My Collaborator and Friend: Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

June brought some really wonderful news to our school. My good friend and collaborator on claymation/movie projects — Mike Flynn — was awarded the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year designation for 2007. Mike is a wonderful second grade teacher whose emphasis on hands-on learning, project-based explorations and embedded mathematics certainly puts him in a top tier of teachers I know.

Mike2For the past three years, his second graders and my sixth graders have worked together on claymation movies and it has been a pleasure to develop the project with Mike. He is insightful, flexible and moves towards recognition of the abilities of all the children in his room. Last year, Mike also joined me in presenting a workshop on moviemaking in the classroom at our Technology, Teaching and Writing Conference at UMass (sponsored in part by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project).

He is also a talented musician and he and I have played together as part of an old band of his and he has brought his talents to the stage at our school when I have helped our Student Council organize concerts for Katrina victims and the Asian tsunami disaster. Like me, he finds creative refuge in writing songs.

Mike deserves all of the accolades and is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year (where do I cram the ballot boxes?).

Peace (in celebration),
Kevin

And finally … Stick Figure Movies

The last days of school for my sixth graders were spent working with a stick figure animation program and here are some of the movies they created:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=1158941878118862160" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=4626591408186972447" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in frame),
Kevin

Claymation Collaborations, part three

This is the final installment of the short clay movies from my classroom — all student-created and edited and produced.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=193355201421657936" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

The movies here are:

  • Attack of the Evil Worm
  • A Day at the Beach
  • Bob and Super Cheetah in Invasion of the Mole People

Peace (in slowwwww mo),
Kevin

Claymation Collaborations, part two

This is the second of three short claymation movies created by my sixth graders (in collaboration with second graders). I have one more movie to go, later this week. This first movie — The Haunted House — features some cool animation techniques (disappearing girl!).

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=1312872253261619570" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

The stories are:

  • The Haunted House
  • Bowser’s Race Track

Peace (with monsters and cars),
Kevin

Claymation Collaborations, part one

Some of our collaborative claymation groups finished up with their mini-movies this week (see movie down below) and five more groups are still working. This is the first year we have tried true animation (as opposed to still images) and it has been tricky. Not because of the software but because we just can’t seem to scrap together long enough blocks of time. We have tried to juggle the schedule of second graders with my sixth graders, and it isn’t easy. But, as in the past, except for some mini-lessons, I place the onus of the entire script writing, clay creation, recording/video, and editing on the students and only help when needed. I really want them to “own” the final product for themselves.

So here are the first four movies:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-8605309725608707121" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

The episodes here are:

  • The Lost Diamond
  • The Paper Shredder of DOOM
  • Island Gone Bad
  • The Walking Fish

As we finish up (next week is our last full week, so we are under the gun), I am trying to reflect a bit on what has worked and what has not worked, as my wife and I are running a claymation animation camp for middle school students next month.

Here are some thoughts:

  • Some kids have the patience, and some don’t. It takes patience to do animation and the more patience they demonstrate, the better the animation. It seems like a simple equation to me, but not always to 8 and 12 year olds.
  • The software and webcams have worked fine (although one seemed to have gone out of focus – even though the students didn’t tell me and I could have easily fixed it), although we should have done more to ensure they were all speaking loudly into the microphones. The audio is up and down.
  • We needed more mini-lessons about how to take a photo of a video image, and use that as a still image to stretch the movie to keep in sync with dialogue. This has been the greatest challenge for the kids — having the movie work with the audio.
  • The students have loved using the tech for this project, even when frustrated (which happens). They have been so engaged every step of the way and are always asking, “Are we doing claymation today?” (And to which I reply, “We also have other things we need to be doing, you know,” and then a sigh from their direction)
  • I wish I could have discovered the Pivot Stickman Animation program before this began because it is such a great intro to stop-motion animation. Oh well.
  • We need more than 45-minute blocks of time — at least an hour, or more, would have been helpful as momentum always seemed to be stalled at the end of a session. This project began in April (yes, April!) and we aren’t done yet. Phew.

Peace (with animation),
Kevin

Student Reflections: Digital Story Project

Most of my students (64 of of the 72 I have as writing teacher) took a final reflective survey the other day as the end of our Digital Science Picture Book Project. This gives me some feedback on how things went, but also will provide some data for a chapter that I am writing about the project for a future book.

