What You Need:
- Colored pencils or markers
- Drawing paper
- Newspaper comic strips
What You Do:
Look over the newspaper comic strips, and discuss some of the common features with your child. For example, they usually feature:
- 1-2 sentence conversations between characters
- 1 picture per frame with somewhat close-up perspective
- Humorous situations or dialogue
Brainstorm with your child to come up with a subject or scenario for his comic strip. Is the strip about the trials of being a kid? Is it about something that happened at school? Or does it take place in other location, such as outer space or the age of the dinosaurs? Encourage your child to be creative - there are no rules, and no one is grading him on his performance! Once your child has settled on a plan for the strip, he can get started on actually drawing it out.
Use the ruler to draw a rectangle the length of the paper, and divide the rectangle into 4-5 squares. Your child will need to make certain that the squares are large enough to draw the picture and add in the text while being both visible and legible.
Draw the picture that will go in each of the frames. Keep in mind the story that you are trying to tell, and make sure to save room for the speech bubble. Is the character angry? Amused? Bored? Try and convey your comic with words and pictures. Sometimes it is the contrast between text and image that is the source of the humor.
Write the sentences that go with each of the frames on a separate sheet of paper. (This is to let your child see if the sentence will fit into the available space.) Next, write the sentence into the appropriate frame, and draw a speech bubble (or thought bubble) around the text. If you wish, you can color the comic strip to give it "Sunday comic" flair.
To expand on the complexity of this activity, your child can create his own comic book. The main difference in the activity is that your child will fold 7-8 pieces of paper in half, and then divide each page into 2-4 squares.
One other adaptation is to find a way to share the comic strip with others. Ideas for this include:
- Scanning the picture onto the computer.
- Taking a digital picture of the comic strip.
Once you have a digital copy of your strip, the sky's the limit! There are several ways to share your child's work, from emailing it to setting up a blog where it can be showcased.
– American Library Association selected MakeBeliefsComix.com for inclusion in its 2010 Great Web Sites for Kids, (http://www.ala.org/greatsites). "Great Web Sites for Kids are those considered the best web sites for ages birth to 14, outstanding in both content and conception... 'great' should be thought to include sites of especially commendable quality, sites that reflect and encourage young people's interests in exemplary ways."
– Google, UNESCO and LitCam selected MakeBeliefsComix as one of the world's most innovative web sites in fostering literacy and reading and featured it in "The Literacy Project". The group allows literacy and educational associations to find and share ideas about literacy and reading promotion.
– 2009 Parents' Choice Foundation Recommended Award. "The site is geared toward children, and instructions for use are clear and simple, making it a fun and age-appropriate activity for kids 8 and up - although those as young as 5 could create comics with their parents' help and have plenty of fun along the way."
– Selected for "The Best Ways to Make Comic Strips Online" compendium published by Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day. See http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2008/06/04/the-best-ways-to-make-comic-strips-online/ Says Ferlazzo, an educator, "Make Beliefs is a fairly well-known site that has a variety of characters that can be used in pre-made templates. It's already popular in schools — both in mainstream and ESL/EFL classes."
– 2009 Parents' Choice Foundation Recommended Award – Essay titled "Creating Online Comics With Multilevel Students: Writing, Reading, and Telling Stories in English" by Bill Zimmerman to be published for Multilevel/Mixed-Ability volume in Classroom Practice book series of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL).
– Presented Workshop on "Creating, Comic Strips Online to Encourage Writing, Reading, Storytelling" at 2009 international convention of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) as well as selected for Developers Showcase to present MakeBeliefsComix.com to attendees.
– Article titled "What's the BIG IDEA? Comic Strips! They help kids learn to read and write!"by Bill Zimmerman, published in Scholastic Parent & Child magazine (October 2009).
– GraphicNovelReporter(October 30, 2014): "Bill Zimmerman has created something wonderful – MakeBeliefsComix.com, a website with a clear message: nurture children's creativity through family fun. Zimmerman's mission is to ensure that anyone coming across this site has something fun to do, and here, the fun to be had is in comics!
