One of my favorite storytelling tools is stop motion. When I learned that our first-grade students had been exploring story development, I knew it was time to introduce them to using stop motion.
Once I share stop motion with my students, I feel like I’ve opened a new door to creativity for them Soon after, I get emails from parents clarifying the name of the app so that they can buy it at home for their student.
I start by showing the students this simple video from Boinx iStop Motion.
Boinx iStop Motion
This does a great job of introducing both the concept of stop motion and is also a quick overview of the app.
I begin using any new technology with some ‘sandbox time.’ I give my students two geometric shapes and told tell them to animate them. These are the only instructions. They had a blast and made all sorts of discoveries that I knew would be helpful for them as they use these tools to tell stories.
To begin our first class movie project, I read the class, Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems. We break the story down using a simple beginning, middle and end chart. Next, I give each set of partners the same three simple objects. I wanted this project to be about stop motion, not about the props. Each group then came up with a short story about how these three objects would interact and of course, share. The students illustrated their stories with simple drawings in each of the three boxes. After a quick conference about their plan, each group got to work.
Here are a few tips I discovered while working with some of my youngest animators:
- Planning out the ‘story’ is critical, especially when working in groups. The beginning, middle and end chart helped a great deal.
- Having the stations pre-set helped the students focus on animation rather than dealing with the stand, set, etc.
- Simple objects are best for beginning animators; this takes the focus off the object and puts it on the animation.
- Keeping the ‘camera’ in one place is helpful in creating a smooth animation. Use a bookstand to hold your tablet if you don’t have a fancy stand.
- Put a little tape on both the stand and the ‘set’ to keep it in one place. Excited animators move EVERYTHING around a lot!
- A simple file folder makes a great set, and helps the animators have a sense of the limits of their ‘stage.’
- Two Lego baseplates also work well as a stage. (Bonus: if you use a green file folder or a green baseplate, you have an instant green screen!)
- Lego base plates also make it easy to ‘climb’ the wall or ‘walk’ around the space.
- I found putting the camera in a vertical orientation helped frame the set better than a horizontally.
- Use a bookend and a little tape to ‘anchor’ your set.
Boinx iStopMotion has some powerful features that help students create high-quality animations quickly and effectively. One of these features is the ‘onion skin.’ It sounds odd, but this allows the students to see a ghost image of the frame before. This makes it easier for them to make incremental moves with each frame of their animation. There are many features that we do not utilize with our youngest animators, which makes this an excellent program for students to ‘grow into.’
I typically have the students export their animations to iMovie where they can record voice-overs, add sound effects, titles and background music. One last export and their films are done.
Here is one of my favorite examples from our recent stop motion projects. Watch until the end and notice the characters bow!
This book is a mind-blowing exploration of all types of animation for kids. Once your students have the basic skills I’ve illustrated, this book will empower them to tell any story!
Animation Lab For Kids
Do you use stop motion with your students? What are your favorite tips? What apps do you love?