Progression in Animation – take 2

DSC00626We had a wonderful day on Monday at our Animation conference.  Oscar Stringer and Helen came along to show us how to animate and we used the wonderful software Zu3D and Hue webcams.  You can see the animations that the teachers made here.

One of the things that I didn’t get time to share on the day was a draft progression in animation.  I  have tried to write this previously but as time goes on, you look back at it and realise that it is wrong.

So here goes for take 2.  This time I have taken the headings emergent, DSC00627developing, experienced and expert as  has been done in the great book Beyond Words: Developing children’s understanding of multimodal texts.

Once again I must stress that this is a working idea and is not the final outcome.


  • take turns to speak and ensure everyone contributes
  • explain their views and listen to others and agree next steps
  • create short, simple texts making adventurous choices
  • combine images and sounds
  • reflect on own work
  • plans are focused on images and are not always referred to when animating


  • organise roles and take on different roles, actively including others
  • distribute tasks and check progress
  • create texts with a beginning, middle and end
  • show imagination through humour, atmosphere and suspense
  • choose and combine images and sound for particular effects
  • if used, voice over is clear and well-paced
  • reflect critically on own work
  • planning acknowledges image, sound, time and number of shots


  • plan and manage a group overtime
  • understand different ways to take the lead
  • understand and use a variety of ways to criticise and respond to criticism
  • vary the pace and develop viewpoint
  • create multi-layered texts
  • use a range of techniques to engage the viewer
  • integrate sounds and images for different purposes
  • where appropriate, layers of sound are used
  • planning is an integral aspect of animating containing all relevant information


  • adopt a range of roles when needed
  • acknowledge others’ views and adapt/modify own views in light of what they say
  • use and experiment with a range of devices to hold the viewer’s interest
  • develop pace and emphasis
  • use terms appropriate for critical analysis
  • entertain and interest viewers
  • where appropriate, create animations that are open to interpretation
  • planning drives the creation of the animation

What have I missed out and what doesn’t fit with what you know about children animating?

What all teachers ought to know about the benefits of animation

class1a on animation from Matty Dawe on Vimeo.

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.

Storyboarding (planning)

  • 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?

Other posts about animation

A Recipe for Successful Animation


  • A willing teacher
  • Viewing opportunities
  • Reliable software  (Zu3D or I Can Animate)
  • Suitable camera (Hue webcam)
  • Groups of children with something to say
  • Models that the children can manipulate easily (2D, scissors, toys, paper, photos)
  • The 3 Cs (critical, creative and cultural)
  • More than one opportunity to animate throughout the year linked to the curriculum
  • A microphone


  1. Start with viewing experiences and build them in as regular slots throughout the year.  Offter the children opportunities to see animations that extend the range  that they are familiar with. (Cultural)
  2. Following these viewings, allow for time to respond to the animation.  This could be through discussion, use of toys or models, writing or drawing. (Critical analysis)
  3. The first time that the children use the software, model how to use frames.  Use 12 for a lead in, 6 for a pause and 1 for action.  The pauses are very important as they can make the difference between a comfortable and an uncomfortable viewing experience.  Think of them as punctuation! (Creative)
  4. Try to animate something other than narrative at first because it takes a long time to create a small amount of animation and stories are often long and demand longer animations.  Poetry is good.
  5. Allow sufficient time to make the animation and add sound.  This can take some time at first but the more you animate, the quicker this process becomes.
  6. View your animation and think about what you would do differently if you could do it again. (Critical analysis)
  7. Upload your animation to Vimeo so that others can view it and leave comments for you. Watch other children’s animations on the Persistence of Vision Channel. (Critial analysis and culture)
  8. Repeat the whole process as often as possible but at least twice a year if animation is undertaken in every year group in the school.  If not animate three times during the year and try and convince others to have a go.