-- Review by By Matthew Burbridge GraphicNovelReporter(July 2012)
– Education World(July 2012): "Every language arts class could benefit from some time spent on MakeBeliefsComix.com. For simple fun, MakeBeliefsComix is tremendous. When put in the hands of a talented teacher, it can be even better English language arts lessons will take on a whole new dimension with this site, as students can create visuals to match original stories, or craft the images to fit existing prose...Educators serving special-needs students will appreciate the area of the site designed especially for them. There, users can read ideas and tips sent in by teachers of students with an array of learning challenges."
-- Review by Jason Tomaszewski, Education World Social Media Editor(July 2012)
– The New York Times' The Learning Network(July 2010): "On any of these sites, students can pick from a wide range of story elements - characters, expressions, actions, settings and dialogue boxes - to create unique visual narratives. They can use these tools to illustrate any concept or curricular content, such as a scientific process, historical event, personal narrative or literary text. Suddenly every student can access his or her inner artist, and you'll have material for a great display of student work."
-- Review by Ryan R. Goble (July 9, 2010)
– Common Sense Media(March 2016): “Make Beliefs Comix can help kids build creative and narrative comic strips. They choose characters, objects, background colors, and other elements; the main site design is a little simplistic, but the well-explained tool is so user-friendly that even art-averse kids can use it to practice storytelling, writing, and imagination skills. Make Beliefs Comix provides a number of other valuable resources for parents and kids that stress having a positive attitude. Activities encourage kids to respect others and be confident. The Printables section features several thought-provoking exercises that can help kids identify feelings and make good decisions. Other writing activities encourage them to appreciate the world around them and learn from mistakes; site content also can introduce kids to subjects like 9/11's effect and women's rights. The comic characters are diverse, featuring people of color, animals, and a kid in a wheelchair ... Make Beliefs Comix brings something else to the table: a valuable focus on positivity, awareness, and self-acceptance.”
-- Review by Erin Brereton (March 2016)
– Good Housekeeping (February 2009): "MAKE A FUNNY PAGE. Created by children's book author Bill Zimmerman, colorful MakeBeliefsComix.com lets kids (ages 4 and up) design comic strips using pre-drawn characters. Kids fill in text bubbles, then print or e-mail the cartoons for friends for free."
-- Review from Good Housekeeping (February 2009)
– TESOL Essential Teacher Magazine(June 2008): "Imagine a computer lab full of adult ESOL students where not a word is heard, where every head is bent in concentration, where smiles erupt spontaneously, and where fingers are clicking away on the keyboards. This is precisely what occurs when my students work with journalist and author Bill Zimmerman's web site, MakeBeliefsComix.com.
"From the moment they open the web site and discover the tools, the students begin to explore. Minimal instruction is needed because the tools are self explanatory (with language or visuals), and students feel comfortable experimenting with them.
"Clearly, when students create a comic strip of their own, they are using their reading and writing skills as well as tapping into their creativity. The comic strip work readily supports classroom work."
-- Review excerpt from TESOL Essential Teacher Magazine (June 2008) by Tamara Kirson,
ESOL lead instructor at City College of New York in the United States. Ms. Kirson was named The New York Times 2009 ESOL Teacher of the Year.
– School Library Journal(January 9, 2013): "One of the true pioneers in the field, Bill Zimmerman launched MakeBeliefsComix.com only a few years ago, and now it's in use in countless classrooms, libraries, and technology labs throughout the world. Not content simply to provide one of the premier 'comics generators' available, Zimmerman and Make Beliefs are constantly coming out with new, highly topical templates as well as free printables (now numbering 350!) that allow educators to help kids write comics without a computer in sight."
-- Connect the Pop Blog by Peter Gutierrez, School Library Journal (January 9, 2013)
– School Library Journal(June 2011): "We like the following tools for their ease of use, available options, and classroom friendliness...Author Bill Zimmerman's web-based site [MakeBeliefsComix.com] enables users to write their comics in languages other than English, including Spanish, French, German, Italian, Latin and Portuguese...Find printables, lessons, and writing prompts here, too."
