Pixton: Comic Book 101

Everyone loves a good comic book, especially students. Using comic books in the classroom presents a lot of advantages, first of all they are fun. If the students are enjoying themselves in the classroom, they will learn more easily. Second of all, comic books allow you to present a huge varitety of material and grammar in an interactive and pleasant ways. In a comic book, you have characters, the students will need to describe these characters thus practicing basic descriptions and basic adjectives. Stuff happens in a comic book, therefore you can present basic sequence writing to your students with sentence connectors and everything. Moreoever, comic books allow you to reach students who draw doodles all the time in class which can be somewhat annoying.

Pixton.com is a great website where you and your students can build comic books from scratches. If you are a teacher, just submit a proof that you teach when signing up and you and your class will get to create comic books for free. If you just want to use it for yourself you can log in in the “fun” section. Creating your comic book is very easy with Pixton; step by step, the website takes you from the creation of your characters (fully customizable), to the publishing of the comic book. In less than 15 minutes you can put your hands on some very decent, home-made, comics. You can also browse through comics submitted by others for, say, a reading activity in class.

Comic Book Software Review praises the easiness with which one can get accustomed to Pixton. As mentionned, Pixton offers a vast array of customizable characters and backgrounds. Backgrounds however are not customizable. You click on the features you want, you move your elements around as you please and voilà! A comic book.

Common Sense Media also find PIxton very useful with kids as the website provides an easy to follow How-to set of videos to help you create simple to elaborate comics. Very concerned about what can be seen or heard on the internet, CSM also mentions that comics judged inappropriate can be reported and the users could be banned after a number of offences, which makes Pixton very safe for work.




Creaza, the Online Toolbox

There exists hundreds on websites out there to help teachers and students create material, flashcards, mind maps, videos, comics, etc. Finding your way through all the possible websites and remembering which one does what can prove to be a challenge. This is where Creaza comes in handy. Creaza is an online toolbox which allows students and teachers alike to create virtually everything, from mind maps to videos. The website is available in no less then 9 languages, is free, and requires no installation. Once you are registered and logged in, you have access to 4 very useful tools; a video editor, a sound editor, a cartoon editor, and a mind map generator.

As it is mentionned on Free Technology for Teachers, Creaza is super user-friendly so everyone can use it regardless of your level of ease with computers, sound/video editing and so on. It has a whole click-and-drag approach to things that makes Creaza very intuitive. The video editing tool comes in with basic transitions, clips, and pictures. Same goes for the sound editing tool. Creaza allows you to record directly on the website or select a pre-recorded track on your computer or in Creaza’s library. The cartoon creator comes with a bunch of pre-established backgrounds and characters. Once again, it is very easy to go on the internet and insert your own elements. Educators technology mentions that Creaza is great in the classroom as it is easy to create any kind of material to improve your teaching! In a few clicks you have a video or a comic book ready to go. Another click and your students can create a great mind map; it is that easy.

Give it a try, you will soon adopt it for its simplicity and its four-in-one applications.




Wordle – The Only Cloud You’ll be Happy to See

Words are the most important feature of an ESL classroom! You want your students to learn as many as possible, to be able to find the most important in a text, to be able to play with them. Wordle offers a wonderful and super easy way of presenting words yo your classroom.

Wordle is a free website that transforms any pîece of text into a word cloud. What is a word cloud? It is a graphic representation of the words in a text. The more important words, the one that are repeated the most, appear bigger than the less important ones. This provides a visual clue to your students as to what words they have to look for in a text, what words hold the most meaning, and so on. Such a thing is great to teach new vocabulary but it becomes great especially when teaching learning strategies. The words highlighted by Wordle are the ones that will help your students make sense of the text. By knowing in advance what the important words will be your students will be aware of their presence in the text and they are most likely to go and look them up in the dictionary.

languagesresources.wordpress lists a bunch of ideas to use Wordle in the classroom which are all very interesting.

