Mr Crawley would bore us to tears with his knowledge of how they make baked beans during Geography lessons. Ms Hitchkins was somewhat of a “free-spirit” and most days involved some form of interpretive dance, art, music or more candles than health and safety now allows. The flamboyant Mrs Simpson made us poor Year 1s sing the flipping register every day giving her an opportunity to recapture the operatic career she missed out on!
Like it or not, these oddly passionate teachers have had an effect on me. I remember them and their lessons.
So, what personal passion do I inflict upon my pupils? Easy, but hopefully my “infliction” (or my affliction, as my wife has actually called it) has a real use the in classroom.
On this site there are several of us who are passionate about comics. Whether you think this is geeky, out of your comfort zone or a world full of tight spandex and delusional childhood fantasies of heroism, it doesn’t matter. Use comics and cartoon strips with kids and they get engaged and think you’re cool! They’re exposed to this medium more than you think: countless cartoons, magazines, websites and anything with a speech bubble. If some of the bestselling comic books are adaptations of Shakespeare and Conan Doyle, it’s got to be worth a look, right?
Below are a few of the free online comic creators that I’ve found and used. As well as the engagement factor, each can be used to support the teaching and learning of:
Other suggestions include using these creators to explore:
The engagement factor here, particular for Primary, is incomparable as you have access to a lot of the characters seen in countless comics, magazines, films and, particularly the Super Hero Squad Show television show. Everyone has heard of one at least Marvel character, and here you can manipulate the best of them. It is very easy to use, has dozens of options and looks great. On a more literary front, you could highlight the way different characters speak through font, speech bubble and size and the backgrounds are detailed enough to spark a useful discussion around describing setting through senses.
Use this if you’re teaching myths and legends and need character ideas, settings and a real sense for the genre. There are far more versatile backgrounds, characters and objects here, but (a slight warning) the creator itself is less straightforward to use than Marvel with less on-screen instructions. It does include a tool for narrative boxes though, in which pupils could easily add their descriptions of settings, characters and actions as well as speech. The option to upload the pupils’ own artwork to type over is one of my favourite features and could increase ownership and engagement massively.
This is a designated KS3 resource. So say the people at the National Schools Partnership but I’d argue that the limited number layouts, characters and backgrounds would turn off KS3 pupils straightaway. They might like the stylistic qualities of the site but it is so small you are much better off using the one I suggest below.
It is worth noting straightaway that you have to sign up and pay to use the full tools on Pixton. A free “Fun” account allows you access to all the useful tools but it is one per email address. You can get a 30-day free trial for a school though, which gives you an online activation code. It’s worth it once you’ve done it, but have a play first. A down side for Pixton is that the page layouts aren’t great but the ability to move and manipulate characters massively makes up for this. I got a cowboy, wearing a skew-whiff tie, to wink and tilt his head at me! First time that’s happened for sure! This poseable element is stunning, allowing for all manner of different character interaction and expression. I’d fully exploit this tool for character work, dialogue, back story and emotion. Here, you’ve got a comic creator that could be tweaked to tell any modern day story.
Each of these is easy to use and probably easier for the pupils. For Primary I’d always use Marvel for its familiarity and accessibility. Out of the options here, Secondary pupils should use Pixton.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a starting point to get you using these tools to enhance teaching and learning. So try it and see if, years from now, you’re up there with Mr Crawley, Miss Hitchkin and Mrs Simpson in terms of memorable teachers.