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I am in my second year directing my third and fourth grade students in creating stop motion animations. As resident artist, I see the students once a week for a fall, then a winter six week block. The 4th graders were very excited to do this a second year.

I had attended last year a very inspiring workshop with Jessie Currell of Hands On Media ( where I learned about using stop motion animation with children.
I found out that my school actually had some donated iPads, sitting untouched in boxes, so I could plan the project!
The App we use is StopMotionStudioPro. It can be installed on an iPhone, or, what we used, iPad.
There is a free version, but it is worth going all the way for the $4.99 version as then you can do much more – like add thrilling background music. Very impressive how much that does for the dramatic expression of clay blobs! The tech guy at our school showed me how to used that one purchase to add into all 20 iPads.
The school’s iPads were installed into Zaggfolio keyboard cases, so I did not have to purchase easel stands to hold them upright. I low-teched it with lots of rolls of wide clear packing tape on hand to tape touch pad area to the table, which worked fine!

We created a Youtube Channel for the school, where the first 6 weeks’ films are.

We begin with simple story planning using a template sheet that requires very little text – just a simple sequence of events without a verbal script. I emphasize that the story is to be told mainly through action. A few simple speech bubbles are allowed where essential to understand the story.
I am finding that the students are much better at sculpting clay this year than they were last year. Last year, most students had never handled clay before. We use oil clay, as it holds the shape and can have parts gradually moved for the animation, unlike play dough.

I developed last year (as I was learning along with the students) a check list of tasks helpful to learning the operation of the app. If you would like to try this, feel free to email me for the task list. We used this to revue the app this year before beginning.

Last year, the second block, we used cut paper, which entailed aiming the camera more down at the table, which foreshortens the image a bit, but worked.
This year, it was unanimous that they wanted to use clay again.

A drawback I experienced is that it is very time consuming to upload all these videos, especially if any last minute editing is required. The second 6 weeks of last year, I donated an extra week to finish as some students now had more ambitious stories, and then I just did not have the time to upload it all. In the future, I will calculate that time in. As the kids learn more, maybe eventually they can do it.

The teamwork required for the process is a great motivator for cooperation and class focus, as each story team member takes turns as director, camera person, and puppeteers. And creating a visual version of original stories is so effective in understanding sequence and organization in writing skills. Not to mention, it is so much fun for all!

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