Bristol.... The Edam Is Stranded: Comic Strips, You Tube, Print Screen and Publisher

This term during ICT enrichment sessions, a colleague and I have begun to develop a sequence of activities working towards the creation of comic strips.

Comic Strips are complex text forms that I have explored a number of times through posts in my blog, but they are also great fun.  In introducing comic strips, how they are constructed and the features of the text type, we wanted to provide space for the students simpy to play and explore. This resulted in our initial session using an online comic strip generator.  Our choice for this was Make Beliefs Comix a site providing 3 frame strips, drag and drop characters and tools, and point and click editing. This allowed the students space to simply play and create in the style and genre while becoming familiar with some of the features we might expect to see supporting text development in a comic strip eg captions, speech and thought bubbles etc.  A key skill we also expect is the student's capability to take screen shots of their work, to support our APP process, so completed strips were copied,  using the prtscr before being pasted to a local application (MS Publisher) for cropping and resizing, the latter part of this process being a useful one for the students to use later as they create their own comic strips.

As teachers in our school have access to You Tube, I decided to develop the sessions around creating new stories and narratives from familiar starting points.  To introduce the sessions we began watching a couple of movie shorts from the Aardman YouTube Channel, and the Cracking Contraptions series.  I chose the Snoozatron and Shopper 13, for my sessions partly because I love the sixties seventies space race puns in the latter, but also because Gromit's facial expressions throughout the snoozatron, just beg for and invite the use of visual cues to infer possible content for thought bubbles.

You Tube uses flash movies, which gives another advantage, in that they can be used. unlike many other online video formats, for direct screen capture from the web browser.  Prior to the session I previewed each movie and at significant or interesting points in the story, used the print screen key to capture these scenes.   Paused the movie, centreing the movie viewer in the window, I pressed the print screen key to capture scenes.  Using Microsoft Paint, the resulting images were then pasted individually into software, cropped and then saved to a folder as JPEG images.  In school the images collected from each movie were copied into the shared storage space for access during sessions by students.

Having watched the movies, I shared a prepared model for a publisher based comic strip with the students, (an available design) and modelled how to
  • Open Microsoft Publisher
  • Change the page orientation
  • Insert images from file and where the prepared files could be found
  • Change file view so they could browse image thumbnails to aid their image selection
Before encouraging the students to begin creating their own visual version of the story of their choice, the first steps in developing their creative recount.

Publisher being an object based package, is a really intersting way to allow students the facilty to draft and redraft visual story structures on the go.  Once images have been added the students can then begin manipulating their story, dragging and reorgnising images to develop and resequence their visual narrative.

During this process a number of fundamental DTP and graphic handling concepts become increasingly important to developing a quality outcome from the draft, and identified themselves as incidental teaching points.
  • Layering and ordering.  When using object based packages latter images added will tend to overlap and cover pieces of earlier images when moved and placed.  By using the order tool, images can be moved forward and backward on the page to overcome this.  
  • In Publisher clicking the view menu and then tools allows opening of a "context menu/tool bar" that appears when an image is clicked, that allows insitu editing of images from this "picture bar."  This tool bar allows images to cropped, colour effects to be applied, brightness and contrast adjustments to made and transparency effects to be applied to areas of an image.
  • Clicking on the image also reveals resize handles enabling drag and drop resizing of the images and use of the rotation tools on the tool bar also enable free rotation of images, or the possibility to change image orientation by flipping them,  giving yet more visual dimensions to image handling.
 With the images in place our next steps over the coming weeks will be
  1.  Further play with these tools enabling consolidation through talk of the narrative structure to be developed by the students.  
  2. Development of the use of callouts, stars and captioning to add oral text elements to the story.
  3. Use of peer assesment and review to identify HTIs before editing, revision and publication.
Image Attribution:  Images are either Screen captures from YouTube video versions of the Aardman Shorts
The Soccamatic
The Snoozatron

Shopper 13
or composite images created using MS Publisher by the author from images captured from these.
Wallace and Gromit are Nick Park Creations


Anonymous said...

I really like ToonDoo for creating comic strips - free online. I have used it successfully with students and even my pupil with severe learning difficulties was able to use it almost independently to create scenes, with only support for the typing needed.

Two Whizzy said...

Thanks for the reminder, I like ToonDoo too, there are some really fab online comic strip makers, unfortunately not all of them were readily accessible to the students through our firewall. I hope you found the post useful, I will certainly pay another visit to ToonDoo as its been a while. Take care.