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Cartoon Curriculum — Top Techie Sites for Digital Storytelling

By Christy Crawford on March 17, 2011
  • Grades: 3–5

Assigning your students an essay or book report? Rev up their interest with cartoons!

Assigning your students an essay or book report? Rev up their interest with cartoons! If you grew up in the '70s or '80s, you jammed to Schoolhouse Rock! and learned lessons from Sesame Street's animated shorts. Animation-lover, you know that cartoons and comics can educate and entertain. Use this kid-friendly form of storytelling to reinforce concepts, simplify confusing topics, and perfect students' sequencing. Read on for my favorite sites to get stories started, to create super heroes, or to awaken the digital artist in the classroom.  


Super Hero City 

Super Bettye-- Isn't everyone's mother a super hero?!


Check out The Hero Factory or Marvel Comics to discover the next Stan Lee. Both sites will allow users to download and print their creations. The Hero Factory will also create a title for a user's character once a weapon and attire are chosen. (Disclaimer: the Barbie-like proportions of these super heroes can't be missed. Be prepared for a silly comment or two from students.)  

At Marvel, create a three-panel comic strip or full-length comic with sound effects to highlight social issues, explain scientific theories, or tackle tough word problems. Check out a Bronx New School favorite, MakeBeliefsComix.com, for 21 ways to use comic strips in the classroom.  









Who doesn't love Saturday morning cartoons?!


Saturday morning TV junkies will love Go!Animate. This site revolutionized my use of cartoons in the classroom. (Caution: there is some inappropriate content — crude language, etc. — on the site.) Check out Go!Animate4SchoolsDomo Animate, Bitstrips, or ToonDoo for well-controlled digital learning environments.



("If you can type, you can make movies.")

Pick your set and your 3-D characters, choose a language and a voice, and click apply. Type your script in the text box, add character actions, sound effects, and camera angles . . . and you're done! For busy teachers, Xtranormal can be quickly learned and easily implemented in the classroom. (For more advanced 3-D animated projects, see Moviestorm. See Moviestorm's Education Academy for free site access.)  


Pixton Click-n-Drag Comics

This "teacher's secret weapon" is worth every penny. If your students are familiar with the easy character creation graphics of Nintendo's Wii video games, they will love Pixton. Add sound and voice to Pixton comics, upload photos or pictures, and easily revise student work before class screenings. Best of all, you can print the comics or embed them on your blog or Web site. Pixton also provides a rubric for your students' work! Sign up for a free trial (50 students for 30 days). Then put one of the site's how-to videos on your interactive whiteboard and count the seconds until everyone is hooked.  



Myths and Legends, E2BN

E2BN's Story Creator 2 Bookmark E2BN for your e-reading book club. Kids can read myths and legends or create their own e-readers. The site is aimed at British students, but you'll find myths and legends from all over the world. Use their handy glossary to tackle tough words.  

Create animated pieces using E2BN's Story Creator 2. My 5th graders thoroughly enjoyed adding their own voices for characters. Register your school to make it easier to manage the site. 



Scholastic Favorites

Scholastic's Character Scrapbook Launch a character study on your interactive whiteboard with Scholastic's free Character Scrapbook. Young digital artists can choose animal characters, or individualize their human characters. Click and drag the paintbrush to change human skin color, and click the arrows to change the hair, eyes, nose, mouth, or clothing. Print the scrapbook with a blank canvas so students may draw their own characters at their desks. Prompts in the journal ask students to list describing words about the character, details about her appearance and personality, and her challenges and accomplishments. The scrapbook is a great way to get kids to analyze real-life or fictional characters or develop characters for their own stories.

Scholastic's Myth Brainstorming Machine

Jump-start the writing of reluctant young authors with Scholastic's Myths Brainstorming Machine. Choose a god or goddess, the setting, monsters, and mood. Visit the machine's Myth Idea Outline Window and get busy writing. The site provides step by step instructions both for using the Myth Machine for guided writings on your interactive whiteboard and for allowing kids to work independently at their computers. 

Reading Esperanza Rising or A Dog's Life?  See Scholastic's Story Builder or Create a Tale for more great guided writing activities for your interactive whiteboard or computer lab. 


Charlotte's Web

Scholastic's "Make-Your-Own" series will have your kids running to complete a reading response or create their own versions of their favorite texts. Younger students will enjoy making their own Charlotte's Web or Captain Underpants comics. Older, sassier students will adore making their own Goosebumps, Smile, Bone and Amulet graphixs (comics and graphic novels hybrids).




Not ready to bring animation into the classroom yet? Remember your love of Saturday morning cartoons! Use the clip below to inspire your inner child. Share your use of animation or comic creation sites in the classroom. Are you using these sites to study math, science, or languages? Do share with us!







Comments (4)


Thank you! The concise text, the graphics and the spacial dimensions are a must for digital natives to master. As creators (not just consumers!) of new media, all children should be immersed in this art form.

One more great resource: for Japanese anime character creation see http://www.kongregate.com/games/xdanond/anime-character-maker-2


These are great resources!

Too often the use of comics in the classroom (not unlike attempts to have children write rap songs) is done more to motivate kids than because of the qualities that make comics and cartoons superior to the "standard" ways that children produce written work.

When used appropriately and thoughtfully, the combination of graphics and text, and the spacial dimension that comics add to the telling of a story help learners to think more deeply about what they have learned as well as about how to tell their own stories to a broader audience.

For educators who want to employ comics in their professional practice, I highly recommend Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics," a piece of graphic non-fiction that uses the medium to explore the literacies required to read and write comics. And, it is a real joy to read.

Here is a link to McCloud's site where you can explore his other books and his informative and entertaining blog:



Fabulous!! That is my kind of homework. If my high school teacher would have assigned comics as a reading response to Shakespeare, I would've remembered parts of Macbeth!

Check out http://www.pixton.com/ca/comic/ml1smonv for Shakespeare reading responses.


Very cool!!! I now have homework for the weekend :)

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