Summarizing Non-Fiction Text....with a Comic Strip!

This past few weeks we have been working on summarizing non-fiction text.  Looking at the various traits of non-fiction and figuring out how they all work together to get the point of the text across has been very tricky for the kids.  So to help them figure out what the most important information in a non-fiction text is, I employed the help of a bit of creative expression and technology.





Our current project in Computer Lab (which I am very much aware of how amazingly lucky we are to have a lab at all) is using the program called Comic Life.  This is a program where the kids create a comic strip all on the computer.  It is a cute program that I thought would tie in perfectly with our summarizing non-fiction text study.

Comics, in and of themselves, are short visual ways to get across a huge message.  That is basically what a summary does.  It takes a lot of information and condenses it down to only the things that are absolutely necessary to get the point across.  Perfect match!

So here is how the project goes:

We started by reading two texts about the Boston Tea Party  (see that cross curricular integration there?? ;) hee hee).  One was a non-fiction article from a teacher book about the Boston Tea Party.  Then we read a graphic novel on the same subject called The Boston Tea Party (Graphic History) . (click the title and it will take you to the book on Amazon)   This book is GREAT!  I really gets the point of the Boston Tea Party across, keeps the interest of the students, and helps them to understand the action with the dialogue and pictures.  We compared the non-fiction text to the graphic novel to see how the graphic novel really summarized the history text.  It was great to see how the important parts were pulled out and portrayed graphically.

The students then read a non-fiction article about one of the battles of the American Revolution.   When they were pretty confident that they understood the information, including the pictures and captions, timelines, diagrams, etc..., the students created a flow map of the most important information.

After the flow map was complete, the students then were given a comic book template that I had previously printed from Comic Life itself.  The amount of flows they created in the step above dictated which template they took.  (truth be told, I showed them all the templates I had ahead of time so they could aim their flows to the correct amount)  Then then had to create a graphic novel, in the style of the Boston Tea Party one we read, that told the story of the battle they each read about.

I have to say, these were fantastic.  The kids really got into it and REALLY understood the summarizing aspect of the whole thing.

Now, if you don't have Comic Life, or access to enough computers to make this worthwhile...have the kids color the template and you have an awesome board.  But if you do have access to the technology...read on.

Once the templates were done, the students then drew the pictures individually WITHOUT the speech bubbles or white boxes.  They used these, along with the capture feature on Comic Life, to get their own drawings on the computer.










Then, after the pictures were input onto the computer, they put the caption boxes and speech bubbles and, viola, a comic was born.  To complete the entire process took about two weeks.

I can't tell you how much I love these.  I just kept reading them and looking them over.  They not only look awesome, but they really do have a lot of academic rigor to them.  This was a fun way to work on summarizing! 




Have you ever used Comic Life?  What did you use it for?  Any tricks to share with us?

What about summarizing??  Any fun projects to share?

22 comments

  1. I received a bunch of those graphic novels with my first Donors Choose proposal. AND we have Comic Life on our computers. AND I teach fifth grade social studies and will be starting the road to the Revolutionary War. Now if I only had more than four weeks of school left... Definitely pinning for next year!

    Diane
    Fifth in the Middle

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    1. I think we got the same novels with Donors Choose :)

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  2. I love using the History and Science graphic novels as read aloud. I love this idea of using a comic strip for summarizing. I have some students who make comics with a computer program called Scratch.
    ~April Walker
    The Idea Backpack
    Balancing the Backpack

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  3. I just love this! what a great idea....hoping our school filters don't have that website blocked:/ Can't wait to try something like this with my kids:))


    4th Grade Frolics

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    1. Thankfully, this is a software you put on the computer....so no blocking here! But I hear ya...seems like everything is blocked when I want it :/

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  4. I have never used Comic Life but I love using graphic novels and comics. I did a post about these recently where I did similar things with nonfiction research. I loved reading this post. Thanks for sharing. :)
    Brandee @ Creating Lifelong Learners

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  5. I think my favorite part of this program is that they can create their own illustrations and import them. It makes it even more their own creation! I have used this online site: http://stripgenerator.com/ to do the same exersice with my students. It is free and doesn't need any sign up although it does mean you can't save your work so we usually tackle smaller pieces of information and finish in one class block.

    Sharon

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    1. That is what I like about it too. We could get pictures off the internet, but it wouldn't have the same cohesive feel. I also think that the story just wouldn't be told without the illustrations.

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  6. Wow! This is awesome!! I love everything the comics encompass. We are almost at the same point in history and the book and comics would be perfect!! Thanks so much Steph!

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  7. I've seen the program on my computer, but never really looked at it. How cool are your books!!

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  8. Wow! Those are super cute. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Love this!! I will definitely try this with my class next year. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Hi Steph:
    I have been promising the sixth graders they could use this program after they finished testing. So glad you posted this, because I have never opened it before!
    Thanks for the tutorial--your students' work looks great!

    Kim
    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

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  11. Stephanie--I adore these graphic novels and keep adding a few each year to build my set of multiple copies. I love the idea of comparing accounts of the same event using different genres--perfect for the CCss. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I adore this idea! How clever and creative! My question: I went to the website and it appears to cost money, did you splurge or did your school put it on the computers for you? I apologize if this sounds silly, I am SO new at this! Love the idea!

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  13. I LOVE this idea! I've been working on graphic novels through personal narrative in my classroom. Very exciting to see how well they can turn out. Thank you for sharing this post!!!

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  14. This is AWESOME! I've been working with students to get them to create graphic novels too. I love the way you went about doing it. I will definitely have to try this next year.
    Thanks for posting this awesome idea!!! :D

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  15. Where did you find your comic template? I have been unable to locate one. Would you mind sharing? I really like your ideas! Thanks!

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  16. How do you capture the images? Do they have to be scanned into the computer? Our school only has one scanner for the computer lab. I was just wondering. I am planning on letting students make their own history comic based on our lessons this year and have been looking into several options.

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  17. What article did the kids read about the American Revolution?

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    1. They actually read an article (well, several...each kid has something different) that came from my social studies textbook program.

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