Review by Erin Brereton, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2013

Make Beliefs Comix

Comic creation tool stresses self-expression and upbeat messages

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Character & SEL

Subjects
  • Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (19 Reviews)
4

Take a look inside

2 images

Pros: Kids get writing tips, emotional support, and creative practice, while adults get lots of content to emphasize the site’s educational aspects.

Cons: The site doesn't enable kids to get a response to their comic or new challenges, which can slow progress; artistic kids also can't use original work.

Bottom Line: Charming comic characters, plus tons of support and options help promote creativity, positivity, and self-expression.

Make Beliefs Comix provides a list of ways you can use site content in the classroom to teach writing, storytelling, literature analysis, and other principles. Ideas range from encouraging kids to create an autobiographical comic strip to using comics to help them understand new vocabulary words. 

Kids will most likely need to work individually on the site, and it unfortunately doesn't offer any functionality to save creations on the site so you could view them online later. However, kids can print out or email their comics, and the site's plentiful adult-led activity suggestions, including 300 printable comics with additional space to enter more content, can be used to help kids practice writing and gear up to write longer essays and stories.

You can also use the site to help ESL students and kids learning French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Latin; the site accepts words written in those languages. Lesson ideas for students with special needs are also included.

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Make Beliefs Comix is a website that offers a fun comic construction tool for kids, plus parenting tips and educator resources. Site creator/cartoonist Bill Zimmerman says he created Make Beliefs Comix to help strengthen families and let kids express themselves. Students can view detailed instructions before starting; they then choose a character and emotion from the site's library and insert it into a panel. They can also add captions with dialogue, tinted backgrounds, and objects. Items can be scaled down, flipped, and moved, and although kids are working with pre-drawn images, there's a decent selection to choose from. Finished comics can be printed or emailed. 

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Kids get tips throughout the process. The site provides dialogue prompts under each blank frame that explain the importance of pacing and plot; the help is a nice bonus for kids who are struggling with content. The site's content also touches on a number of positive themes. Its Printables section, for example, features several thought-provoking exercises that can help kids identify feelings and make better decisions. Writing activities encourage appreciation and learning from mistakes. Many of the themed comics that include space to add text stress empathy and self-assessment; they can also introduce kids to subjects like women's rights and analyzing 9/11's effect on their life. While it's not as versatile as other comic creators like Pixton, Make Beliefs Comix brings something else to the table: a valuable focus on positivity, awareness, and self-acceptance.

Parents and teachers get additional help using the site, too. Make Beliefs Comix features a lengthy parenting advice section, stocked with family activity ideas and tips on communicating with kids. Educators will find numerous resources, including lesson plans that provide literature, writing, ESL, and foreign language instruction ideas. Writing prompt suggestions can also help kids get started if they’re stuck. An additional section offers advice on using the site with students with autism, hearing issues, and other special needs. For a comic creator, these positive extras are unique and make Make Beliefs Comix a great resource.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

From the introductory usage illustration to tips that pop up within the tool, kids are guided through the very fun creation process. They can view writing prompts to get started or describe their feelings in unfinished comics.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Kids can practice narrative and other skills through clever usage ideas for parents and teachers that touch on themes like respect and self-improvement. Exercises don't get harder, though, and more feedback would help increase learning.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

You can't save comics on the site, but teachers can access ESL, foreign-language, and writing lesson plans that include ideas for classroom use and links to information on creating Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese characters.


Teacher Reviews

4
(See all 19 reviews) (19 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Jennifer V. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Gallego Basic Elementary School
Tucson, AZ
4
Easy to Implement, Creative Tool Makes Students Believe in Their Power as Beginning Writers

Overall, I highly recommend this tool despite drawbacks outlined below because it's easy to learn and use for even those who are not tech savvy. The directions on the site are quite clear.

It's a great teaching tool because it doesn't take a lot of time to teach it. I spent about 20 minutes going over the tool with the class, and clarifying expectations for responsible use of technology before releasing them to work independently because I find that is time well-spent with the younger students. It reminds them that when we are at school, we refrain from rabbit-hole searches and endless playing around with all the options on a platform. Usually I give them about 10-15 minutes of exploration time when they are introduced to a new program. I gave them another 20 minute with this so my actual introduction to the product was 40 minutes, but then after that they were responsible and on-task. With older students, I expect one could hold them to educational constraints with far less prep time, and I could have introduced my class to this and had it up and running in 5 minutes, but felt the groundwork was time well spent.

Students intuitively knew how to manipulate the frames, resize objects, characters and bubbles, and change backgrounds. If that had not been the case, the directions were clear and right in front of them. I have found that it is usually only the teachers that need to read the directions with this site!

There are several features that would make this product more flexible and usable in the classroom.

First, it would be great to have the ability to insert a background of choice. When my students are writing about what they see, think and wonder in relation to a piece of art, it would be valuable to be able to insert the image in the background.

Another feature that would make this tool more practical in the classroom would be the ability for students to save their comics to individual portfolios. My students have their own gmail accounts, but there are still several steps to labeling the emails they send themselves with the comics and then later snipping out the images into a separate document for printing and display as part of a larger body of work.

Finally, while a strength of comics is brevity, it would be nice to have the option to insert more text by either enlarging a bubble or shrinking the font. It confuses young writers to have to remove several words due to space constraints when they've worked hard to craft a masterful sentence.

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