Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Make em Laugh

The sentiments of Donald O'Connor's classic says it all, "Make em Laugh."

We all love cartoons. Whether we read them in the New Yorker, a local newspaper, see them on the television, or on the Internet; we all read and laugh or chuckle or groin from reading a cartoon. Much of what we read can and is expressed by a cartoon. Everyone gets the reference to following cartoon from Frost's poem:

Cartoons provide the visual representation of a good sentence, a juxtaposition, a pun, a witty interpretation. A cartoon is a good use of Multiple Intelligences. Using a cartoon format so that the scholars can extrapolate the meaning of a poem, a short story, a play, a novel is just one more way we can help our scholars express themselves. A cartoon can augment the essay or other method we ask our scholars use to demonstrate their learning. The cartoon can be included in the final project as a grabber or merely as illustration placed strategically within the final project. Cartoonists have relied on literature to help create their cartoons and in some cases the cartoon becomes very important. Consider the famous Pogo cartoon, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

The phenomenon of a cartoon show like The Simpsons is an important event. This show uses cartoon format to ridicule, comment, and otherwise satirize the viewer in a very entertaining way. I find the shows dealing with education very useful in my own graduate classes and in my high school classes. Laughing at ourselves is healthy, otherwise we might take ourselves too seriously.

There are many software cartoon generators as well as online cartoon generators. A relatively simple one to use is Make Beliefs Comix. The user can make 2, 3, or 4 panel cartoons. the programs provides a plethora of characters with many options in manipulating them. There are many dialog boxes and balloons as well as other options. There is no save feature, which means the creator must complete the cartoon in one sitting. Printing and emailing it are options, so the user can present the finished product to the teacher. Obviously some planning is necessary before logging in, so completion can be done in a class period. The email option allows the user to embed a link to the comic as an image in the associated project.

The comic strip maker on ReadWriteThink does pretty much the same thing as Make Beliefs, except email the strip to yourself or anyone else. This program provides stock backgrounds, characters, balloon dialog boxes, and props. Another simple program to use. Again good planning before using will make the experience worthwhile and fun.

Another interesting cartoon generator is actually a Blog, Stripgenerator. Blog entries are cartoon strips. Stock characters and tools are available. The fun aspect of this is that then user can generate a new cartoon every day and repeat characters just like the newspapers. The user not only can create a strip motif, but also an audience, which is always important in writing, peer review.

Programs that allow the user to save work and edit it later on, may cost money and must be loaded onto the computer. This of course takes away from the Web 2.0 experience. Comic Life comes bundled on the Mac. Scratch is a new MIT product in development. These are just two cartoon generating programs one can install on a computer and work on saved cartoons.

Cartoons are just another Multiple Intelligences tool, a way to differentiate instruction, and to provide some fun in the writing process in our classes. They can be good tools to assess whether or not our scholars really understand what they are reading if they can create a satirical, ironic, illustrative cartoon to demonstrate their learning. A Google search for "cartoon generators" or "cartoon makers" will yield many more applications. The key is to have fun and to have a good sense of humor. Remember, "Make em Laugh."

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