Friday, October 21, 2016

10 Ideas for Using Comics In Your Classroom

Over the last couple of months I've shared a handful of tools that students can use to create comics. I even conducted a webinar on the topic last month (the recording is available here). There is no shortage of tools for creating comics available to students. Regardless of which comic creation tool you choose to have students use, the ideas for using comics in your classroom are the same. Here are ten ways that your students can use comics in your classroom.

1. A fun alternative to traditional book reports.
Rather than just writing about a book, have your students illustrate their favorite parts of a book. Let them create illustrations of characters as they pictured the characters while reading a book. The Giver is a perfect candidate for this kind of alternative book report.

Another way to use comics for a book report is to have students illustrate an alternate ending to a favorite book. Or have them illustrate an epilogue to a book.

2. Create biographies.
For a history lesson have students pick a famous person and illustrate significant moments in that person's life. The further back in history, the better because students will have to really start to use their imaginations to illustrate scenes of people for whom there are few portraits or photographs.

3. Create autobiographies.
Let students tell stories from their own lives in a comic setting.

A variation on this idea is to have students depict themselves as the star of a superhero story.

4. Create goal or vision boards.
Many comic creation tools let students use a mix of pictures and illustrations. Let your students use that combination to illustrate their goals for the school year, for an athletic season, or as a response to  "where do you see yourself in five years?"

5. Illustrate procedures.
In elementary school classrooms you could have students create comics about appropriate recess behavior or lunch room behavior. With older students you might have them create a comic or storyboard about science lab safety concepts. A simple, one-frame comic tool like ToonyTool could be used by older students to create lab safety reminder signs.

6. Summarize events.
Students of all ages can use comics to create summaries of an event like a political debate. Or you might have students create comics about historical events. Pixton offers some extensive lesson plans based on that idea.

7. Craft a visual timeline of events.
Creating timelines is a classic social studies lesson activity. Have students enhance their timelines by creating comic summaries of the events on their timelines. They could create the timeline entirely in a tool like Storyboard That or they could create their comics then print them to add to an existing timeline they created on paper.

8. Write and illustrate fun fiction stories.
A lot of student struggle to write fiction stories when they're just given a blank document to write on. Comic creation tools often include lots of visuals that can help spark ideas in students' minds. Make Beliefs Comix offers a lot of fiction writing prompts for students.

9. Illustrate concepts and or vocabulary terms. 
Creating comics to illustrate the meaning of a vocabulary word is a fun alternative to simply writing definitions and studying flashcards.

10. Model polite conversations. 
A lot of schools use the parent-teacher-student model for first quarter and first trimester conferences. Before your conferences have your students illustrate how they would like the conference to go and how to phrase the things that they would like to say during the conference.

5 Tools for Creating Comics
Storyboard That and Pixton both offer comprehensive lesson plans that incorporate the ideas listed above. Of course, you don't need to use those tools to create great comics. You could also use Google Slides to create comics as I demonstrated in this video. To create simple, single frame comics you could try a tool like ToonyTool. Or you might try Make Beliefs Comix for creating comics in multiple languages. Make Beliefs Comix also provides PDF comic templates that you can print for your students.

Disclosure: Storyboard That and Pixton are advertisers on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Thursday, October 20, 2016

NATO on the Map - An Interactive Overview of NATO

NATO on the Map is an interactive map of information about about NATO. The map, viewable in 2D and 3D, displays information about NATO member countries, partner countries, NATO actions, and NATO security challenges and responses.

When you visit NATO on the Map you can choose to display information from five categories. Selecting a category will highlight countries on the map and or display interactive map markers. Clicking on a highlighted country or a map marker will reveal a short, related passage of text. Many of those passages include links to additional sources of information.

Applications for Education
NATO on the Map could be a great resource for social studies teachers who want to provide their students with more than just a paper map of NATO member countries and their activities.

H/T to Maps Mania

Mentimeter Adds Options for Image-based Polling

Mentimeter is a convenient service that lets you create and distribute poll questions for an audience to answer during a presentation. Your audience can respond to your questions on their phones, tablets, or laptops. Earlier this year Mentimeter added a quiz option to their services. That option works much like Kahoot or Socrative. This week Mentimeter enhanced their services again by adding an image option.

Mentimeter now lets you create image-based polls and image-based quizzes for your students to respond to on their phones, tablets, or laptops. You can use the image-based quiz or poll option with multiple choice or open-response questions.

Applications for Education
One of the neat features of Mentimeter is found when you use the open-response question format. You can have all of your students' responses displayed in a word cloud. This lets you and your students quickly see the most frequently used words and phrases from all students' responses. Mentimeter includes a profanity filter to preserve a classroom-friendly environment.

Improved Voice Typing in Google Docs - A List of Commands

Yesterday, Google released a bunch of updates to G Suite for Education. One of those updates was an expansion of the voice typing commands available in Google Documents.

The voice typing commands in Google Documents now includes options for highlighting text, inserting links, adding comments, and creating and editing tables in your documents. Visit Google's complete list of commands to see everything that is possible with the voice typing feature in Google Documents. Watch the video below to learn how to access the voice typing option.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Name Picker Ninja - A Random Name Picker for Your Classroom

Name Picker Ninja is free tool for quickly choosing names at random. Using Name Picker Ninja is a simple matter of pasting or typing a list of names into the "add names" field in Name Picker Ninja and then clicking "go!" The names in your list will scroll and stop on a randomly selected name. Once a name has been selected you can remove it from the list or keep it in the rotation.

You do not need to register on the site in order to use Name Picker Ninja.

Applications for Education
"Random name selector" is one of the most frequently searched terms on this blog. That indicates to me, that many teachers agree with me that a random name picker like Name Picker Ninja is useful for choosing students for all kinds of classroom activities. In elementary school you might use it to pick your line leaders for the day. In middle school or high school you might use it to choose the order in which students make presentations to their classmates.

If you want to put a random name selector in your blog or website, watch the video here to learn how to do that.