CRWP Teacher Livens up the Classroom with Bitstrips Comics

Powell created a gallery to highlight students' creations with Bitstrips.

Shannon Powell, CRWP 2009, and teacher at Central Montcalm Middle School has found a way to breathe new life into classroom projects using a creative technology called Bitstrips for Schools.  The online software acts as an innovative and user-friendly program that allows students to develop and publish their own unique webcomics.

For Powell, Bitstrips offers students the attraction of playing while working.  Many of her most reluctant writers found an opportunity for success using the creative medium of the webcomic.

“My students are addicted to this program,” confesses Powell.  “I could hardly keep them off it, and they were happy to have new assignments and complete them so they could share with the rest of the classes.  Having a purpose in playing really kept them interested in what they were doing.”

Powell’s success with the program was featured in a recent article on Bitstrips for School’s own blog.  Excited by the work her students produced for such projects as a Favorite Books gallery, she encouraged colleagues to try webcomics in their own classrooms, many of whom soon had their own success stories to share.

Tyler's webcomic uses humor to tell about his favorite book by Rick Riordan.

Powell notes the interdisciplinary aspect Bitstrips has to offer when she recalls, “One of our social studies teachers wanted to use the program to make brochures for other countries her students were studying, and math or science concepts could easily be explained through comics as well.”

Formed in 2008, Bitstrips has formed a partnership with the National Writing Project, and is currently available for free download through August 31st to NWP teachers.

CRWP Spring Showcase of Teacher Research

Amanda Smoker presents "Teaching Revision: What Really Works?"

It was a time for looking back and looking forward as the Chippewa River Writing Project team met with friends both old and new for its 2010 Spring Showcase event on Wednesday, April 21st.  Members gathered at CMU’s Anspach Hall for food, fun, and reflection, as well as the opportunity to welcome in our sixteen new teacher participants for the upcoming Summer Institute beginning this June.

Past SI graduates Deborah Meister, Ashley Patton, and Amanda Smoker highlighted the event with presentations on such diverse discussion topics as optimizing the peer editing experience and using fun, creative prompts to inject new life into student writing.

Debbi Meister discusses the three-student peer editing workshop

First, Smoker presented her project, “Teaching Revision: What Really Works?” In her middle school language arts classroom, she integrated peer revision, conferencing, and self-revision strategies to see how her students responded to each and revised their work.

Next, Meister presented her work with students to help them be more thorough and thoughtful when peer editing. Based on her experience, she found that three-person groups of students worked best to allow the two responders to offer specific feedback to the author in the group.

Finally, Patton presented “Letting Them Eat Cake: Applying a Child’s Perspective of Engagement to Shape Instruction,” highlighting writing activities that she had used with her own students in preparation for designing the Chippewa River Writing Camp for this summer.

Ashley Patton on "Letting Them Eat Cake: Applying a Child's Perspective of Engagement to Shape Instruction"

After introductions, team members and participants shared tips and stories from our past Summer Institute that inspired and enlivened us for the year to come.  The event closed with the CRWP leadership team meeting to plan for our upcoming SI orientation on May 10th, which will take place at our brand-new location in the Educational Services building at CMU.