iPad Diaries Volume 12

This is the 12th post in a series on using iPads in the language classroom.  Click here to view an index of previous posts.  In this post, I will be talking about how I have used MakeBeliefsComix in class and the benefits of the iPad's keyboard.

For several years now I have offered students the chance to use MakeBeliefsComix to practice their vocabulary outside of class.  It wasn't until this year, however, that I had them try it in class using the iPads.  Having the students work together on a comic strip using the French keyboard has a number of benefits.

Online comic strip generators are nothing new and there are quite a few to choose from, but I like MakeBeliefsComix best because it's free and it's kid-friendly.  It's also easy to use.  A decent looking comic strip can be made in a matter of minutes, giving students time to focus on the language.

I gave students a word bank to focus their language and let them work for the period, with the understanding that they could only add characters and backgrounds AFTER they finished writing.  By the way, if you want to use MakeBeliefsComix on an iPad, you have to download the free app.  The website will not work.  All the iPads were set to French and used the French keyboard.  This has a number of benefits for students that aren't available on a computer.  First, it exposes them to the layout of the French keyboard.  More importantly, though is that the iPad will both predict words for students and autocorrect them when they are spelled wrong.  I suppose this could be seen as either a helpful feature or a form of cheating.  I consider it a useful support that helps my novice students create a more polished writing task.  In fact, I often wished for such a feature before using the iPads.

Here are some of the results.  While at this stage of the game, it's hard to have a lot of variety, each group put their own twist on it and used different characters to make it their own.

I published these and others on my classroom blog, then I incorporated them into a homework assignment. I whited out some of the words, and students had to fill in the blank. My goal was to give the students some purpose and ownership to creating the comic beyond just creating it for the teacher to look at.

Originally I had planned to grade this activity, but it became apparent while the students were working on it that it might better serve as a practice activity.  Through reading through the results, it became apparent to me which terms needed more reinforcement.  Thus, it made an excellent formative assessment.  Because there are comics involved, student engagement was immediately heightened.

Have you ever used comic strip generators in class?  If so, how?  Have you ever used the iPad's predictive word or autocorrect features using the target language keyboard?

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