Thursday, February 5, 2009

Speech Bubbles

Our resourceful school librarian, Sara, introduced our class to the wonderful world of WebComics through something called ToonDoo.

ToonDoo, lifting their own words, is "a wacky way to get creative with comics".  I have long been a fan of hooking children on literacy in any way that works and have found, over and over again, that comics are often the key.  

During Reading Workshop we have been focusing on story elements. Those 'oh, so essential' components that make for interesting reading.  They include a predicament, conflict or struggle; characters, setting and some sort of resolution.  

Character study is a rich and exciting land in which to travel, especially for a former thespian.  Authors have many techniques to indicate that a character is speaking in a text.  One way is by using a speech bubble (not to be confused with the all important 'thought bubble' which is similar).  For days now our brilliant artists and story tellers have been finding speech bubbles in their books and including them in their writing.  

This story is about an on again, off again makeup party (click on pictures to enlarge).

And this one is about Medusa, the snake haired Gorgon who is looking for yours truly. Thank goodness in the end my intrepid student saves the day by cutting off Medusa's head and biding her a fond farewell.

There are also some excellent children's authors & illustrators who use speech bubbles in their work. Consider 'your friend' Mo Willems and his Elephant and Piggy books, the hilarious pigeon series, Knuffle Bunny & Knuffle Bunny Too and Leonardo, the Terrible Monster.  We read many of his books as we explored this topic.

Also, one of my favorite authors, George O'Connor who wrote Kapow! and Ker-Splash! These books tell the tale of American Eagle and Bug Lady, two kids with vivid imaginations and a great sense of fun. 

George uses speech bubbles in these and other books. He is currently working on sketches for a new book of Greek Mythology. Talented guy!

We are using speech bubbles to gently guide us into the use of quotation marks.  It seems like an organic link; taking what a character says in a speech bubble and surrounding it by quotation marks in the body of a text. Our students are making this connection quite easily this year. 

The development of character, the progress in reading fluency & prosody and student motivation have all increased.

Finally, I can't resist sharing one final story.  This student had written a story about how beautiful Lauren is (who can argue with that) and I asked, feigning insult, "where is the story about me?"  

The next day she wrote this...

"Everyday Gary always says "Go to the table to draw for me".
 I say "No".
Gary says "Yes". 
I said "Fine!"
Gary said "Oh, that picture is beautiful".
You know that Gary always says that word.
I said "Thank you". 
He said "Good, (you're) welcome". 

All I can say is...."Beautiful!"


WAT said...

Calm down there Perseus! HA! Why oh why was Medusa even looking for you? I'm a bit disturbed, but I find the little story cute nonetheless.

Dumdad said...

I love these drawings. And it is such a great way to get the kids to learn about words and drawing and interlinking the two. They're having fun and, without knowing it, learning.

Lora said...

this is fantastic!

I remember doing a project in school where we had to scour the comics to find grammatical and syntax errors. It was fun, and surprising how many comics don't use punctuation or capital/lowercase letters, etc.

An anthropology professor was obsessed with Hagar the Horrible, and often taught lessons based on the strip.

Well done!

Anonymous said...

Hi Gary,

If you're interested in creating comics online, we invite you to check out You can design every aspect of your character, and move it into any pose you want. All you have to do is click-and-drag to change or reposition any part of it - the creative and artistic possibilities are endless!

Share with others, post to blog with our widget or remix comics to add your own twist. Read comics in over 40 languages, with our automatic translation by Google. Our language filtering system helps make Pixton fun for everyone!

We welcome you to try it and tell us what you think. Sign-up is free!



Creator of

mouse (aka kimy) said...

I am visualizing a speech bubble with the word in it to reflect my reaction to this delightful post....

mo willems rocks!

Gary said...

Wat - I know!? I was actually sitting with this little boy when he was writing this story and I think it was a way for him to actively engage me in his story. He was giggling when he wrote my name in the speech bubble. Really adorable. His pictures of Medusa are awesome.

Dumdad - I was thinking of you when I wrote this because your drawings often include speech bubbles (I love Maurice). I should have linked to you but at least I can point out your work in this here comments section.

Lora - Hey, I may just do this myself! I have a large basket of comic books in the classroom. They are situated comfortably near the small couch and bean bag chair, under the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom coconut tree with the twinkle lights. It seems like it would be motivating and educational. Thanks.

Clive - This is excellent! Thanks for letting me know about From your description it seems like a fantastic site. We will surely check it out.

Thanks Kimy. I bet Ms T enjoys Mo too.

Barbara said...