-- "Anamania" by Jennifer Stern and Joyce Kasman Valenza, School Library Journal (June 2011)
– School Library Journal(May 2009): "Comic generator site MakeBeliefsComix has a new offering. A printables feature now lets creative visitors of all ages download graphic handouts. Print a comic or single illustration and let ELL and other students fill in the blank speech and thought balloons. Also new is a Teacher Resources page with tips on how to use comics in the classroom."
-- Review from School Library Journal (May 2009)
– Scholastic Instructor "15 Great Finds for Back to School": (Back to School 2013 issue) "Give your ELA curriculum a graphic twist by helping students create their own printable comic strips. MakeBeliefsComix provides everything you'll need-- from an interactive template to lesson plan ideas for teachers to writing prompts."
-- Review from Scholastic Instructor (Back to School 2013 issue)
– Disney Family Fun(October 2009): "Our Favorite Things... At MakeBeliefsComix.com, aspiring cartoonists can create strips with just a few clicks of a mouse... When kids achieve comic genius, they can print their strips or e-mail them to family and friends."
-- Review from Disney Family Fun Magazine (October 2009)
– National Education Association(August 2009): "MakeBeliefsComix.com is a web site that lets students write and illustrate their own comic strips online and e-mail them to family and friends. It's available in seven languages."
-- National Education Association (August 2009)
– Read.Write.Think, a listing of the most useful web resources for English language arts teachers sponsored by the International Reading Association and National Council of Teachers of English, selected MakeBeliefsComix.com for its Web Resources Gallery.
-- go to Read.Write.Think
– USA Weekend(January 2010): "...great websites that let kids get creative. These artistic sites are fun, safe and free. Explore them with your children to get your creative juices flowing. Craft cartoons. Kids write, read and tell stories by creating comic strips online, then printing or e-mailing them to friends or relatives. All ages; makebeliefscomix.com."
-- USA Weekend (January 2010)
– Family Circle(September 2009): "Click on It. Has homework taken over since your kids went back to school? Get their creative juices flowing with one of these smart websites. For the artist: MakeBeliefsComix.com. Choose characters, create dialogue in one of seven languages and complete a comic strip."
-- Family Circle Magazine (September 2009)
– AARP Bulletin(July-August 2009): "Bill Zimmerman is helping young and old connect, one comic at a time. The former newspaperman is creator of MakeBeliefsComix.com, a website that lets you write and illustrate your own comic strips and e-mail them to family and friends."
-- AARP Bulletin (July-August 2009)
– Learning Languages: The Professional Journal of the National Network for Early Language Learning(Spring 2008): "MakeBeliefsComix.com is user-friendly and simple to use. Since visitors to the website may use any of the available images to create their own conversations, this resource can be extremely valuable to teachers who wish to present vocabulary and language structures in a meaningful context. The characters are all visually appealing, which is sure to catch the attention of children in world language class."
-- Learning Languages (Spring 2008)
– New York Teacher(October 1, 2009): "It's time to banish the worn-out expression 'thinking outside the box.' With [MakeBeliefs] Comix strips, students can learn to create emotion, dialogue and story lines by making their own comic strips, box by box."
-- New York Teacher (October 1, 2009)
– The Graphic Classroom(March 25, 2009): "...a wonderful online resource that teachers could use in the classroom."
-- The Graphic Classroom (March 25, 2009)
– Nik Peachey's Daily English Activities Blog(May 28, 2009): "...a fun way you can use spoken phrases to create comic strips using the MakeBeliefsComix website. You can use these either to remind yourself of any new phrases you are learning, or just to enjoy creating your own comic strip."
-- Nik Peachey's Daily English Activities Blog (May 28, 2009)
– Wired Blog Network, Geek Dad(October 17, 2008): "...MakeBeliefsComix.com is a great space for primary aged children to begin to learn the value of storytelling in 3 panels. This online comic creation tool provides quite a range of options for children to begin... Best of all it offers a range of language options -- including Latin -- for the geekiest dads."