I asked a range of questions and you can view the collected responses through this Google Docs document.

But here are some things that stood out for me:

  • 97 percent enjoyed the assignment (a nice little boost for a teacher at the end of the year)
  • 97 percent also said that using technology to create the books made the project more enjoyable
  • 87 percent said that their books would have been different if we had not used the technology (and other written responses earlier detailed the ways in which they saw their books as very different from paper versions)
  • 75 percent said they would rather use technology to publish a book than the traditional methods (which I am not sure is such a good thing, but I haven’t thought too deep yet on that)

Peace (in reflection),
Kevin

Science Picture Books

My sixth graders are nearing completion of a book project in which they used MS PowerPoint to create and publish their own fictional Science Journey Stories as a picture book format. Their intended audience (we start sharing our books tomorrow at our school) was other students in grades first through fourth, and I have been presenting mini-lessons on some deeper aspects of PP to give them some ideas on how to use the tech to create a different kind of book.

They are also publishing their books to our Making Connections Science Weblog, which is a much larger project in which my students and other middle school-age students from three other schools in Western Massachusetts have been doing shared science experiments, posting scientific abstracts and now publishing science-based fictional stories.

Meanwhile, I am also planning to write about this science picture book project for as a chapter for a book on technology and the classroom that I am helping to edit with two esteemed college professors. As a result, I have been having my students reflect on how using the computer has been altering their composition process, and how their books will be different once I print them out on paper. I’ll share some of those observations at a later date.

Anyway, here are a few of the books:

MELvin

Journey into the Cell

 

 

 

 

 

Mr beebo power duuuuuuuuuude

Mr. Beebo

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventure Of A Cell

Adventure of a Cell

 

 

 

 

 

Water, Water EverywhereWater, Water Everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

mel the cell

The Adventure of Mel the Cell

 

 

 

 

 

Inside a Cell

Inside a Cell

 

 

 

 

 

Power point (Updated)

Elmo and Dorothy Explore the Cell

 

 

 

 

 

rudolf the RAPPING raindrop!!

Rudolph the Rappin’ Raindrop

 

 

 

 

 

Peace (in pictures),

Kevin

Digital Science Book

(thanks to Donna for some information and I updated my movie)

My students are in the midst of creating digital picture books around a scientific theme. We are using Powerpoint in order to move beyond the flat page and include animation, audio and even video. The audience for the books are first through fourth graders and we will publish in a variety of formats. The kids are just loving it and are fully engaged in their projects!

As usual, as they work, so do I, and I have been writing and creating my own picture book story about decomposition (sound familiar? This is also a term that my friend Paul Oh has proposed for digital writing — haha!) As I move along, I have been sharing my process with students so they can see how I work.

Here is a video version of my book and it loses all of its animation in this version:
Download: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.
And here is a link to the actual Powerpoint file (click on the picture):

Peace (in pictures),
Kevin

A new adventure: Summer Camp

My wife and I are trying something new this year — we are working together to offer two week-long Claymation Summer Camps for kids at her vocational high school. This is a new partnership between our Western Massachusetts Writing Project and her high school, and it is exciting. I stole this idea from my good friend, Tonya (she will recognize some of the information on our flier, as it comes from her flier).

 

Right now, I am in the midst of a claymation project with my sixth graders (in collaboration with second graders) and we will start filming any day now.

Here is a little movie I made for my Collaborative ABC Movie Project that shows some of the kids making their little clay creations. Some of them are very interesting and remain works in progress (I mean, clay creatures here, but I suppose I could be talking about my students, too).

I am sharing this via TeacherTube, which now allows for embedding into Edublogs, which is very cool and a great alternative to YouTube and Google Vid.

Download:Letter C – Powered by TeacherTube.com


Peace (with squishy parts),
Kevin

Student Poetry

My sixth graders have just completed a unit around poetry (ending with songwriting) and they had an option to submit a poem to an anthology that I pull together and distribute in our school (and online for parents). The poems were a combination of deep and thoughtful and fun and fanciful.

And here are some audio files of Poems for Two Voices from a few weeks ago:

Listen to the Student Voices:

Peace (in poetry),

Kevin