You have such a good rapport with your kids. They consider you to be their friend as well as their teacher. I'll bet they have a hard time moving on at the end of the year!

Ms. Gibson said...

Hi Gary,
I am SO GLAD to have finally landed on your very cool blog.
This is Auntie from Listen 2 Auntie (via the Golden Puppy) speaking. I tried to come over last night but my Dell had a major meltdown and I gave up.

I am going to follow you but with my other identity because I like to keep my personal blog separate from my work life. I do hope you will have time to visit me at my library blog AND AuntieBlog.

BTW, congrats on working on your PhD. Where are you studying? I wish I could do the same, but with 3 masters and just 5 more years before retirement, it makes no sense.
nice to meet you!

Arielle Lee Bair said...

Such an entertaining post!

I love it!

And I love when you share the things your dear class creates. They are too much! Haha. Every time I read your blog I can't wait to have a child of my own. They are so funny and so imaginative.

Thanks, as usual, for sharing this stuff. It's great. And it's REAL!

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Great post and cartoons. I think that is me in the audience with the thought bubble in the first one.

Reya Mellicker said...

The comics are FABulous and I love you portrayed in comic form. Sweet.

Where are you headed? You mentioned an airplane. wherever you're headed, have a wonderful journey!

I say YES and you say NO and I say YES and you say FINE.

Gary said...

Yes Barbara it is oh so very difficult to say goodbye to my class each year. Sometimes I don't. I taught a class of preschool kids for two years and then went with some of those students to kindergarten and first grade. I was tempted to follow them to second but thought that was nuts. At least I get to see all of these children at school every day. They are each amazing and unique.

Auntie Gibson (my hybrid name for your two blogs) thanks for your persistence. Glad you were finally able to get here today. I am studying reading comprehension with Deaf and hard of hearing students as related to conceptual signs from a cultural perspective. I will probably do a mix of ethnographic and case study approaches.

The time to retirement arrives quickly doesn't it? I can't believe I can retire in only 12 years! EEK! Crazy. I'll be checking out your blog to see how things are going in the library. And nice to 'meet' you too.

Arielle- Stay tuned...I have a post in the works about some of the things I have overheard which make me chuckle. Kids are so funny.

Gregg - I am glad that you were able to make out the words in the thought bubble. I was hoping they weren't too small. Maybe you already found you bliss but haven't acknowledged it as such.

The kids have been playing with the cartoons and have been making the devil boy and girl say things like "You are hot". Kids! Do you think they mean hot as in temperature since they are devils? :)

Gary said...


Your comment came through as I was writing my responses to the other comments.

I am heading to Florida to see my mom, dad, older brother and his family on Saturday. I have not been there since June. I'm looking forward to going there to be surrounded by love, caring and relaxation. And it never hurts to spend time with the folks. One visit is always good for material - mom must have another tip waiting to be written.

I love that Yes, No, Yes, Fine bit. After I read that I thought she must think I am such a persistant pain in the butt. Her face in the first drawing is perfect. Happily the second page toned down her annoyance as it is wrapped in good will.

marxsny said...

I have great respect for any man who is willing to admit he was a former lesbian. If that's what you said. I'm not sure, I'm confused.

I have been to my share of makeup parties simply because as you well know staying at a makeup party means lots of boys.

BTW I met Mo Willems a couple of weeks ago. He autographed a Pig, Pigeon and Molerat book for me. I even snapped a photo of him and Lexie making goofy faces together. His only precodition was no flash photography so I guess Mary Mo is a little uncomfortable with what the harsh eye of the camera might reveal.

Gary said...

LOL Mark. When I read that I was wondering why there would be lots of boys at a makeup party.

I can't believe I was too lazy and cold to venture out to see Mo when he was so near. It was a miserable day and I simply couldn't do it. You never showed me those pictures by the way.

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Very cool! A colleague of mine is doing something similar as far as creativity studies and kids, and she and her (very cute British husband who works for the UN) created a workbook and video series . . . it is making the concepts and ideas accessible to all!

lettuce said...

how have i missed so many of your posts? sorry :-[

If you stay there will be lots of boys.
Well, thats okay then

Gary said...

Letty - No worries. I have been behind in reading my favorite blogs as well so I understand. I wanted to tell you I bought one of the Darfur bags for my friend Lynda (her 50th is on Feb. 24th). Thanks for writing about them on your blog. I think she is going to love it.

booksRULE said...

So we have to check out next!! Always on the move in this techno-world, but pencil and paper drawing create a beauty unmatched!! I love seeing their work......sara


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