-- From Wired Magazine (October 2008): Online Comic Book Creation for Kids, By Daniel Donahoo.
– Learning Languages Magazine, Spring 2008:"MakeBeliefsComix.com is user-friendly and simple to use. Since visitors to the website may use any of the available images to create their own conversations, this resource can be extremely valuable to teachers who wish to present vocabulary and language structures in a meaningful context. The characters are all visually appealing, which is sure to catch the attention of children in world language class."
-- Learning Languages Magazine, The Professional Journal of the National Network for Early Language Learning, Spring 2008
– Edutopia Magazine(April/May 2008): "[MakeBeliefsComix] can help children and adults share their ideas. It's a therapy tool to help the deaf and the autistic communicate. It's a resource to encourage writing skills and to practice vocabulary or storytelling. And it all comes together at this site, where you choose a human or animal character, pick their mood, fill in a talk or thought balloon (in English or Spanish), and – boom – you have a comic strip…this site is creative fun for all ages."
-- Edutopia Magazine (April/May 2008) Head of Class Hot Stuff page
– NYS TESOL Idiom Magazine: "…ESL teachers may consider using this Web site with their students for various reasons, such as 1) practicing sentence structure and vocabulary; 2) engaging in make-believe conversations; 3) working individually or collaboratively; 4) introducing the idea of creative writing; 5) focusing on a speech genre; and 6) publishing their work. In addition, the setup of the site makes it feasible for teachers to design the writing activity to allow students to work individually, in pairs, or in small groups constructing authentic and meaningful dialogues."
-- NYS TESOL Idiom magazine review by Anne Henry Montante, ESL teacher in Buffalo city schools, and Elena Dokshansky, ESL teacher in North Tonawanda City School District
– Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal: "…individuals or families can (as I did in under five minutes) create comic strip stories using the provided characters and story ideas. They can improve their literacy skills while having fun… The web site can help adult education students to improve reading and writing skills, and to enable self-expression and storytelling. Parents and children can create stories together, print them to create comic books or email to friends and family."
-- David J. Rosen, Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal
– NY TESOL Dialogue: "I recommend this Web site for three reasons: ease of use, cross-skill application, and the "familiarity factor." The site is very easy to use and it's free. You simply choose from a selection of characters, click and drag them into a panel and then add either dialogue or thought boxes. Poof! You've become Charles Schulz for the day. You may also choose from various emotions for each character, change their size or stance, and customize color. Even though the idea of students creating their own comic strip may seem more appropriate for lower levels, it can easily be used with higher levels. It has obvious applications in a writing class, but can also be used to reinforce specific grammar structures or specific vocabulary words for an oral skills class. Lastly, what I call the "familiarity factor" is the fact that all students, regardless of level, are familiar with the format of a comic strip. To me this is the most attractive feature because it creates a comfort zone for students – it allows them to experiment with language."
-- NY TESOL Dialogue review by Eugenia D. Coutavas, Hunter College, New York
– Education World: "It can be used by educators to teach language, reading and writing skills, and also for students in English-as-a-Second-Language programs to facilitate self-express and storytelling, as well as computer literacy.Parents and children can create stories together, print them to create comic books or email them to friends and family. It is a learning tool that is just plain fun!"
-- Education World
– ESL MiniConference Review: "…a very interesting new resource online for teachers and students who want to add creativity to their English language learning activities… It is a relatively simple Web tool concept, and an exciting way to engage ESL/EFL students in creative new activities where they can experiment with the social contexts of language use."
-- ESL MiniConference Review
– New York State Spanish BETAC: "As the website says, 'our best educators and parents understand that playing is learning.' MakeBeliefsComix.com is an excellent resource that allows English language learners to interact with a new language in a unique and enjoyable way."
-- Poonam Basu, project associate, New York State Spanish BETAC, New York University Steinhardt Metropolitan Center for Urban Education