Make Beliefs Comix: Making it Fun

Hello fellow earthlings,

I’m back in town…and sick! There’s always a downside to every thing. Don’t you worry my dear friends of the web, I vow never to fail to fulfill my duty and always serve you the best of what I have to offer. It’s just what I do.

So, I’ve been looking at my students (which is kind of useful when you’re teaching them something) and I’ve been thinking (which can’t hurt either). I always try to identify what it is that makes it hard for them to figure our English, and one of the clues that I seem to observe is that many of them often can’t visualize the language. They just get lost in an immense jungle of suffixes, affixes, and syntactic puzzles. They end up feeling like there’s too much to handle.

You know I always like to encourage students’ creativity, so I was very happy when I found a web tool that linked creativity and concrete visual support. This baby is Make Beliefs Comix.

Prepare yourself for some modernized oldschool goodness!

YAY!

Ok, so let’s think back to when we started learning English. It all sounded kind of weird and seemed like an alien language to many of us. Visuals are important. In that sense, learning grammar doesn’t always reflect that. That is what attracted me to Make Beliefs Comix in the first place.

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS SILLY CONCEPT? WE’RE TEACHERS, NOT COMEDIANS.

Let’s be honest: Learning grammar is no fun show. It often feels heavy and difficult for second language learners. They may come to resent the entire language as a result of painful grammar lessons. The first main thing that this tool brings, in my opinion, is laid-back visuals in the style of the comics which young students read. Yes, we’re teachers and yes, we want to be taken seriously. That being said, we’re not helping ourselves if we’re losing the students in our overly structured and strict perspective of how teaching should be. Dedramatizing can be our friend, if we know of to use it smartly.

OK. SO WHAT DOES THIS BABY BRING TO THE TABLE?

There’s a lot more to this website than meets the eye. As explained in the About Us section of the website, this tool can serve not only regular students and teachers but also students who are homeschooled and ones with special needs. Yup. There’s actually a portion of the website that’s dedicated to special needs students. At the moment, the section is still under construction, but it’s definitely a nice touch to those students whom, all too often, seem to be left behind.

I’M NO PICASSO. I CAN’T DRAW FOR THE LIFE OF ME. CAN I USE THIS?

Here’s the good thing: No need to be an artist to work with this tool. With a video tutorial on how to use it, it’s easier than drawing a straw man. The thing I like is that students can choose from a wide variety of settings, characters, times of the day or night, moods, shapes, etc. to create their comic strip. So, it’s versatile and it doesn’t require too much effort on the part of the students to express their ideas. Students are free to create little illustrated stories that integrate new vocabulary that was learned in class, to practice conversational skills by creating a fictional dialogue between characters, to illustrate their life story using the target language, or just to create comic strips for the sheer fun of it.

OK. BUT WHAT ABOUT RELUCTANT LEARNERS?

I do think that it’s essential to draw students to English outside of the classroom to maximize the efficiency of their learning process. What I love about this, and this has also been pointed out on the oh-so-amazing technological blog put together by Richard Byrne, is that it attracts reluctant writers to the world of creative writing. Let’s get real: Chances are they’ll be more likely to work if they’re having fun along the way. In that sense, comic strips are appealing. For anyone who’d like to explore other ideas, the Teacher Resources section of the website, offers many other interesting ideas.

SWEET, BUT IT DOESN’T SOUND VERY PROFESSIONAL TO ME…

You may think this isn’t the most pedagogical tool there is and I’d have to disagree with you. Students often don’t see opportunities for using English outside of the classroom. No student ever sits at home, thinking ”I’d like to do fill-in-the-blanks grammar exercises right now.” It just doesn’t happen. The point is it, no it’s not always fun and games, but it can be sometimes, and this is one occasion to make it a little less painful for them.

After all, we should always be looking for new ways to stimulate the students’ interest towards English. That is a much more pedagogical perspective, in my opinion, than drilling them with theory.

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