Class Projects with Comic Life

Dana Persson-Zora shares several projects for elementary school students using the software Comic Life. See Joy Egbert's review of Comic Life, Essential Teacher, September 2006, p. 52.

Comic Life (Plasq; available from http://www.plasq.com/) is a comic-creation software program for Macintosh OS 10.3 and above. See examples of these projects online at http://homepage.mac.com/dzora1/comiclife/.

Retelling a Myth

This project, which I used during a reading unit, explores myths from different cultures. Spanish-speaking students sometimes retell a myth in both Spanish and English, which requires the small groups to work together in a more rigorous fashion.

Before this lesson, the students had a one-hour class on the use of Comic Life (about fifteen minutes of teaching and forty-five minutes of exploration).

  • materials: one or more digital cameras; Lego, PlaySkool, or other action figures; a box to use for a stage; various art supplies; fishing line (to manipulate the action figures); iPhoto and Comic Life software; optional: tripod, USB card reader to transfer pictures from digital camera to computer, iMovie and GarageBand software
  • time: about two weeks; variable depending on the number of cameras available
  1. Have trios of students pick a myth and rewrite it as a narrative. Allow students to add some of their own details, but tell them to remain true to the general idea or theme of the original myth.
  2. After they have edited and published the myths, have the students divide the narratives into scenes that retell the story in a different medium. This is called storyboarding.
  3. Have the students create backgrounds for their stage using the art supplies, choose figures to represent their characters, recreate the scenes from their storyboards, and take digital pictures to record each scene. (The number of pictures will vary from group to group. In my class, one group produced fourteen pages while another produced three (amazingly, in the same amount of time.)
  4. Download the photos from the camera(s) into the photo-editing software iPhoto (see http://www.apple.com/ilife/iphoto/). Using a USB card reader is an efficient way to do this: you don't need a cable, and students won't damage the camera. With the students, or by yourself, edit the photos and save the changes.
  5. Have the students open Comic Life, create a title for the story, and arrange the photos in the correct order.
  6. Have the students add captions and dialogue to help tell the story.
  7. Have the students save the story in portable document format (PDF) and print it.
  8. Extension: If the students have taken enough pictures of each scene, they can use iMovie (see http://www.apple.com/ilife/imovie/) to create a movie. They can also add sound effects, narration, and original music created in the software GarageBand (see http://www.apple.com/ilife/garageband/).

Yearbook

This is a great end-of-year project. I print the projects in black and white and post them to the Internet so that parents can view them. As with the project above, if students have not used Comic Life before, allow time for a sixty-minute how-to/exploration session beforehand.

  • materials: digital camera, CDs, Comic Life and iPhoto software
  • time: one to five sessions, depending on interest
  1. Throughout the school year, take digital photographs of class activities, and archive them on your computer.
  2. Near the end of the school year, burn five or six CDs containing copies of the classroom photos.
  3. Have the students download photos from the CD to iPhoto and edit them.
  4. Have the students open Comic Life, create a cover page, and arrange and caption the photos as desired.
  5. Save the projects on a CD or in PDF format.

Artist Page

I have used this project with third-grade students.

  • materials: Internet access, Comic Life software
  • time: three sessions: one for introduction and application practice, one to find pictures, and one to create the Comic Life page
  1. Have the students read stories about famous artists. Then ask each student to choose a famous artist.
  2. Have the students search for copyright-free images of works by the artist, using the Internet and a favorite image-search engine. Have them download full-size imagea (not thumbnails) to a folder on the desktop.
  3. Have the students open Comic Life, create a title, and give brief biographical information about the artist they have chosen.
  4. Have them use the Finder button in Comic Life to navigate to the folder on the desktop containing the pictures, then arrange the pictures in the software.
  5. Encourage students to add comments or focus on an element of the artist's work.

Autobiographical Poem

  • materials: digital camera, Internet access, Comic Life software; optional: iMovie software
  • time: three one-hour sessions: one to write and publish the poem, one to find iamges, and one to complete the comic

Begin with the following writing activity:

[First name]
Four adjectives]
Brother or Sister of]
Lover of [three things that the person loves]
Who feels [three feelings and when or where the person feels them]
Who gives [three things the person gives]
Who fears [three fears the person has]
Who would like to see [three things the person would like to see]
Who lives [a brief description of where the person lives]
[Last name]

  1. After the poems have been completed to the students' and your satisfaction, have the students select elements to include in a Comic Life biography.
  2. Take a digital picture of each student. Make the images available through e-mail, a flash drive, a CD, or file sharing.
  3. Using the Internet and a favorite image-search engine, have the students search for copyright-free images to illustrate the elements they have chosen. Have them download full-sized images (not thumbnails) to a folder on the desktop.
  4. Have the students open Comic Life and create a title for the project.
  5. Have the students use the Finder button in Comic Life to navigate to folder on the desktop and arrange the pictures. Then have them use the Caption feature to add text, and, if desired, speech bubbles.
  6. Print and display the projects with the Bio Poems.
  7. Extension: Have the students use the text, the pictures, and the software iMovie to create a biographical movie with appropriate narration, sound effects, and music.

Dana Persson-Zora (dzora@asd5.org) is a fifth-grade teacher and technology curriculum specialist in the Aberdeen School District, in the United States.

More Resources:

  • President's Message: August/September 1998
  • MWIS Newsletter Volume 16, Issue 3: August 2003
  • TEIS News Volume 19 Issue 2: March 2004
  • President's Message: June/July/August 2002
  • President's Message: September/October/November 2002