After checking out Make Beliefs Comix, I was disappointed with the lack of customization that their comic creator offered. So I Googled other online comic creators and found one that really impressed me. It is called Bitstrips.
I decided to try it out and make my own strip. I was immediately surprised by the flexibility and customization of the options and features. Firstly, the layout of the panels ranges from one to eight, but there is an option at the bottom that allows you to add more panels or decrease the number panels. The panel size can be adjusted, so I can have a row of three panels followed by a row of just one big panel. I decided to create 5 panels
Next, I wanted a character. In “Art Library,” I found that they have 40 generic characters and about 90 famous characters which range from Einstein to Zuckerberg. However, I saw a custom character option and decided to create my own character. After going through various skin colors, face and head shapes, I had to choose eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth, beard, ears, hair colour, haircut and glasses. The customization options are really impressive, and allow for a creation of many varied custom characters.
Next came the body. My character could be of varying height and build: from skinny, to fat, to buff. I gave him the buff body because I wanted to make a strong blue-collar worker coming home from a hard day of work. Then I had to choose his clothes. Bitstrips offers lots of clothes and costumes. I found one that suited a construction worker and chose it. Here is my comic strip below:
There are numerous background environments and objects I could have chosen from, but I wanted a backyard with a pool, and found just the thing. Next, I was fiddling around with the “Control” option which allows me to control my character and put him into various positions. I could turn and sit him down. I could choose from numerous hand gestures, facial expressions and mouth expressions. In the last panel, I was able to make his pupils look smaller so that he would have more of a shocked appearance.
The flexibility and customizability of Bitstrips comics allows for you to create virtually any story. People create their comic strips and post them for display on Bitsrips. Here is an example of what someone created and posted onto Bitstrips:
As you can see, the level of customizability is almost limitless.
It would be interesting to give ESL students assignments that would involve creating a stories with Bitstrips. They could retell fairy tales, they could make up their own stories or they could even tell a personal story.
Students can create comics by creating an account on the Bitstrips website or they can find Bitstrips on Facebook where they can make an Avatar for themselves, as well us single panel comic status updates, greeting cards and “friend comics” where two Facebook friends would make a comic of themselves. Unfortunately, the Facebook comic options are not as customizable as on the Bitstrips website.
The website can be used for plenty of teaching activities, however, Bistrips has another website that is geared towards teaching, called BitstripsForSchools. This is not free, but it does come with a 30 day trial. BitstripsForSchools is geared towards creating comic stories based on themes.
There are already a lot of activities created for different themes such as environment, history, science and so on. The way it would work is that the teacher would create a virtual classroom and choose a theme and either choose from or create his own comic panels with various characters and various settings and write instructions for the students. Then, the students would log into the virtual classroom and choose panels and add in dialogue and modify the characters. Once a student would finish, it would show on the teacher’s side and the teacher can either approve it or send it back with comments. Then the teacher could put the finished comics on display so that anybody could see them. The students can comment on others’ works and the teacher can delete any comments that are inappropriate.
ESL teacher, Mrs. Johnson puts some of the strips on her blog and links to her Bitstrips For Schools class where you can see her students’ works. I can see that Mrs. Johnson uses this activity a lot because there are a lot of students’ works in her virtual classroom.
According to an article on teachmag.com, Bitstrips For Schools is a very effective tool that helps students develop “critical thinking, visual literacy, and collaboration skills.” Since my practicum is in a computerless class, I will not be able to test out Bitstrips For Schools, but I might try Bitstrips.
Teacher and blogger, Nicole Robinson says on her blog that Bitstrips is one of her favorite teaching tools in class. She finds it is especially motivating for boys and brings out the students’ creative sides. The way she likes to use it is have the students create comics with empty speech bubbles and then have their peers fill them out. This sounds like a great activity for me to try. I can also do something similar in my class. I could create several strips with empty dialogue and thought bubbles and let the students fill those in.
I will definitely keep this tool in mind for my future students.