[Technology 913] Re: Updated online ESL resource

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WmZ at aol.com WmZ at aol.com
Wed Apr 4 18:36:50 EDT 2007

Dear Mariann,

Thank you for your invitation to tell our group more about my online comics
web site site -- http:// www.makebeliefscomix.com -- where children and adults
can create their own comic strips, and to explain how it might be used for
both ESOL and ABE learners. As someone who learned to read by looking at
comic strips, I wanted to create a site that would be fun and used comic
characters to tell stories.

The site works this way: Users can select from 10 fun characters with
different moods -- happy, sad, angry, worried – and write words for blank talk
and thought balloons to make their characters talk and think. There also are
story ideas and prompts to help users create graphic stories.

This site can be used by educators to teach language, reading and writing
skills, and also for students in English-as-a-Second-Language programs to
facilitate self-expression and storytelling. Some educational therapists use it with
deaf and autistic people to help them understand concepts and communicate.
Parents and children in family literacy programs can create stories together,
print them to create comic books or email them to friends and family. Others
will find the site a resource to be creative, calm down and have fun –
something that is needed as students struggle so mightly in class to master a new

I have been conducting workshops both for students who are learning English
as a second language and with those who as struggling to be literate, and just
conducted such a workshop for about 30 such students at the Elmhurst Library
Adults Education Center in Queens, New York. Generally, in showing students
how to use the site, I will create with them a group comic strip incorporating
their ideas. We’ll choose a subject for example, such as going on a date,
going for a job interview or deciding what we want to do this coming weekend or
where we want to go on a vacation. Then we’ll create a story together, using
one or two characters in each panel. The characters become surrogates for

I might then start a dialogue in one of the talk balloons, asking the
students for suggestions, and then I’ll ask for more dialogue for the other character
to speak. Then we’ll try to move the story along by moving to a second
panel. Later, when students start their own comic strips, I encourage them to
work with a partner to help each other along. I have included story prompts
on the site to give students ideas, such as Travel to a Mysterious Place, A Day
at School, Write a Love Story, Finding Your Courage, Making Wishes Come True,
and A New Fairy Tale.

In making comic strips, we have an easy, fun way to practice sentence
structure, to use new vocabulary, to engage in make-believe conversations, to work
individually or collaboratively, as well as practice creative writing.

After a student completes her comic strip, she is encouraged to print it out
so that she has a copy of her work, which validates her effort. The
students love seeing the finished comic strips and can keep in their portfolios to
look at and enjoy their hard-earned effort to create something new. The
creation of the comics, thus, becomes an empowering experience for many students.

I wrote and created the comic site, but worked with a web designer and
programmers to implement the concept, which comes from earlier print books I created
called Make Beliefs and which are used in schools throughout the country.
I am now working to add a Spanish-language component to the site since many
Spanish language teachers contacted me and saw the value of the site in
teaching a foreign language.

I will be glad to answer any questions group members may want to direct to
me. Thank you for the opportunity to explain what I am doing.
Bill Zimmerman
(wmz at aol.com)

See what's free at http://www.aol.com.
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