Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Making comic strips

We've been having a lot of fun lately using the Make Beliefs Comix online comic generator.

It lets you create three-panel comic strips with a variety of different characters and standard comic strip elements. The interface is a little clunky, especially if you're familiar with any other kind of drawing software (or have an iPad), so Ben acts as the creative director and I do the actual manipulation.

Using this tool has helped me see how facile Ben is with the visual and narrative conventions of comics, even though he can't draw very well himself. He comes up with the storyline, the characters, and the dialog on his own and knows exactly how to insert storytelling devices such as using "meanwhile" to indicate a parallel plot development, or foreshadowing events by showing characters lurking in the background.


Since the tool includes several different emotional states for the different characters, this might be a fun way to have kids create their own social stories or experiment with cause and effect. The three panel design could also be useful for helping younger kids with basic sequencing.

And because Ben and I do this as a collaborative activity, there's lots of opportunity for spontaneous conversation and give and take.

Ben especially likes to print out the panels and assemble them into entire pages. He gets a much more "finished" end product than he can draw himself and it's helping him learn that he can channel his storytelling abilities to create permanent artifacts, not just in-the-moment imaginary play scenarios.

Try it out next time you're looking for a rainy day activity.

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