Protagonist: iStopMotion, Antagonist: The Struggle to Learn About Plot … P.S.: The Protagonist Always Wins!

How do you teach the concept of plot to a group of fourth and fifth graders? Gifted and Talented teacher Naomi Delgado of Burnet Elementary in El Paso, Texas, chose to let the students work it out for themselves with iStopMotion in her after-school reading group. iStopMotion was the second hands-on, digitally engaging app she used with students. She discovered it when she attended a stop motion animation session at miniCAST 2014 and knew it would be the perfect addition to her curriculum.

The first students to try it were a part of a Gifted and Talented pullout program called “Connections.” The program integrates reading, language arts and social studies to give students a supplementary education. Naomi’s after-school reading group is included in the GT program. She started with four fifth graders and one fourth grader, but the group grew by one when another student heard about Naomi’s planned iStopMotion project and asked administration for permission to join. Their assignment was to create a movie that included a setting, a protagonist, an antagonist, rising action, a climax and a resolution.

Over the course of three weeks of after-school sessions, Naomi’s students learned all the elements of plot through their iStopMotion projects. They started by browsing YouTube and looking at a few student examples of stop motion animations, and then completed their own plot graphic organizer to work out their story. All of their movie characters and props were born from household items like clay and paperclips. The students helped each other brainstorm and create, putting their heads together to come up with exciting concepts.

“Midway through, half of the students were struggling with the task of bringing their story to life,” says Naomi. “Their first attempts were choppy and too short to tell a complete story. So we watched another example stop motion from YouTube and identified and discussed the craft of iStopMotion – the amount of frames needed to make the character’s motion seem realistic, utilizing drawn background and text on whiteboards.”

The instruction helped, and the rest of the project went off without a hitch. Once the music was added, the students’ iStopMotion films came to life. Most movies were a bit different from their original ideas, but Naomi notes that it definitely wasn’t a bad thing. For example, the fourth grader had learned about plot twists during their regular class and decided to have his protagonist run over by a Koosh ball. This led to two of the fifth graders to also add plot twists to their movies.

“I must tell you that one of the characteristics of gifted students is a twisted sense of humor!” Naomi says. “One student’s movie was originally about the reunion of a mother and son, but in the plot twist the mom pushes the son off of a building!”

When the students went over their work, they talked about how easy the app was to use. They liked how they could easily save and edit their work and how the onion-skinning feature helped them to keep their camera work steady. Naomi loves how successful the project was, and she’ll definitely be using iStopMotion when she tutors next year.

“I plan to improve the learning experience by giving students a project rubric, the opportunity to work with a partner or a small group to create one movie, more time to study the craft of stop motion animation and a storyboard graphic organizer in addition to the plot graphic organizer to help set up scenes,” she says. “I would like all of my students to have the opportunity to create a movie using iStopMotion during regular school hours, too. I’m still working on developing the best way to integrate the app into the curriculum!”

Naomi says that her students are lucky to have so much access to technology in their classroom. In addition to the iPads and Mac desktop computers they use with iStopMotion, the classroom is equipped with a laptop, a document project, a SMARTboard and a projector. While some of their tools are digital and some are simply paper and pencil, Naomi always chooses the tool that will best support the learning standard.

“The best thing about technology, aside from the high student interest, is that it helps the students develop their problem solving skills,” Naomi says. “Rather than telling students how to do something, I instruct them to Google it. When one finds the solution, they always have the opportunity to teach others how to do something, and I’m always pleased when that someone is me.”

You can view Naomi’s students’ finished products here. Do you or a friend want to learn more about the inner workings of a good plot? Try creating your own story and mapping out each step – a setting, a protagonist, an antagonist, the rising action, a climax and a resolution. Who knows … maybe you’ll even throw a plot twist into the mix!

Here’s a Holly, Jolly Christmas Animation!

It’s not about having the best of everything – it’s about making the best of everything you have. Animators Li Yi and Colin (the Supercols) used the best of whatever materials they had in the house – cardstock, paper, wires, blue tack, foam board – to make an incredible holiday themed animation that is simple and sweet.

