This was a fantastic unit one of my favourites for 2009. Our grade 4 students enjoyed it too. The ICT skills needed to complete these were extensive. At least four different pieces of software were used. Safari (HeroFactory), Comiclife, iphoto, Garageband, and iTunes. The students had used all before but not to the extent as they had for this unit. This post is going to be a step by step outline of how they put them together.
Step 1 Create the Characters
I had used Herofactory before with the students and witnessed how engaged they were when designing their heroes. The ease with which they were able to create their heroes meant that all abilities were catered for. Each student had to then write a short description about their hero. Some students wanted to dive straight in and write a story about their hero which sparked the initial idea for creating comics. Quite a few of the boys and girls in my class love reading comics and I knew that a literacy activity embedded with ICT would be the perfect tool for continuing their engagement in our class literacy program.
The students were given a simple yet effective task of creating several characters that were either good or evil. We had discussions of similar situations where stories were created on this premise. For example, the Harry Potter series, Star Wars and various other super hero cartoons and comics. Emphasised were side kicks and henchmen and their stereotypical characteristics.
Once the students had created their characters and downloaded into their downloads folder they then had to copy and paste them into a shared folder on our network.
Step 2 Plan Narrative For Comic
The students were given a simple narrative template outlining the Setting, Main Characters, Orientation (When, Where, What situation, why,) Complication, Series of events and Resolution. Plan For A Narrative (http://docs.google.com/View?id=dccs9mv7_220ctzbfgg4). They then filled this out using dot points which provided them with some guidance and structure. If I had more time I would have used an online mind mapping tool like bubbl.us (Other mindmapping tools) to plan their narrative.
Step 3 Importing into iphoto and start cropping.
Because the students are working with static images they really had to think about how they are going to manipulate the images to infer movement and change. By importing all their characters that they made in HeroFactory into iphoto (drag and drop over the icon or use the import function) they were able to select and crop various parts of the images to emphasis particular objects and body movement. For example by selecting and and cropping a super hero weapon and there by emphasising it the students were able to infer that the hero was using it. It is essential that the students keep a original copy of their characters somewhere safe or duplicate in iphoto every time they changed the image allowing for multiple transformations.
Step 4 Discuss Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia is essential in writing comics. Especially Superhero comics. See Batman Opening Sequence. I found one of the Learning Federation Objects or Digital Learning Resources on creating Manga very useful. With this Digilearn activity the student plays the role of a new employee in a manga design studio. They explore elements of manga comics such as story lines, characters, colours, text bubbles and onomatopoeia. They have the opportunity to complete a story about a car crash. Choose dialogue and onomatopoeic words to fit pictures. For example, choose words to match the sound of car tyres stopping suddenly. Here is the link https://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/dlr/_layouts/dlr/Details.aspx?ID=4485 Victorian teacher only need to type their Edumail user-name and password to view.
Step 5 Using Comic life to build their comics.
‘Comic life’ is a wonderful piece of software. Its so powerful and versatile. It should be mandatory on every schools list of software. Now that the students had their plan and cropped images ready, all they had to do was drag them into their ‘Comic life’ template chose the appropriate speech bubbles, text and supporting onomatopoeia . Some of the students became really creative adding their own images giving extra meaning to their stories. I was really impressed with how much detail the students put into their comics. Watching how easily the students navigated around the software I too learnt a great deal about some of the functions that ‘Comic life’ has to offer.
Step 6 Export Comic As A Movie
When there comics have finished and sufficiently finessed the students the had to export their comic as a Quicktime Movie creating a slide show of the comic pages. Its important that the students think about how long they want each slide to appear so the reader has time to digest all that is on the page. This may take a few exports to get the timing right. They might want to ask some of their friends to read them after they have exported because they will read it through as if they hadn’t read it before. We found that around 15-20 seconds per slide was enough. Its also important that their comics pages are exported as full quality jpeg’s.
Step 7 Import Comic Slide Show Into Garageband And Compose Music
Garageband is one of the most used programs at North Fitzroy Primary School. As with all the iLife applications it integrates so well and each application is able to talk to the other. Importing your slideshow is so easy, a couple of clicks! Here is a screen cast. Comic Song Screen Recording 2. Once the comic movie has been imported the students click back into loops and start composing their piece of music to suit their comic. Some students included sound effects to enhance the onomatopoeia. Possible extension ideas for advanced musicians:  Plug in a midi keyboard and use the software instruments (midi sounds) to compose music.  Compose thematic musical ideas for characters in the comic.  Use the in built notator to compose a score.  Use other notation software for example Sebalius to compose score. Then record using live musicians or play into Garageband using midi keyboard.
Step 8 Export as a Full Quicktime Movie
The final step in the process is to share the finished product as a full quality quicktime movie. This is done through the Share function within Garageband. Here are a couple of screen shots to demonstrate. We found that when they had finished exporting, that each movie file only came to about 9 to 16 megabytes. Perfect for posting into a blog. You can see some finished examples of student work here.