Animated Learning

On Wednesday, the Persistence of Vision group met for the last time.  As usual we shared our thoughts about the animation work that had been going on in the classrooms and looked at the animations that the children had produced.  Having made 3 animations throughout the year we are now starting to become much more aware of what progression might look like and continue to be delighted by what children can do when given the opportunity.

One of the things that you will notice with this group of animations is that the teachers have moved away from 3D animation.  There are a variety of reasons for this based around the dexterity that the children need to create and manipulate the models successfully.  It was also felt that the use of shapes provides a constraint which encourages the children to be creative in their problem solving approaches.  In the Penguin animations made by Yr2 children the teacher photocopied an image from the internet for the background – the low tech way of greenscreening!  Block Posters is a great site for uploading images and getting print outs in sections.  Much easier than using the photocopier. The children created the kennings and then animated their ideas around them.  To see all four visit our Vimeo channel

Penguin 3 from Gail West on Vimeo.

Linking to this creative approach to problem solving, one class were looking at the use of water in religion and decided to link this to their literacy.  The children wrote snippets of poetry around water and then animated their ideas.  What I am interested in this series is the way in which the children have dealt with water and the different ways they have animated it.  My favourite is Who Let the Bubbles Out?  This series were made by Yr 4 children.

Who let the bubbles out! from Matty Dawe on Vimeo.

Becasue each of the animations that we have made are linked to poetry, one aspect that we discussed in detail is the importance of the poem chosen for literacy.  Each of the teachers talked about making a much more considered choice based around the images suggested in the poem which is not how they would have approached their decision making previously.  The next animation was made by a group looking at Bluebottle by Judith Nicholls on the wonderful Poetry Archive. I love the way they have represented the lord of the flies and the way the wings change position as the fly dives.  In fact flying is not an easy thing to represent in animation and the children have handled it well.

Bluebottle_Group2 from Stokenham School on Vimeo.

One aspect of progression that has become apparant is that children are now starting to think about how to animate much more complicated aspects such as water and flying.  They are also experimenting with the way in which shapes can suggest character or objects whic in writing we would call showing writing as opposed to telling writing.

This has been an exciting project to be part of  and one which will linger a long time in my work.  I have to leave with the last thought from one of the teachers involved

I can’t imagine doing poetry next year without animation.  It would seem like something was missing.

Music for your Film and Animation

I am in the middle of trying out Zu3D  animamtion software and am very impressed.  However, what really caught my eye was the site that they recommended for royalty free music – Incompetech.  This site is jam-packed full of royalty free music that can be downloaded and used for whatever you want as long as you credit the creator.  Read the wonderful terms of use here.

The main issue that really sells Zu3D to me is the multi-layered sound track that can be added.  Currently I am using I Can Animate but we have to import it into MovieMaker and then add sound and there is a limit to what you can do including only having one sound track.  I know we could use Audacity but that just adds another layer of things for teachers to learn when sometimes the animation software is enough.

The Zu3D website is full of useful resources for teachers and children.  I really like this idea of using photogrpahs for backgrounds and importing Pivot Stick Figure animations in like these. I love the PE one!

What do you use for animation?

Progression in Animation – what do you think?

Have you animated with children?  Have you created a second animation so that children build on their learning?  And a third?

We are now two thirds of the way through our project exploring what progression in animation might look like.  Although I am not one of the group who is doing the writing up at the end  of the project, I have started to try and organise my thoughts into some sort of order.  The schools are uploading their animations to our channel  Persistence of Vision in Devon on Vimeo.

I have divided the progression that I have seen so far into strands and for each strand I have given an early, middle and late statement.  If there is a missing statement it is because I don’t know what it is yet.  I think for some of the strands I could go to various areas of the curriculum and use the statements there, e.g. for the group/collaboartive work statements I can adapt the speaking and listening objectives.

I would welcome your thoughts.  Please have a look at the document and leave and comments here on this blog.

Other posts about animation

Animating Again!

