A few months back I talked about how useful the Comic Creator was on the Read, Write, Think website. While it allows for quick and easy publication of creative cartoons using pre-drawn characters and backgrounds, it doesn’t include a drawing tool to allow the user to make their own unique creations, nor does it have the ability to save your work; you must finish and print out your work all in one sitting. Due to these limitations I’ve been searching for something equally engaging for creative writing assignments, but most searches produce commercial software that can sometimes be quite pricey.
My makeshift solution is to use MS Publisher to create comics that can be saved, fully manipulated, and offer up a greater variety of tools for creative purposes (drawing tools and adding your own clipart). I usually have my students use Publisher to create posters to illustrate analogies from our spelling work, or make quick cartoons pointing out the differences between synonyms and antonyms. By using a pre-made comic template the students can practice “storyboarding” their comics or cartoons, practice integrating images they’ve drawn in MS Paint or scanned in, and get an idea of how to put together their own from scratch in the future. Most of the tools needed come preloaded with Publisher including speech balloons that can be adjusted to any size, irregularly shaped polygons to get some really neat layouts and spaces between the individual cells, and word art to create the visual sound effects reminiscent of Batman’s “Biff!” and “Thud!” from the old campy television series.
I’m planning to use the Publisher Comic idea for my students to create comics using the multiple meanings of our spelling words (our focus this week) in a short story format (no more than one or two comic pages), but it could be used for a number of projects. Students could create comics from the ancient world, explaining how heroes of today might have had difficulty adapting to life in ancient Egypt or Rome. Or the students themselves could enter the comics, creating a visual “how to” guide for science labs or solving math problems. Personally, I think it would be fun to write a comic about becoming a Keeper of Memories from The Giver (one of the best contemporary children’s novels), as drawing memories taken from the community would be perfect for a comic book or cartoon format.
I created the Comic Template in MS Publisher 2003, but I also saved it as older versions in case you’re running an older copy of MS Publisher. The template might not come out just right in older versions, but you can still get a good idea of what I did. The speech balloons at the bottom are meant for copying and pasting so you don’t have to go back to the shape tool all the time.