I frequently work with educators and students in early childhood education classrooms to identify meaningful ways to integrate technology into instruction. In this work I meet with the classroom teacher to better understand the content and objectives for the upcoming weeks. We think about the content first, and identify easy ways to embed technology use into instruction.
In the past, I’ve written about times that I’ve used LEDs with pre-school makers, and previous stop motion movies I created with my son (Jax) while he was in pre-school. Stop motion movies are an animation technique in which you physically manipulate an object to make it appear that it is moving on its own. Stop motion movies are created by having an object move in small increments between individual photographs. When these photographs are stitched together in a quicker sequence, it appears that the object is moving.
While Jax was in Kindergarten, I wanted to work with his class to make a stop motion movie that would tie in to a class reading and theme. In this post I’ll share the steps and tools used, as well as the final video created by the students.
In discussions with the classroom teacher, she indicated that the students would soon start reading and discussing The Mitten by Jan Brett in their next unit of study. They would also study animals and their habitats after reading the text. We discussed the opportunity to create a movie as a culminating activity for the lesson in which students would share information about an animal of their choice.
As we continued to plan, decided that it would be much easier to tie the movie back to the story (The Mitten) that we read at the beginning of the unit. Stop motion animation would provide an opportunity to easily create a movie as a class. For the movie, we would re-enact the plot of the story by having each child create an animal and have the animals enter the mitten. The individual animals were colored and decorated by the students. There were more students in that class than animals in the story, so we used some artistic license to add animals and lines to the story.
As you can imagine, filming a movie in a classroom can be a test of classroom management and our ability to plan. I was joined by the classroom teacher, a paraprofessional (teacher’s aide), and the school’s technology lead. On the day of filming, we set up three stations around the classroom to filter the twenty students into more manageable groups. The entire process took us just under an hour to complete.
The first station involved the actual filming and the “set” of the movie. I include more details about the filming and editing of the video later in this post. The classroom teacher and I facilitated this station with one of us operating the iPad and the second helping students select their animal and move it across the field of view.
The second station was set up in the hallway for audio recordings. We wanted the students to record their lines for their animals. For this we set up a table with a laptop, headphones, mic, and a cardboard box to create a makeshift recording studio. We used Audacity to record the students reading their lines about their animal from the story. This station was facilitated by the school’s technology specialist.
The third station was a writing and coloring activity that related to the objectives of the lesson. This station was facilitated by the paraprofessional. This third station served as a holding area as we rotated students into the first station, and as they came out of the recording studio.
Filming the movie
To create the stop motion movie, we used the iStopMotion app on the iPad. There are a number of free and paid apps on the iPad that can be used to create these movies. You can also create stop motion movies on android tablets as well as mobile phones. We chose to use the iPad since we had access to one, and it would be easier to use in the classroom to film the video.
We pulled together several desks and covered the tables with construction paper to create a “set” or backdrop for our film. An oven mitt was used as the mitten in the story.We also stacked several chairs and tables together to make a stand to mount the iPad above the backdrop for the story. The stand was necessary as we didn’t want the angle of the shot to change between animals. We also quickly found out that holding the iPad up for shots between animal would tire out the arms quickly.
We had the students move the animals in the field of view and showed the collected video clips to students after each animal. It was important to us to have the students understand what they had just recorded. The sense of wonder and excitement was palpable as students understood that they had just created the movie by moving their animal across the paper.
We recorded each animal moving across the screen as a separate file in the stop motion app. All of these individual video files were then moved to iMovie for editing the final video. Dropbox was the easiest way to move all of the files from the iPad over to a computer for editing. You can view all of the individual files here.
In the future, we may keep the files on the iPad and edit the video using the iMovie app for the iPad. If we were using an Android tablet, Windows PC, or mobile device and did not have access to a Mac for video editing, I would use WeVideo for editing the final footage.
The final product
The final video was shared with parents and students on the last day of school. The final video can be viewed below.
Reaching out to the community
In this process it was important for us to have students understand that they had played with digital media and helped create this movie. They were excited that this movie was now online and could be viewed on YouTube. We wanted the video accessible on YouTube to allow parents to see and share the work of their child.
It was also important for us to have students teach parents how they made this video. The school held a “Literacy Night” several times a year to open up the doors and invite parents in to spend time in the classrooms and interacting with teachers, students, and each other. On one specific night, workshops were facilitated by teachers in various classrooms. In our classroom, we held a workshop on creating stop motion animation.
During the 45 minute block of time, I took about 2 to 3 minutes to introduce myself and explain what stop motion animation was all about. I gave a quick tour of the iPad and app to the assembled group. After that I invited the parents and their children to play with the iPads and create their own stop motion movies. At each table we had buckets of toys, Legos, stuffed animals, or PlayDoh. Each table had a kindergartener from our class that was there to teach the parents and their children how to make the movies.
The focus of the workshop was on playing with the app to see what they could make together. We concluded with a list of free apps on mobile devices and tablets that could be used to create stop motion movies at home.
Early Childhood Movie Makers
In this endeavor, it was very important to me to have educators and learners in early childhood settings playing with digital media. With the exception of the school’s technology specialist, I was the only other person with expertise in using these digital texts and tools. The classroom teachers were open to trying new things, and expressed a bit of trust in allowing us to conduct this work in their classroom. In the end, it was all worthwhile to have children and their teachers believe that they could and should play with digital media, and they can share what they’ve created online.
Also published on Medium.