As I mentioned in my previous blog, a few weeks back I visited a local primary school with my digital literacy group. Our aim was to teach children how to use animation software and thus create their own completed animations.
Throughout the week we experimented with the software ourselves. We used “I Can Animate” on IPads, which was a fantastic tool, really simple to use and with the aid of a supportive stand to prop the IPad up on, the stills we captured were not shaky and created a smooth result. Another option was using animation software on laptops and connecting a webcam up. The webcams offered more scope than the in-built camera on the IPad with regards to manoeuvring the camera and placing it exactly where we’d need it to be.
After investigating the different options we settled on a mode, and began to plan lessons for the children we would be with. Our first task was to plan for a class of Year 1s. Their current topic is “superheros” so we brainstormed ideas around how we could link animations to this. For our second task we would be working with a class of Year 5s, a real contrast, we predicted, to the morning session with Year 1. This meant we had to plan an age-appropriate task much different to that of the Year 1 lesson. We knew the Year 5s are learning about water, so tried to link our animation in with this.
We visited the school at the end of the week. The school is in a historically disadvantaged area of Plymouth and the area has a really negative reputation. I was really pleased, therefore, upon entering the school to see what a wonderful building it was. It is spacious and bright, and the outdoor areas must really spark interest and enjoyment in the children who use them. The school is set overlooking green areas and the whole school has a great atmosphere.
Our first session was with Year 1s. We had been working in small groups ourselves, and were given 4-6 children each and my group was an equal mix of girls and boys. After introducing ourselves and learning names, we tried to find out what the children had been learning about superheros. Some were very shy, but others were keen to show and tell us what they had been doing.
We thought a good way to initiate the task would be to have the children cut out some superheros we had drawn earlier. There were all different types including some “normal” looking people; this was to fit in with our idea for the animation later on. The children enjoyed cutting and colouring in the characters, and then naming them. We had some interesting choices as you can imagine (our normal civilians were called Tinkerbell and Bob!) but I feel this task allowed the children to feel some ownership over their characters, whilst also practising vital motor skills such as cutting and colouring.
The next task was to set up our scene. We had planned roughly what the narrative for our animation was before we arrived, as we knew the younger children may struggle to think up one in the short time we had. However, we didn’t just say “this is going to happen, then this, then this…” We made subtle hints at what could happen, but the actual words came out of the children’s mouths and they started to create the story.
The basis of the story was a house on fire with “innocent civilians” trapped inside. The superheros would each come along one by one, and save a civilian. Simple, but exciting! We made the choice beforehand to set up our animation on a large piece of sugar paper on the wall, and stick our characters on with blu-tack. We felt this the easiest option, as the characters and set would remain in a position until physically moved by someone, leaving little room for problems with moving objects. We felt this particularly relevant with such young children!
The children took turns to operate the camera, learning the basics of the animation software, moving the characters on the wall and providing ideas for the next scene. We asked questions throughout, such as “when you move the characters, do you think we need small or big movements?” This helped them learn that smaller movements would create a more fluent and progressive animation but they had to think about the issue from our prompt, instead of us just telling them the answer. All children were involved and we made sure everyone had equal turns. Throughout we asked them questions and tried to relate it back to what they’d already learnt about superheros.
We were very pleased with our finished animation from the Year 1s and I was very surprised at the quality of what we produced. I’d anticipated the task to be a lot harder to do with such young children, but they are definitely not to be underestimated!!
In the afternoon we worked with Year 5s, again splitting into smaller groups. As their current topic is on water, we decided to do an animation of the water cycle. Our initial task involved asking the children what they thought an animation was, and they immediately started talking about Disney and naming specific films, demonstrating their already significant knowledge.
In preparation for the lesson we had created some flash cards with different stages of the water cycle and their definitions, which the children had to match up. This would give them some background on the animation they would be doing and hopefully consolidated their previous knowledge.
Instead of preparing objects for the animation like we had done with the younger children, this time the children prepared all their materials, for example clouds, the sun and water droplets.
We performed the task similarly to the morning, allowing each child equal turns to operate the software, move objects and offer opinion on what should come next. We tried to add in voiceovers, which with more time I know will have matched the animation perfectly. Throughout we showed them the features of the animation software, and discussed some points with them, so they developed a basic understanding of how animations work.
The finished animation again looked great, clearly showing the separate stages of the water cycle, and we were all really pleased with the end result.
Looking back I think this visit was really valuable. It was my first visit to a “traditional school” since starting University, and we were allowed free rein within their topics to create a lesson around animations, giving us an introduction into lesson planning. It was also very useful to see teachers in action. Although we were with the children much of the time, we still saw interaction between teacher and children before we began, and during as they came around each group.
I admit I was nervous initially, particularly about working with the younger children, as I’ve only worked with Year 3 and above, but I am pleased to say I really enjoyed myself, and hope the children did too!