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Comic Life

About This Web 2.0 Tool
Comic Life is a tool which allows users to create comic book pages using their own images or images from their computers. It is a highly engaging program for middle school students and provides a variety of themes and options to maintain students' interest as they work. Students can publish their work in a variety of formats, allowing them to share it online, via e-mail, or by printing a hard copy.

How to Get Started
You will need a subscription to access Comic Life but many districts have paid for a district license, making it available on any staff or student computer.  If your district does not have a subscription, and you are considering purchasing this tool, a free 30-day trial is available here.

This tutorial provides a great overview of Comic Life for beginners.

Next Steps
As you and your students become more comfortable with this program, encourage your students to take or create their own pictures to include in their comics.

It would be a great project to have a class develop a longer plot using the same character and create a "real" comic book together.

Post your students' work on a website so that parents and other students can read it.  Ask another teacher from your school or another school to take their class to the computer lab so that students outside of the class can read the comics and leave comments.
If you have the opportunity, it would be great to have your students interview students from a local elementary school to find out their favourite hobbies, interests, colours, etc. They could then create comics featuring their "little buddy" as a superhero and tell a story about the younger student doing things they like.
Comic Life is a great tool for assessing outcomes across the curriculum.  Students could be assessed on art, communication skills, and knowledge of concepts from a subject area such as science, social studies, or health and career education.

Applications for The Classroom
  • Students can use Comic Life to demonstrate their understanding of content and concepts across the curriculum.  I have had students use Comic Life to demonstrate learning outcomes in a wide variety of subject areas including Language Arts, Social Studies, and Health and Career Education.  The challenge of turning a complicated story or concept into a concise comic strip is a great activity in any middle school classroom.
  • In past years, I have used Comic Life to create silly notices or newsletters on my class website.  Students are more likely to read the comic book style newsletter and it doesn’t take much more time to create than writing a paragraph.  I enjoyed coming up with dramatic consequences for students who didn’t have their grad fees in on time, and exceptionally happy endings for those who did.
  • Many teachers I have spoken to acknowledge that the graphic novel is a great way to engage reluctant readers.  Likewise, Comic Life provides an opportunity for teachers to engage reluctant writers.  Embracing a style which is popular with students increases engagement in the classroom.  In today’s web-based culture, it is useful for students to examine the impact of the images they choose and consider whether or not their images fit their stories.
  • Comic Life could be used as a cross-curricular activity with an art or infotech teacher and a teacher who would like students to meet learning outcomes for another subject area. Many students enjoy drawing and scanning their own pictures or creating them on a computer. Some students even edit their photos with Photoshop or a similar program before inserting them.
  • Creating a comic book written by the entire class may be a good collaborative activity; each student could create an adventure using a class mascot or superhero. The individual comics could then be combined into a class comic book.
  • Currently, my grade 6/7 class is building Comic Life stories with their "little buddies" from a primary class. They are working together to develop characters and problems. This is an excellent activity for students with a variety of writing abilities as the language in a graphic novel is concise. The "big buddies" are able to show the "little buddies" how the program works. At the end, all of their work will be published online so that they can see it and so that parents can view their work.

Applications for The School Library
  • Teacher-librarians can use Comic Life to create short ads for programs, novels, book clubs, etc.  
  • School book clubs or Language Arts classes could make short summaries of the novels they have read in order to promote books within the school library.  Students would likely be more likely to read comics created by their classmates than they may be to read the back cover of a book, or a traditional book report. It would be great to have "book trailers" in comic book format posted around the library!
  • Teacher-librarians can also use their knowledge of this program to begin discussions and collaborative relationships with other teachers. A colleague may be interested in team teaching a unit or attending a pro-d session in order to better understand this program.
  • Comic Life would be a great tool to spice up an ordinary "library newsletter" for parents and students. A comic about new arrivals in the library could be posted on the school website or e-mailed to parents and students alongside the school newsletter.

Additional Resources
Comic Life’s Help Forum offers several different sources of assistance.

If you like this tool, you might like these comic tools

If you are looking for a storytelling tool in a different format, you might like:
Puppet Pals (app)
Zooburst (app)