ideas with my current students. All our students will be getting laptops next year, and this will be one way to keep them on task for sure!

Art Update – Science props!

Take a look in the Bitstrips Art Library and you’ll find some handy new items – a whole laboratory full of scientific equipment!  New stuff includes: lab desks and stools, bunsen burner, microscope, various beakers and flasks, and even the periodic table of the elements.  You can find them all together in the new Science Room scene – just check out the Scenes tab in the Art Library.

New Feature: Import your own images!

Now the possibilities truly are endless! Starting today, students can add their own photos to comics, or choose from thousands of copyright-free images in the Flickr Commons!

To upload a  photo from a hard drive or memory stick, open the Comic Builder and go to the new Images tab in the Art Library. Then click the Upload Image icon and choose the file you want to import.

Once it’s done uploading, just drag the image from the library into your comic panel, just like you would with a scene or prop! You can find every image you upload under My Images until you delete it.

If you can’t find the image you need in your own library, try the new Flickr Commons search bar. Simply choose ‘Flickr’ under the Images tab, type what you’re looking and hit Search. Then browse through the results and drag the image you want into your comic.

Voilà!

By default, you’ll find Image Uploading enabled for your classes. If you’d like to disable it, or enable image sharing, go to the Settings tab and check (or uncheck) appropriate boxes.