For the TES
magazine of 29.02.08 I wrote an article on using Comic strips to give pupils a sense of power over narrative writing. Many kind people have mentioned the article and have taken up some of the ideas. As is the nature of writing in this way the original text was cut down to fit the magazine's format. Below I have included the whole thing for those who wish to read more (with my thanks to Simon Mills for his original idea):Bring it to life!
Back-reading through my Internet ‘feeds’ I came across some literacy work by Simon Mills
that really attracted my attention. Amongst many other things there he was talking about multi-modality and punctuation and there was this bit about:‘…pondering on how the use of comic strips might help with this, and how in the process I might also encourage colleagues to see this undervalued literary form as a potential tool in supporting engagement with texts and literacy development.’
This got me thinking about narrative and the way that comic strips could be used to engage different people in different ways. In other words, how a single story line might be accessed from different directions. This especially worked for me as I was thinking that comic strips were great multi-modal representations and the whole thing fitted into a ‘design and build’ context. The images chosen and the captions created carry both the narrative and the story and different people focus on different parts to begin with and then ‘blend’ or ‘mash-up’ to imbibe the whole context. I feel that writing narrative succinctly could be really well facilitated by using comic strip format. Really I was getting to grips with ‘storyboarding’!
So I began to look for an electronic format which would help me to do just that.
During October I spent some time in an Online Conference called ‘K12’ and there I came across a presentation by Wendy Wolfe from Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, where she detailed the use of some free Web 2.0 tools. Her presentation, ‘If All My Class Did This’
was both entertaining and engaging. It introduced me a number of potentially useful Web 2.0 tools that I had not come across before. It was the easy way that she adopted and then adapted the tools that were available to fit in with her curriculum that impressed me and determined me to look at ToonDoo
, a cartoon creator.
This free Web 2.0 software enables users to create simple one, two or three panel cartoons quickly and simply with supplied character sets (there is a really large fantasy range) and supplied backgrounds etc but it is also possible to upload photos from your own computer for use in your cartoons. There is also a function which allows you to build your own characters. To get to use it you have to fill in a simple form and register online (as with most of these applications).
The implications of using this technology are exciting for children as they begin to take control of their writing and also how they develop their sense of audience. Web 2.0 technology opens up a developing idea of communicating and review that has not really yet been explored in a school setting. The usual audience for children’s work is restricted to the class or occasionally home and the close community. Using tools, such as ToonDoo, opens up the possibilities of collaborations around the world in formats that are engaging and creative. There is no need within this environment to be tethered by geography, it is as open as users are prepared to allow. And it is this allowing that we all need to come to terms with within our various institutions.
Once your film strip has been created it can be saved, kept private, shared with friends or even published to the world. This opens up enormously the concept of ‘sense of audience’ for published creations and all of the exciting things that come with giving children the power to go outside the school environment with their work.
When you view the finished work it looks like this ...
(and there is a comments box at the bottom for people to give you feedback on your work - provided that you shared it with them!)
It is also possible to combine ToonDoons to form ToonBooks which work terrifically electronically with virtual page turning. This function means that groups can combine strips to make a series. After a few exploratory goes, the whole thing is very intuitive and simple to use allowing the users to concentrate on the quality of the literacy involved rather than getting bogged down with the operation of the software.
Contextually you can use the visualisation through the different formats of the speech bubbles to easily differentiate between speech and thought … as Simon notes: ‘With thought bubbles we can think, reflect, look back, imagine or visualise... with speech bubbles we can shout, cry, whisper, whimper query, say and exclaim’ . The shape and size of the bubbles and their position on the pager can also play a part in the inference of the ideas. If you have ever ( and who hasn’t) read any of the ‘Tin Tin’ books you can see how this works with the first part of the dialogue/idea always on the left of the picture and any action moving with the eye line from left to right . Even in some cases, going out of the frame.
Using these ideas young writers can explore the difference between thoughts and speech and can develop ideas of how to track the narrative of a story in a variety of ways – comic strips being one of these. The Express Newspaper’s Rupert Annuals of the past are excellent examples of this whereby the narrative is carried by the title of the page, the four images and the rhyming couplets and the narrative text (which also involves speech). At this point it is about experimentation and almost the ‘breaking’ of conventions to see the effect that they have on writers and readers.
Simon notes: ‘The narratives presented within comic strips are layered or textured and in constructing meaning as intended by the author must be accessed on multiple levels. When I read a comic strip I often begin with the visual elements, and then use the captions to set context before following the speech, linking the pieces together to construct my own version of events, in using the text in this way I am take personal control of the meaning I am making, designing my own story from what is being presented as I go.’
It is this sort of experimentation with writing that we should be encouraging so that it allows the audience of the writing to construct their own version of the author’s narrative.
Point to Ponder
There are numerous ‘comic strip’ generators sitting on the Web that can easily be found by any quick search. Before you consider using such an application in a classroom context or as a home/school idea check carefully. Really work through the options. Remember, these sites were not, on the whole, designed for education purposes and there may be things lurking you would prefer not to be associated with.
Other software to explore.Plasq
(works with Mac or Windows) – is a download rather than a Web 2.0 application Comic Creator
- from readwritethink
Labels: creativity, learning, teaching, TES