Flat Life

I have never really been sure about how to use the animation  Flat Life, first seen on the BFI Story Shorts 2 dvd.  However, today I think I might have found an outcome for the film.

Through the post I received my own copy of Building Stories by Chris Ware – a book that is definitely not for children – and fell in love with it.  It has a lot of things that I like; beautiful visuals, tactile appeal, an unusual structure, a very appealing front cover/box and a range of text types but all in graphics.  Many thanks @literacyadviser for the tweet about this book.

The ‘book’ comes in a beautiful cardboard box and consists of 14 different types of book/booklet/poster/newspaper and so on. I think it is like Black and White by David Macaulay on steroids.





 I haven’t started to read them in detail yet.  I am just scanning my way through everything to  sort out how it works and what order I should read them in.  I understand from the reviews that it is probably best to read them in order.  What I do know is that the book tells the story of inhabitants of a block of flats and it is this that reminded me of Flat Life.  It seems to me that the children could create booklets about the characters in Flat Life, using the animation as a starting point and through a series of drama/role play activities, develop the characters and their lives further.  They could then tell these in graphic form either by drawing or by using some form of comic creater – Comic Life springs to mind.

It also reminds me of the book 99 Ways to Tell a Story by Matt Madden.  99 different styles of comic telling the same story.

What have you seen this half-term that has caused you to make new links?

My new favourite book

I don’t know what I would do with out Devon School Library Service.  I say ‘Oooh. Have you got a copy of such and such?  I’d really like to have a look at it.’  And if they haven’t got a copy they get one for me.  Which is how I came to have the wonderful little red hood by Marjolaine Leray.  (It’s not the greatest book for capital letters and punctation – so yes I have got the title right!)  From reading the inside of the front cover, this book was originally published in France under the title un petit chaperon rouge, and there were no capital letters in that title either.

The story of little red  hood is told through the dialogue between little red hood and the wolf although it has an alternative ending.  I don’t remember the wolf having stinky breath in any of the other versions of this story.  It is however true to the idea that little red hood overcomes the wolf in the end.

But what I really love about this book is the visual appeal.  The illustrations are all in red and black, as is the dialogue,  and little red hood looks like she came out of a red pencil scribble on the front cover.  There is such a simplicity here and yet the range of emotions portrayed through the tilt of the head or the drooping of the shoulders is enormous.  Some of the illustrations are contained within one page of a double page spread and others start on one page and finish on the other side of the spread all pointing or focusing in on little red hood in a threatening manner.

The illustrations have a very animatic quality and I can picture this book as a short animation.  The colour palette reminds me of Le Queue de la Souris below although where there is black in this animation, there is white in the book.

I think this book would be a wonderful way to tell other similar traditional stories.  Can you tell the story of the three little pigs just through the dialogue between the wolf and the third pig?  What colours would you use?  How could you represent the wolf and the pig?

I have of course had to buy my own version of the book.

What’s your favourite book at the moment?

Harold, the purple crayon and dipdap

One of my favourite books for the fantasy unit in Yr1 is Harold and the Purple Crayon.  It follows a fairly popular tradition in children’s fiction where the pencil crayon draws the character into trouble and out of it again and again.  Anthony Browne’s Bear Hunt did the same thing as did Doodling Daniel.

The book lends itself to children doodling or drawing their own stories on large sheets of paper telling the story as they draw.  In fact the doodles become the story plan.

But I also think this type of book links well to animation.  In fact there is a 1950s animation of the book, see below, but what I  think it links best to is the wonderful CBeebies animation DipDap.  Children could explore drawing lines bit by bit and capturing this using animation software.  They could then choose some suitable music to go with the animation.

Animation with children in the foundation stage

It is always the same.  Share an idea and get an even better idea back!

foggyforestI have been investigating Lotte Reiniger films recently and thinking about how they can be used in the classroom.  Whilst talking about the films to two colleagues, they both mentioned how similar they were to Nick Sharratt’s book The Foggy Foggy Forest.

The book makes an excellent link with the film through the use of silhouettes.

It would be great over the course of a few days  to show the children one or two Reiniger films such as Cinderella (do watch the animation through yourself as they draw heavily on the Grimm’s versions of the tales) and then read the book following the clues to discover who is in the picture.   You could then show children how to animate one of the characters from the book.

Enlarge one of the silhouette pictures such as the fairy bouncing on the trampoline or the witch on her broomstick..  Cut out the fairy and the trampoline and place under a camera linked to animation software.  Zu3d would be good for reception children.  Show the children how to take 12 shots to begin with and then 1 shot every time you move her.  Move her up slowly and then back down slowly, capturing the shots.  Play back what you have captured and discuss how smooth it is, whether your hands are in the shots or not.  If necessary create another bounce and watch back again.

Once you have a bounce that you like, ask the children how many bounces you would like the fairy to do and copy and paste your shots ending with 12 shots of her on the trampoline.

This would need to be modelled for the children and then they would need some support but the equipment and props can be set up in the classroom and left available for children to use.

Do you know of any other books that link well with animations?  If do do let me know about them and thanks Becca and Nicola for the idea!

Author Study – Animator Study

lotte 1I have written before about the the authors that would be great to study in the authors and texts block that Yr6 have. Now I want to increase the variety or range of  suitable authors by adding an animator to the list of suitable authors – Lotte Reiniger.

Lotte Reiniger lived from 1899 – 1981 and in that time produced a great body of work in silhouette animation, something that is very accessible to children.  She also concentrated on traditional stories such as Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk.  I particularly like the animations that she created for the Post Office.

One of the best videos is The Art of Lotte Reiniger because it shows so clearly the process she goes through to animate which would be great to share with children.  There may be a use for those obsolete OHPs in this type of animation as well!

The characters are rounded and archetypal and and the sound tracks generally consist of music and voice over, again something that it is possible for children to emulate.

There are several books that are illustrated through silhouette illustrations, lottedvdmost notably Jan Pienkowski.  I think his fairy tales book would be a fantastic to include in this unit because fairy tales were such a huge part of Lotte Reiniger’s work.

Lotte Reiniger’s work can be seen on our YouTube channel, on Daily  Motion and can be purchased on DVD from the BF!.

I am in the process of writing a teaching sequence based on this unit of work and Lotte Reiniger and will share it when it is ready.

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.

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