Last Monday was the third day of an animation project, Persistence of Vision, that spans the academic year.  And what wonderful animations the children created.  This was the second of the three that they are making and shows how much they have learnt.  We meet as a group of teachers with an animator, Oscar Stringer, and then the teachers go back to school and try out our ideas.  So what have we learnt?

motesThis time round the children took control and responsibility for the camera, computer and software and were far more able to problem solve when things  didn’t go as they wanted.  This is not unexpected but shows that making just one animation a year means that you spend a long time on the technical how to aspects.  Make more than one and suddenly all that time is paid back.

The children’s animations showed a much greater management of time.  In the first animamtions you could blink and miss all the action or there was so much going on that you didn’t know where to look.  This time there were pauses on some actions and enough frames to show what was happening at an appropriate pace.  Much easier on the viewer’s eye.

The children who had been watching animations are now taking responsibility for their talk about what they are seeing – discussing backwards and forwards between themselves rather than with the teacher.  They are drawing on all sorts of experiences to help make sense of what they are seeing, including their own creating experiences and art experiences that they have encountered in school.  This is now also starting to be echoed  in their own creations. The influence of Laughing Moon  from the BFI Starting Stories dvd can be seen clearly in this animation by a year 6 class.   They are also starting to explore how character can be shown through the movement of the robot.

A Robot’s Life on Vimeo.

The teachers were much more confident this time round and it showed in the greater freedom that they gave the children in terms of interpretation of the activity and the materials they used when making the animations.  The starting point for all was a sound track and the images this created.  Everyone approached this differently – one school wrote the words, the music and made the animation.

A stormy day of fun! from Stokenham School on Vimeo.

More posts about the animation project

Learning to Animate, Animating to Learn

As part of a project looking at progression in animation I have been talking to teachers and children about animation and  reflecting on what I have learnt so far.  It will be interesting to see how this changes as we move towards the end of the year and the project but here it is at present.

  1. Watch animations with children. Lots and lots of them.  Discuss them and their meaning.  What is their personal response to the animation?    Use the likes, dislikes, patterns and puzzles to start off discussions.  Ask how did the animator make you feel like that?  This is not wasted time.  This work will be reflected in the animations the children make. The animation on this page created by Yr2 pupils was partially inspired by the Ooglies.  We have linked to several animations on our YouTube channel, you can buy the British Film Institue’s DVDs of animations for children Starting Stories 1 and 2 for KS1 and Story Shorts 1 and 2 for KS2 and there are many on television.
  2. Allow children sufficient time to play with the equipment if it is the first time that children have animated.  Set up the equipment in the classroom and allow the children to use it, explore what it can do and learn from this.  It means that the animations take a lot less time to make when you fnally start.
  3. Keep it simple.  Discuss what the children want their veiwers to focus on when they watch the animtion.  How can this best be shown?  This is what storyboards are for and they don’t have to be drawn.  They could be digital images.  They could be timings and descriptions.
  4. Pauses.  Sometimes animations can be over before you have blinked.  It is important to get the right length of time and to put pauses in.  This enhances the viewing experience considerably.
  5. Evaluate the animations produced.  What would you do differently next time?  And then have a next time animating so that the children can put what they have learnt into operation. And a next time and a next time.
  6. Children work in teams to animate and it is important that the dynamics are successful.  Careful grouping is important as so far in the project the teams that work well together frequently produce the ‘best’ animations.  This would be an ideal time to collect evidence for Assessing Pupil Progress in speaking and listening.
  7. Animations allow children to demonstrate what they have learnt and understood.  Animating a poem allows them to show what meaning they made from the words, animating how a volcano works allows children to demonstrate what they understand about the process.  Use animation across the curriculum.

What have you learnt when animating with children?

Other posts about animation.

10 things I really liked in 2009

happynewyearI have now been blogging for 13 months – I forgot the blog birthday.  Strange how online life mirrors real life ; ) I thought for the end of 2009 I would pick out 10 things that I discovered and that have become a part of me, some of which I have blogged about and some not.  When I say I discovered it is of course thanks to all the people in my PLN that discovered them for me!

