A good way to have the students be interested in the class’ material and to have them invest more in the projects is to choose activities that are educational, related to the class’ material, and fun for the students. An example of these kinds of fun activities is having the students create comic strips. MakeBeliefsComix is a website on which you can create small comic strips.
The website itself is more than easy to use. In order to make a comic, you don’t even have to register or have an account! You only go to the comic creation page and start creating. You can choose from a wide variety of characters, items, backgrounds, and speech bubbles, and can move, flip, or resize them. It is simple to create a small comic strip. I tried the editing tool and was able to create a comic strip in less than five minutes! I used two different characters, two different backgrounds, one object (a cellphone), and three speech bubbles. Every time I made a mistake, it was easy to delete the objects I did not need or resize and move characters that were not in the right place anymore.
(You should trust Abraham Lincoln)
What makes the editing tool even better is that there are a lot of options and settings to choose from. Each character can have four different expressions, and the number and originality of the backgrounds availables (such as a rainy day, a snowy day, a classroom, a living room or a busy street) allow every user to make a truly original comic strip. You can also write text in more than 10 languages.
Once you are done creating your strip (unfortunately, there is no »save » button), you can either create a link to be able to show it to others, print it or send it to a friend (or to the teacher) by email. The comics cannot be downloaded, but it is easy to take a screen capture, crop it in a simple picture editing software such a Paint and download the picture into your computer files.
Here is a complete tutorial
MakeBeliefsComix can be used in a lots of ways in an ESL classroom. For example, the teacher can use the website to create cute and interesting comics related to the course’s content. Students can also make comic strips to practice their conversation skills, or create a comic explaining a grammar point (these ideas were found here by a future ESL teacher). Students can also create comics to study vocabulary words. You can also have the students create a comic strip in English related to a prompt or a subject. (these two ideas come from this page).
Even if the website only allows users to create one comic strip at a time, you can print them or save them to your computer to create a multi-strip comic (thanks Douglas Walker for the idea). This small comic tool can also be used by ESL teachers to give interesting homework ideas to students. They can also give small in-class assignment such as text comprehensions, movie comprehensions, or radio show comprehensions (as found on this website).
I personally think that it is a great tool, and I would use it in class. I would have my students practice new vocabulary words by putting them in context in a small comic. I think that the simplicity of the comic creation tool is really simple and fun to operate, and that students will like it. This tool makes learning and practicing conversion skills more fun.