It tells the story of Annabelle, Jacob and baby Caleb, a small family with a very big heart, who decide to take their own approach to putting up a Christmas tree during one of the most expensive times of the year.

Li Yi and Colin have used iStopMotion before, and although this animation in particular was created by using only a camera and some hard work, it makes for some great holiday inspiration! Try taking one basic item – like newspaper here – and basing a story around it to animate in iStopMotion. Use some leftover holiday decorations, like tinsel, candles or gift-wrapping, for an extra special touch! It’s not too late to create your own homemade holiday eCard to send to your family and friends!

Take a look at our past posts about the Supercols’ work here and here! Also be sure to take a look at their holiday animation from a couple years ago here!

* Note: The above animation was not created with iStopMotion.

Whipping Up a Snow-Muscle-Man with the Animation Chefs

Our friends the Animation Chefs just put together the laziest ab workout ever - in the form of a sleeping iStopMotion-animated snowman! They created the animation using special formulas from their "Animating Kids" curriculum, a segment where the Chefs share their top secret animation recipes (the complete kit will be available in April 2015).

Join in on the "Animating Kids" fun by visiting the Animation Chefs online! Celebrate the snow by watching "The Abdominal Snowman" above, and be sure to submit your winter wonderland iStopMotion animations!

Storytelling With iStopMotion in a Million Different Visual Languages

Dinjerra Primary School in Braybrook, Australia, supports the learning needs of diverse students from the local area, and teacher Seaneen Watts uses a special method in her Grade 4, 5 and 6 classrooms: technology.

Because she teaches many students who are of refugees, have backgrounds in trauma and have trouble with the English language, Seaneen knew that imaginative play was a must in her classroom. She was interested in using iPad technology for storytelling, and when she found iStopMotion, she thought it would be a fun, engaging app that would allow her students to tell stories through play-based learning, without the barriers of spelling and writing.

“I first began using it about a year ago, and I initially trialed it with a nine-year-old student who was creative and loved technology but was disengaged in the traditional process of story writing,” she says. “As a result, he could distract others or exhibit some challenging behaviors. As he loved LEGO, I thought he might enjoy story telling through iStopMotion. He made several movies and it kept him engaged for hours.”

The rest of Seaneen’s students loved iStopMotion too, so she incorporated it into the daily curriculum. Now, she allows it as one of several presentation apps students can choose from to tell their story.

Recently, the school held a swimming program in which not all students participate. Seaneen had her students create a presentation about water safety to go over the dangers of swimming and tips on staying safe. Students used iStopMotion, LEGO and Play-Doh to construct their lessons, working in teams to get the job done.

“I find that the teamwork aspect for many of the students is key,” Seaneen says. “Many of our students come with social and trust issues, and I find that teamwork allows them to work collaboratively with others where they feel they are equal to their peers.”

There is also the fact that the creative process works in different ways for every student. iStopMotion teamwork helps students storyboard together, bounce ideas off of each other as they go, and take notes on their work.

“I also have noticed that it appeals to many of the children’s different styles – the creative, the kinesthetic, the logical, the artistic – and allows them to bring their own personality to their story,” she says. “Some students take hours of class time to get their story just the way they want it.”

Playing around with iStopMotion in the classroom is an exciting way for Seaneen’s students to learn. The students love the app’s 3D aspect, and they enjoy making their presentations funny – sometimes even a bit gory!

“I think technology is paramount for classroom use, so long as the teachers are given the time and training for how to make it worthwhile and valuable,” Seaneen says. “For the 21st century, it’s imperative to create global learners who can share and collaborate using digital technology.”

She continues, “For my particular school, many of our students have difficulty with the English language and western mainstream schooling. Using digital technologies allows them to work in teams, be creative, use their imagination and navigate in an increasingly sophisticated digital world. Our students love to share their learning. It validates what they do and builds confidence and self-esteem, which for kids, is vital.”

Check out the Dinjerra students’ iStopMotion animation about water safety above!