1. Talk for writing and here – this is a strange one but it is a way of teaching writing that helps children to embed language patterns and use them in their own writing.  I have worked with a lot of teachers and quite a few children in my eight years of being a literacy consultant and this is the one idea that has had the most impact on children and their writing. The other reason that I like it so much is that it is based on skills and processes that writers use and is not a mechanistic attempt to simplify writing for teachers or children.   I am looking forward to seeing how it develops amongst our team and with teachers and children in 2010.

2. There will be several books in this list but one of my favourites that has had a lot of use towards the end of the year and will do so next year is Think of an Eel .  This is a non-fiction text told through two voices; one which I would call a literary non-fiction voice and one which is a more formal report voice. Word order and choice is poetic, sentence construction is varied and paced to fit the life cycle of an eel and the illustrations are watery and also reflect the sentences and life cycle.  This is definitely a text that teaches.

3. 2009 introduced me to etherpad which then disappeared.  It enabled groups of people to write together synchronously or asynchronously and was so usable in the classroom.  It has been  reborn in several  forms of which I use two, Netherpad (which wouldn’t open when I wrote this post so I hope it hasn’t disappeared as well) and PiratePad.

4. Comic creators – the boys writing project that we have run this year has meant that I have had to move into areas of reading and writing where I am not very experienced.  Comics.   The best software to create comics is Comic Life because you can use your own images.  However, if you can’t afford to buy software (and this doesn’t cost much) then the following are great; Super Action Comic Hero , Dr Who Comic Maker , Read Write Think comic creator and Captain Underpants .  Plenty to choose from.

5. One book which has influenced my thinking about how we teach the reading and writing of fiction is The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. I am fascinated by the underlying patterns of story and now when I read can’t help but try and decide which of his seven plots are used.  They help children to see the generic patterns behind story whether in print or as images and can be used in their own writing.  I am not the only one interested in this.

6. I have found diigo to be an invaluable way of reading and commenting on texts online, particularly when doing this as part of a group study.  I have to say that it went beyond my expectations.

7. Storybook creators – I love these sites that allow children to create their own books.  They range from those that allow a lot of choices to those that don’t but all offer something to young writers.  Some of my favourites are; Picture Book Maker, Spot the Dog and Storybird (this is my all time favourite but is blocked by our filters even on my computer – lucky you if you can get it).

8. My Flip Video Camcorder .  More and more schools are getting these as easy to use video cameras to have available in the classroom.  They should be there for children to use a a tool to record learning just as pens and pencils are.  I bought one because I found some of the other cameras in classrooms limiting.  I use it all the time.  It comes with editing software but I prefer to download the film and use MovieMaker to edit.  Very easy to use.

9. The power of animation to allow children to show their understanding of texts.  This is partly due to the project, Persistence of Vision, that we are involved in.  We are particularly focused on the links between animation and poetry. Our outcomes are to try and record what we think progression in animation looks like in primary schools and to develop a professional development package that can be used byanyone interested in taking animation further.  We are working with Oscar Stringer and using I Can Animate software and the powerful yet affordable Hue webcams as our equipment.  I have to own up to having a bright pink Hue webcam.

10.  and finally to all the people that I am connected to through twitter, blogging, LinkedIn,Facebook and online learning a big thank you for all your ideas and resources that you have shared.  It is because of you that I can write a post like this.

Happy New Year.

With a Little Help from my Friends

As part of our animating project we wanted to work with the kit that schools already had as this can be one of the barriers to creating animations in the classroom.  In the end we didn’t but that is another story!  However, on my travels through animations Tim Brook told me that 2Animate can be imported into Windows MovieMaker and he was right!

The trick is to import the animation as a picture not a video as the animation is saved as a .gif file.  This was where I had been going wrong.  So now  we can do more with the animation.  Fantastic.  And just to show you here is a dreadful animation I made earlier.

Somebody else told me that you could use a webcam with 2Animate but I can’t find a way.  Is it possible?  If so please let me know.