Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Discovering the Possibilities of Stopmotion in Grades 2-5

I introduced Stopmotion Animation to several classes in grades 2-5 this week during library time. One of my goals this year is to give kids lots of possibilities for creation. I want them to see how things are created and invite them into the creation process. With lots of new tools, our students will have lots of new ways to communicate their learning. As part of a district grant that we received last year, we were able to put FRAMES on our entire laptop lab in the library. Since kids have had so much success on PIXIE, we thought FRAMES was a great way to expand their work to animation. I think that if our students can see how different forms of media are created, they will become much more critical users of information, which is so important.

FRAMES has turned out to be a great tool for introducing animation to kids. It is easy to use and kids can see the process for creating animation and then they begin to watch animation a bit differently. Because the program FRAMES has a camera feature, and I am working with our art teacher to create a claymation project with 4th graders, I figured it was a good time to introduce the tool to lots of kids.

I have done a lot of reading on Kevin's blog and have been inspired over the year by the things his kids do with animation. He has so many great ways to work with kids in creating stopmotion. I've followed his reflections carefully and need to revisit them.

I started the lessons this week by showing kids several examples of stopmotion. I've been collecting interesting "mentor" pieces to show kids at various stages of the process and picked a few to show them the variety of things stopmotion could do. Some of the clips I shared included:
I showed a few examples with Post-It notes and I showed my daughter's stopmotion so they could get a sense of how many photos something like this takes. (Hers took 18 photos for this 3 second movie.)

This time around, sharing these were to let kids know many of the things that can be done with this. We will most likely revisit some of these later to look more closely at craft, message, etc. Today was just an invitation in.

Kids jumped in realizing how the things they've seen recently were made with this technique. Many kids mentioned a scene in iCarly in which Spencer creates a stopmotion movie.
Following the samples, I showed them, in just a few minutes, the basics of how to create stop motion with photographs in FRAMES. That meant teaching them to use the camera, demonstrating me taking several pictures of myself with slight changes and then playing the results. The total length of the lesson was about 10 minutes which included examples of Stopmotion as well as the intro to FRAMES.

My best teaching has always happened when I throw a few basic ideas out to kids and let them play. I can then use student work and discoveries in future lessons. I find that if I am too focused on product at first, kids produce things that look like mine. In order to let them explore and find new ways to use the new tools I've been introducing, I want to give them lots of play time with little direction so they are free to figure things out and open up possibilities for everyone. Just as I expected, this 10 minute minilesson really gave kids a way into this type of creation. Kids jumped right in and had a ball. And, they came up with things I would never have thought of. It was fun to watch different classes and different ages approach the same introduction. I learned so much watching different kids' spin on the software.

Kids came up with such great ideas and kids began to build on each other's thinking. The younger kids immediately began to do what they do best--tell stories using props such as puppets, magnetic sets, etc. Some students used legos to try to capture the sequence of building. Others used board games to try to capture the moves on a strategy game. Others found some of the dramatic play toys that we have in the library and began retelling old favorites using stopmotion. Others used books, objects sitting around the room, a train set in the building toy area of the library, their own faces, and more. They were able to see so many possibilities in the 20 minutes they had to play. Many left with plans for their next visit and many asked to come in and add to their creations during lunch. My hope is that these eventually become possibilities for them to share their learning. When they need to share or present information, this gives them a new way to synthesize their learning. A new way to share their thinking with others.

So often, as teachers with new technology, I think we are hesitant about introducing something that is new to us. We feel the need to learn it well first. But I think that might be holding lots of us back from getting our students' hands on these new tools. I learned the very basics of FRAMES--just enough to invite them to give it a try--in about 10 minutes. Then as kids played and I watched, I learned so many more about the tool as they discovered them. I think it was a richer experience than it would have been had I known the entire program well because the kids were in charge. Except for the few things I knew, they had to problem solve to figure out the others. I also think that because I didn't have much experience with it, kids were able to go off and try a variety of things rather than only the 1-2 things I shared. They knew it was open tinkering time and I think that is critical.

Even as I write this, I am amazed at how much kids did in just 20 minutes. I can't wait to see where they go next and what they do when I introduce ideas such as storyboarding, clay animation, etc. It will be interesting to hear their conversations about the things they notice outside of school--times when photos are manipulated, etc I didn't realize how much they would learn from this one tool.

Kevin Hodgson will be doing a session for teachers on digital storybooks at our Dublin Literacy Conference later this month. He is also doing a parent/child session on stopmotion that is getting huge response. Looking forward to learning more from him and the other speakers then.


  1. Thanks for the great reflection here. I'm glad you jumped in. You can also point folks to the Longfellow Ten project -- http://lf10.wordpress.com/ -- which is a collaborative stopmotion movie site for middle school and upper elementary students. I notice a new school has joined on to and we are always looking for new schools.

  2. Oh
    And check out the LF10 Challenge:



  3. so inspired! thanks for sharing this activity. seems like your area of the world is just hopping with creativity. :)

  4. I nearly jumped out of my chair with excitement when I read this post! particularly this: "My best teaching has always happened when I throw a few basic ideas out to kids and let them play." Yes! I know we need structure, and I know we need to meet educational objectives, but sometimes, we suck all the fun out of it and stifle creativity.

    I have looked at Frames and thought about buying it. I'll follow your posts with interest, and see if I can justify it when I don't actually have a class right now!

  5. OOOoooOOOOOOO, this post is a GEM! I have been interested in stop motion animation with kids for a long time, I really appreciate a place to begin. Thank you for such a pragmatic gateway!


Comment moderation is turned on.