Once considered only child’s fare, comics have emerged as a genre worthy of serious study and application. Comic books not only engage, they help develop analytical and critical-thinking skills. They prompt students to decipher meaning, purpose, and tone. They also provide creative possibilities for differentiated learning and expression. Moreover, successful cartoonists need a wide range of skills: researching, drawing, writing, computing, storyboarding, and designing. Cartoonists need to make their stories engaging and persuasive.
Today there exist a whole range of free and easy to use online comic-creation tools to provide creative opportunities to express their knowledge, their understanding, their opinions — themselves. This section includes information on:
Below are some specific tools for the creation of online comics.
Note: When choosing a tool consider its functionality and publishing possibilities:
- Easy-to-use tools typically feature drag-and-drop interface
- Can images be imported?
- Can audio and video be recorded?
- Can you create original art or do you choose from a library of images?
- Can students collaborate on the comic?
- Can the comic be published elsewhere with an embed code?
Create fully animated comics online with Kerpoof. Choose from a library of scenes and characters, add animation, movement, as well as music and speech bubbles to bring a story idea to life. Extremely intuitive menu bar and helpful video tutorials make this tool quite useful. A key feature is a Teacher Account that allows teachers to register students and create classes where students can collaborate on creations. To get started, read through Kerpoof’s FAQ page for Educators.
ReadWriteThink Comic Creator
This is an extremely easy-to-use comic strip tool. That said, the features are at a minimum: import people, text and props. Projects can be printed when complete. Simple tool, but with limited functionality.
Toondoo is another tool to create comics quickly. You can opt for a free individual account, though the Premium educator account — based on number of participants and length of use — reasonably priced. An Education account allows for greater privacy and security, so consider it. Completed projects can be shared and embedded.
Quickly and easily create comics with this online tool. When you are done editing the comic they can be printed out or emailed. This comic creation tool should primarily be used to create comics that will be printed out for submission as the option to publish and share online is not included in this platform.
Pixton offers both a free account for personal use and an education platform with a unique pricing structure. There are a number of features provided with the Pixton education platform. Teachers can create a class, add students and assign a project all within the Pixton platform. Also, students can be signed up without and email account. Once created, comics can be printed, downloaded, embedded or shared online. The Pixton platform is also certfied for use on Smart and Promethean interactive white boards. To get started, watch the Pixton for Schools overview video.
With Sketchcast you can record a sketch live as it is being created and narrate the recording. This tool is useful for having students demonstrate their understanding of math equations and concepts. When finished, the audio sketch can be embedded.
With Chogger you can create comics online by creating original art or uploading pictures to your comic strip. Add speech or thought bubbles quickly and publish your finished product.
Sketchfu captures art as it is being created and allows others to see the creation process in action.
There are a number of additional Comic Creators available online. Follow this link to a blog post on more tools and tips on comic creation.
Kerpoof Video Tutorials
More Kerpoof Tutorials from Kerpoof.com
Make Beliefs Comix!
This website provides students with a comic generator. Click here to view a walk-through demonstration.
Comics can be integrated in history and social studies classes in a variety of ways:
- Upload and comment on photographs.
- Create a fictional story about a historical event.
- Create a virtual tour of a country, literary setting, or historical location.
- Create an editorial cartoon.
- Create a traditional scene or event from a foreign culture.
- Recreate a story, scene, historical event, or poem.
- Transform a Primary Source Document into a comic.
- Create a comic in order to explain a mathematical or scientific concept.
- Create a ‘What If’ comic strip version of an event.
- Jigsaw a larger unit of study into smaller sections and have groups create comics to teach their section to the class.
- Encourage otherwise reluctant writers to express themselves.
Here are a few lesson plans that integrate comics:
Comic Makeovers: Examining Race, Class, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Media
In this ReadWriteThink lesson, students explore representations of race, class, ethnicity, and gender by analyzing comics over a two-week period and then re-envisioning them with a “comic character makeover.”
Book Report Alternative: Comic Strips and Cartoon Squares
Students must think critically in this ReadWriteThink lesson to create comic strips highlighting six important scenes from a book they have read.
Seuss and Silverstein: Posing Questions, Presenting Points
Students read the works of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein as part of this ReadWriteThink activity to analyze the way social issues are addressed in selected works.
Examining Transcendentalism through Popular Culture
In this ReadWriteThink lesson students use excerpts from the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, comics, and songs from different musical genres, and examine the characteristics of transcendentalism.
Using the online Comic “Rabbit and Bear Paws” to teach about the Aboriginal Community Then and Now
In this comicsintheclassroom.net extended activity students analyze cartoons to understand that the way aboriginal people live in their community.
Little Orphan Annie: Leapin’ Through the Depression
This lesson deals primarily with Little Orphan Annie and the strip’s relationship to the Great Depression. Students fill in new text to strips according to what they’ve learned about the Depression era and create a new character.
The National Association of Comic Arts Educators web site at Teachingcomics.org provides a series of articles, lessons, exercises, and handouts on comics in the classroom.