Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Two posts in one day! Almost makes up for my lacklustre attempts at blogging everyday so far this Blogtober.

I teach a class of 26 Year 3-5's in a small, but very special rural school. The children in my class range from 7-10 years of age, and obviously there is a considerable range of academic ability within the class. One thing they all have in spades though, is creativity and cuteness. They just love to learn, teach others, and do the right thing. Long may that last!

Our school (incidentally the same one I attended as a primary schooler - I haven't moved far!) has a strong culture that is centred on our school values and mascot, Piko the Pukeko. We have a school song about Piko and embrace conservation and the environment. We have a vege garden, worm farm, and compost the food waste that can't be fed to the worms. There is also a 'litter-free lunch' policy, and while this is in no way enforced, the children take it very seriously, and as an incidental result eat very healthily at school, as well as limiting landfill.

So earlier this year, as a part of our school-wide 'Communication' theme, I taught a unit on animation. We studied the progress of animation over time, the different forms we see today and it's role in history as a means of telling a story. As a finale (you know, just a quick wee 5 lesson wonder - ha!) I thought we'd make our own animated movie, using plasticine to mould the characters, and stop-motion techniques to make them move.

The children wrote a storyboard (I swear I gave them no prompts, they are just so earnest and cute!) about our school mascot and our T.I.P.S for success - AKA our school values. The soundtrack was our school song.

We made backdrops, characters and sets. We broke cameras (oops) and fought with electronics companies over warranties - so many learning opportunities there alone! We made do with broken (not by us) tripods and masking tape, inconsistent lighting and finally edited our masterpiece using iMovie on one of our class' beloved MacBooks. It was an incredible team exercise that led to the children making their own individual movies and using these skills to complete projects and present work throughout the year in a range of curriculum areas.

I share the wonderful Room Three with another teacher, and I'm meant to just teach Maths, PE and Art, but I just can't help running with the ball sometimes, and to heck with the curriculum. This unit ended up taking half a school year by the time the children had completed their individual movies, but it was worth every second. Through this unit, they have become expert planners, now preferring to use the story board method to plan much of their writing. They have learned the qualities that make a decent digital photograph. They have become excellent critics of their own and others' work. They have learned resourcefulness in the midst of crisis. They have learned about the power of media to tell a story, and the responsibility that comes with this. They have discovered the wonders of Macs and how simply their programs integrate (**sharp nudgy nudge at any PC users nearby**) They have learned that 'less is more' when it comes to special effects (though some grasped this concept better than others - I DETEST nasty, messy transitions!) and of course they learned all of the standard things I expected them to, like film editing, story telling and teamwork.

Love. It.

Anyway, here's our first attempt. Have a snigger at the crappy lighting, the wobbly tripod and the fact that Piko changes shape considerably in the process of the movie. That plasticine is soft stuff! Their later attempts were far better technically, but I don't have their permission to share them. Besides, this is just so cute.

And here are some pics of the process - busy wee hands and minds at work! I seriously had very little involvement in this part of the unit. It was a classic example of children being enabled to lead their learning.


Making characters...

Fiming - another movie actually, and wasn't my calssroom UGLY before the reno? Bleeeuugh...

Editing. And a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, probably!

So if you're a teacher, TRY THIS. Do not be intimidated by the management issues, technology or whatever. There is nothing wrong with only being half a step ahead of your students - it can actually serve to be a powerful example of an adult still learning.

And if you're a parent of older kiddies, try it too. Though not on a PC!

If anyone cares, here's the marking rubric I used. Happy to email a PDF if anyone wants a copy...


  1. Above rubric is a classic example of why not to 'copy and paste' words repeatedly. There is no other explanation as to why I managed to spell 'transitions' so appallingly in every single box. The shame...

  2. Love it! Awesome stuff Miriam. Come to North Loburn - your skills are wasted at Cust (Don't tell Robert I said that though...)

  3. hehe Simon that's naughty...Nice work Mid.