During an animation project that has spanned this year, I have been concentrating on what progression in animamtion looks like. Now that I have a little time I want to spend some time reflecting on what the animation did for literacy learning. I want to think beyond the work that has already been undertaken about camera shot and the level of detail written, the link between scenes and paragraphs etc. These have all been well documented as part of the bfi work.
Because the animation was linked to poetry three times during the year, the teachers involved in the project found that their choice of poetry changes as we moved through the year. By the third animation they were quite clear about choosing poems with strong images that were accessible to children. Not revelationary but in terms of the poems they would have normally chosen for literacy there was a difference.
So how did linking poetry and animation affect learning in literacy?
Creating images from words (reading)
- Animation and poetry are both about images, amongst other things, and we know that good readers often visualise or create images from the words they are reading. By linking the two together the children became much more expert at creating images that were suggested by the words in poem. The animating ‘forced’ the children to think in terms of images. This impact on their reading was quite pronounced as the children were expecting the poems to create images for them which had not been the case duirng the first animation. If you have children who do not comprehend texts effectively, animation may be one tool that can support this development.
Creating words from images (writing)
- For some of the children, creating images and then creating poetry from the animation allowed them to tap into ‘dormant’ vocabulary. That is vocabulary whicc we have but don’t often use in our every day interactions. The Anglo-Saxons called this our word-hoard. We use approximately 5000 different words in our day to day communication yet we know so many more words. For developing writers it is important that we show them how to tap into their word-hoard to bring words forward. It is also important that we show them the process of seeing images and attaching words to them. This is after all what many writers do and what Pie Corbett in Talk for Writing calls imaging. Animating allows us to make these two invisible processes visible for children.
- It was interesting to see what the children did when storyboarding. Writing is normally a task undertaken by an individual, although many schools do encourage children to write in pairs. Many primary age children do not understand the concept of planning, writing too much in the plan and then writing out again for the actual text. The primary purpose of storyboarding when animating was to create a shared visual understanding of what was to be made. This demanded many skills of the children; the ability to articulate ideas, persuade and negotiate. It was this process that meant that by the time the children had storyboarded they really had a clear idea of what they were about to make. The purpose of planning was clear to the children and had an impact on the planning that they did when writing supporting the understanding of the two processes – planning and then writing.
These ideas mean that animation is an ideal learning tool for use in literacy and not just once a year. What else should teachers know about animation?