  • Creative writing: use any piece of text available, run it through Wordle and ask you students to come up with a story using the words from the cloud
  • Story building: the students have to guess the scenario of the text based on the words from the clouds. It chould fun to see how far or close they get from the actual story!
  • Oral presentations: instead of little cards with point not to forget have your students come up with a cloud that they can look at. It will also help them organise their ideas by importance.
  • Poll: you ask a question or many to your students, they type their answers in a word document which you run through Wordle. Wordle will enlarge the most common answers and there you have it; an easy poll with easy to read results.

Edjudo’s review of the product is very positive, the author even says that Wordle’s best feature is its simplicity. The author, however, mentions that there are also a few bad tweeks with the program.  

  • Wordle makes it very hard, if not impossible, to modify a cloud once it is created. You must be very carefula bout what material you run through it as you may not be able to change the content that will appear on screen.
  • The resolution/format is also very strict; 768pixels x 556 pixels or a ratio of 4:3. Now it might not be a problem for users that are not too techno savvy but for the cracks out there it can prove to be a bugging element.

This being said, Wordle is full customizable; your clouds can take almost any form, colors, as you like.



Class Dojo

It is every teacher’s aim to create a comfortable and secure classroom atmosphere to facilitate learning. One of the keys to creating such a setting is an efficient classroom management. There exist many tools available on the web to facilitate classroom management but the one I have been using for some time now is called Class Dojo.

Class Dojo is a free website that allows the teacher to create a virtual representation of his/her classroom and its students. If a teacher has many groups, like for most ESL/EFL teachers, you can create a dojo for each of these groups. All that is left to do in the set-up is to type in the names of your students. Each student is associated to an avatar, a little monster, that can be personalized by the student or the teacher later on. Once your class is set up, the teacher can use the different features of the dojo to take attendances or even set up a timer/countdown. But the most valued feature of the website and the one most relevant to classroom management is to award, or take away, points to students. Once the teacher clicks on the avatar of a student, a window opens with two options available; positive or negative. If the student is behaving well, the teacher will select positive from there he/she can award points for participation, staying on-task, helping others, hard work, persistence, and good teamwork. If, however, the student is misbehaving clicking on the negative button will take off a point from the student. The basic negative options are bullying, disrespect, no homework, off task, talking out of turn, and unprepared. The teacher can customize both the negative and positive buttons to match his/her needs. 

The program keeps tract of the students’ behaviors in class and allows the teacher to look for improvement or deterioration from the students over the course of a week, a month, or even a year. Upon creating the virtual classroom, Dojo sends the teacher a list of codes for each students and their parents so they can assess their, and their children’s, behaviors in the class. 

In its review of the product, edutopia.org listed why Class Dojo is such a great tool in the classroom; 

1- The students really buy-in the idea of the Dojo; they like to have their own customizable avatar, they feel motivated when they are        awarded a positive point and understand the seriousness of losing a point. Moreover they know that their parents have access to a      recap of their child’s behaviors which reinforces the parents’ participation in their child’s education.   

2- It is time-saving. Before Dojo, a teacher would have had to create some sort of grid/poster to put in the classroom and add a              checkmark next to a student’s name for good or bad behavior. Then, at the end of the class, write the daily information on a             spreadsheet. In Dojo, everything is saved automatically for the teacher. It is user friendly for everyone; the teachers, students, and    parents. 

3- It makes sharing information very easy. All the information is one click of the mouse away. Moreoever, it gives precise indications to the parents as they know what their child does well and what he/she needs to work on. This facilitates greatly the interactions between the teacher and the parents. 

The website is not perfect and betaclassroom gives a couple ideas that would improve Class Dojo:

1- Seating-plan: adding a seating-plan to the website would reduce the amount of time spent looking for a student in the list. This is especially relevant to substitute teachers who do not know your students.

2- Time Stamp: Dojo does not keep track of the time a point was awarded. Adding a time stamp would improve the analytic function of the Dojo and allow better trends.

3- A built-in print button. Some parents may not have a computer at home, or may not be interested in logging to watch their kid’s behavior. Adding a built-in print button would facilitate the printing of individual reports for the not so tech-savvy parents.

4- Hall-pass button. It would indeed be great to have a way of keeping track of the hall-passes given to the students. One less poster in the actual classroom!

Dojo is available on the Appstore and the Android Store so it can be accessed from an Ipad or any other types of tablets.