Making comics

I recently saw this resource and thought how useful it would be to teach about story structure but couldn’t quite see my way into how i might start to use it with children. I do, however, remember reading my most favourite book of the year last year – Syllabus by Lynda Barry.  This is the book of her syllabi for imagination/comics/originiality/writing and so, so much  more. I can’t tell you how much i enjoyed it and actually practise some of the things that she sets her students to do.

Some of her ways into drawing and story would really suit introducing children to comics and making full use of the resource offered by Ways with Words, who also have resources linked to comics.

Barry introduces her students to drawing characters as Ivan Brunetti describes. We can all draw circles, triangles and wavy lines and therefore we can all draw characters. Practising drawing them in different positions is really useful and exploring them in different settings very supportive for story-making. Barry includes copying photographs and other people’s drawings/cartoons as ways of looking and moving your arm/hand in different ways. Allow children to do this to find their cartoon characters. A good way to develop this is a Drawing Jam. Fold a piece of paper into 8 rectangles and draw a line across the top of each box to create a space for a heading.  On your piece of paper write in the heading box the name of an occupation or style of person e.g. robbber, demon, superhero etc. Pass the paper on to the person next to you who writes another occupation and so on until all 8 headings have been completed. Take your paper back and then in the spaces underneath you have 1 minute for each box to draw the character in the heading. No stick people allowed. This kind of activity produces a kind of original drawing that is always fantastic.

Ask the children to choose one of the characters from their drawing jam and draw it again but this time on a rectangle of card. Imagine where this character is and draw in the background.  With a partner talk about the sorts of stories that this character is in, what happens to them and what you like about them.

Take 6 more cards and choose from this list to draw on them:

  1. draw a scene that shows the setting for a story
  2. a scene that shows your character in a day to day activity – what an average day is like
  3. a scene that introduces another character
  4. a scene about an object or special trait that your character has
  5. a scene that shows your character engaged in a significant action
  6. something from your character’s childhood
  7. your character talking to someone, trying to persuade them
  8. the climactic scene for your character
  9. what happens a day later to your character
  10. a year later

Order your cards and see how they might fit into the comic layout introduced as the first resource in this post. Talk your story to a parner.  What is needed in the gaps to complete the story. Draw cards to fill in the gaps.

You can now create your comic using the format from Ways with Words.

Do you teach comic making in your class?


What do you like about writing?

I talked to a group of boys today about writing and how they felt about it.  Their responses were perceptive and showed a way forward for those of us working with them.

What do you like to write about?

This brought up the usual things such as aliens, the future, dragons and comic heroes.  When I suggested that they could make comics on the web they didn’t really believe me.  My favourite place to do this at the moment is ArtisanCam’s Super Hero Comic Maker.

The group wanted the freedom to write about what they were interested in and it seems to me that this is one place where blogging could be useful.  If we introduce children to blogs and start to comment on them  we will eventually create a blogging community within the classroom.  Then we can talk about the different types of blog and the children can write about what interests them.

What helps you to write?

Here the boys were adamant that they needed to ‘do’ things and then write about them.  I would not dispute this fact and many teachers are actively engaged in providing first hand experiences for the class.  But how do we move children on from this to being able to write about the thoughts and ideas that are in their heads rather than those that they have directly experienced?  Pie Corbett has some examples of developing the ‘seeing’ inside your head and doing that ‘mad stary thing’ where you focus your concentration on the images in your head and find words to describe them.

These ideas will certainly give us something to think about as we plan the next few weeks literacy sessions.  What do your class think about writing and what do they like to write about most?

Whilst I was looking for the comic url I came across the picture book maker. This is fantastic.

Creating Comics with Pixton

I am thinking about collaborative writing at the moment and I also love comic creation sites as they have so many uses in the classroom.  With Pixton you can do both.  Pixton allows you to create comics and then make them available for others to remix.

Comics are a great way to show pace through a story.  The larger the frame the slower the pace.  They can be used to sequence the main events of a story.  They can be used to explore how stories can be made to move on when told through speech.

This is such a flexible tool.  Characters expressions, features, clothing and positions can all be changed.  You can zoom in or zoom out, add props, add backgrounds and change the colour of almost anything.

I invite you to remix this cartoon and add your own ideas.  Post a link in the comments section so that we can see the changes.

For soon to be updates at Pixton read the Free Tech 4 Teachers post

Visual Literacy – Comic Life

comic-life-pod – to hear about Comic Life click on the link.


This is a fantastic bit of software.  It takes pictures from your computer or captures them from a webcam and then puts them into a comic format.  See the software at where you can download a free 30 day trial.  You can add text and call-outs and decide which bits of your photos should appear in the boxes.  This would definitely be useful for motivating children to write for a whole variety of purposes.

Uses for Comic Life that spring to mind immediately are:

  • telling a life story
  • looking at the pace of a story and what type of box should be used in slower parts and the quicker parts
  • retelling of stories either through images from the web or from those taken by the children
  • explaining a process – mummification jumps to mind

Charles Thacker has written a detailed article with references about using comics in education.  With many thanks to Digital Teacher for the recommendation.

There is a free 30 day trial on this software and after that it is only £49 available from Tag.  Well worth it.