Atalanta, Beowulf, and Comic Strips… Oh My!

When I was in high school, I distinctly remember one project I had to complete my sophomore year of English. Summer vacation was close at hand, and we were finishing up our last unit which happened to be on Greek Mythology. For the record, I’m not a fan of Greek Mythology. I was an early Christian at that point in time, so the utterly false teaching of it all turned me off (and there is far too much drama for my taste). Looking back now, however, I can see the artistic value of it. Anyway, we were each assigned a character of Greek Mythology (mine was Atalanta) and we were to present a brief overview of the life of our characters to our classmates. One could say I was less than thrilled at the time. Instead of a dry oral account, though, my teacher had us create accounts on a website called StoryboardThat. Essentially, this website allows users to create simple comic strips of whatever their heart desires, complete with characters, backgrounds, and dialogue. Needless to say I loved every minute of it, and this project has stayed in the back of my mind ever since

Last semester in college, the opportunity for me to revisit the StoryboardThat website arose. I was enrolled in a British Literature course, and every two weeks or so my professor had us complete assignments that she called “study guides”. For each one, it was required of us to complete at least one essay question and up to two creative questions. One of my favorite creative questions she offered was to make a lesson plan for one of the readings from class. For Beowulf, I constructed a lesson plan that involved students making a 3×3 StoryboardThat panel that displayed a scene from Beowulf, but with a twist. The instructions had students adding modern language to the dialogue of the scene, making it more relevant to their world. My example that I made for the assignment is posted below. This piece of the study guide did two things for me: it reaffirmed my decision to enter into a profession of education, and it helped to see the fun role that comic strips could play in the classroom.

This week in module thirteen for my digital literacy class, I was again transported back into the world of comic strips. This time I branched out. Instead of going back to StoryboardThat (which I am very much still fond of) I decided to explore a new website, at the prompting of this article. While it listed five potential places to visit to create comic strips, I decided on Pixton. I was pleased with my decision. I not only found the interface easy to use, but I was delighted by the rich detail I was able to implement with my comic strips. My overall favorite aspect was the level of customization users have with the characters. I got to make a little comic mini me. 🙂 For fun, I created a comic strip based off of this class. Unfortunately, this is where the one drawback to Pixton makes itself known. For whatever reason, I can embed my Pixton creation into my post, but it only shows up as a link once I publish. Ah well, nothing is perfect. Follow this link to see my creation.

All of this exploration into comic strips started me thinking about the many ways to utilize it in the classroom. Comic strips are great for students because they allow for creativity, they promote critical thinking, and they integrate the use of technology into the classroom in a meaningful way. As aforementioned, two such implementations could be presentations (like with Atalanta) or literature assignments (like with Beowulf). Both of these examples have students in control of the comic strips, but what about teachers? The more I thought about it, the more I realized how awesome it would be for teachers to include comic strips into daily classroom teaching. For example, comic strips could be used to work with students for disabilities. If a teacher has a student with a reading disability, they could use comic strips for instructions on worksheets and projects. That way the student can have visuals to connect with the words on the page. This made me excited, and also reminded me how incredible technology is. I’m so looking forward to utilizing comic strips in the classroom, both for my students and myself… although maybe with literature other than Greek Mythology. 😉

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7 thoughts on “Atalanta, Beowulf, and Comic Strips… Oh My!

  1. Awesome pixton project and blog post! I really liked how you branched out and try something new! I really enjoyed the choices we had this week to create fun things using different websites/apps. What lesson(s) do you think this comic strip project would be great in for your classroom?

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    • Thank you, I appreciate it! I am also glad that I branched out and tried something new. I feel as though that is important to do in all aspects of life. I mentioned some ways I could incorporate comic strips into projects for my students in the post, and I think my favorite way (that I’ve thought of) is to use them to get a fresh perspective on not-so-modern literature. I included my Beowulf example into the post, but I think it would also be great for any work from Shakespeare or something like Edmund Spenser’s The Fairie Queene. These pieces are interesting, but with the antiquated language they often feel inaccessible to students. By using comic strips to both illustrate the stories, as well as give them some fresh dialogue, it helps the students to relate in ways they might not have before. Good question!

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  2. I think it is great that something you learned four years ago can be brought back up and applied to your classes now! That’s great! Comic strips are great for reading or English lessons! you seem to know how to create them very well. I did not choose to try a comic strip for this assignment and created a presentation on Canva instead, but I might have to try making a comic strip at some point. Great post!

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    • I agree! I was super excited to see that comic strips were included in this module since I had experience with them in the past. 🙂 Thank you! I am very much looking forward to my career in education, so I enjoy thinking of potential tools and assignments that I would like to use in my future classroom. I did not try Canva, but from what I’ve gathered with all the blog posts this week it seems to be something that people had a lot of fun with. I’ll have to also give it a try. I appreciate your comment!

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  3. That is awesome! It makes classwork s much more enjoyable when we get to do things we are familiar with and like to do. I have heard of Story Board from other classmates as they had to use it too. But I did find the ones we were given to be interesting. I liked how you said this assignment reaffirmed your decision to educate. We are so caught up in all the work and studying we often forget the great times we had while in school. You made me realize this too and I actually enjoyed a lot of the things we got to do this semester. I thought your comic was so cool, I want a mini me haha. But I am wondering how long it took you to create a version of yourself along with the actual comic and how much time is needed if you were to implement this into a lesson plan?

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    • I really appreciate this comment! Sometimes in the midst of all the pressure of homework, tests, and grades we forget why we are here at college in the first place— to learn so that why might teach others. It is great to take a step back and enjoy the journey we are on. Now to answer your question, it actually did not take me long at all. Pixton was very user friendly, so even though the tools were in-depth it took me no time at all to get the hang of them (but I do recommend watching the tutorial first!) I spent 30-45 minutes making this six-panel comment. However, if I were to do it a second time I think it would go much quicker since I would know what I am doing right of the bat. In addition, if you go in knowing what you want to create that will shave time off as well. I think it would be very doable to incorporate comic strips into lesson plans. Maybe not all the time, but they are definitely an available resource.

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