Creating with Clay

Yesterday, my sixth graders began making clay characters for an upcoming claymation animation project. I had a brainstorm in the morning that it would be very cool to have them use the software and webcams to capture the creation of their characters — from blob of clay to full characters. This would give them more practice with the software program (which is pretty easy to use but I want to expose them to it as many times as possible).

This collection of their videos is the result of that work:
They worked in small groups and some listened to directions more closely than others (the Friday afternoon syndrome). I had visions of these cool videos that begin with a hunk of clay and then slowly, something is formed in front of our eyes. If I had time, I would have done an example myself to show them. I still might.

There is an interesting mix of strange creatures, that’s for sure. A few of my students clearly have an artistic gift.

One lesson that I continue to learn is that I need to push the concept of patience, patience, patience, and more patience. The slower they can move their character and capture those movements as frames, the more lifelike it looks on the video. Some of them still want to leap ahead with movement and the video then looks all jerky. For 11 and 12 year olds, that concept of patience is a hard lesson to learn, but I am hoping that they will see the results of that patience in the quality of their movies.

Another variation in this project is that this year, I am allowing the students to build a character first, and then work on the story (around climate change) second. Usually, it is the other way around — the story informs the characters. This year, the characters may inspire the story. I am not sure if this approach is better or not, so I will have to see how it goes. I do know they were incredibly engaged in what they were doing for the entire 40 minutes of stop-motion and clay creation yesterday. So many came up and told me how much they love doing the stop-motion and they wanted to know when we can do it again.

More to come as the weeks progress …

Peace (in clay),

  1. Hi Kevin,

    Just watched your clay animation movie. I like the idea of having students first create characters, then creating the storyline based on the characters they created. Do you save all these individual shots on flickr? Also, do you have all your clay animations stored somewhere online? Is clay expensive? Can you continually reuse the clay? I hope you have some clay animations ready for the next issue of SPACE! Thanks for sharing these great ideas Kevin. I’m going to have to try this in my classroom. 🙂

  2. Hi George
    Thanks for the comments.
    I am using flickr video for this shot but I will be hosting the final movies elsewhere when they get done.

    I did create a guide for claymation for a summer camp I run, if you are interested. It shows links and activities that may be helpful.

    We use the cheap-o clay and it does not harden, so you can re-use it, but I usually let kids take their clay characters home at the end of the project (along with a DVD).

    Here is a link to the movies we did last year as a collaboration project with second graders:

    Ken, thanks for the link to the article. I will check it out.


  3. Cool work, as always, Kevin. My Literature of the Child class just completed digital children’s picture books (using mostly PP, MM, and Voicethread). We began our prewriting with character development this year, and I think that’s been successful, although I haven’t had a chance to really examine them in depth yet. Las year, we started with plot ideas related to the interests of the kids in the kindergarten class (our target audience), and that seemed to handcuff the thinking in some ways. I’ll look forward to seeing your final projects!

  4. This is a great idea that you had. It’s not only a good way to get the kids coming up with more original characters, but it’s fun to watch. And, if it’s any comfort, my 15 and 16 year olds probably don’t have any more patience than your 12 year olds.

  5. Patience is hard to come by, even at my age.
    I did my own clay video yesterday (see newer post) and I could have slowed down a bit, too.
    We watched the Inside the Studio of Wallace and Gromit and we were blown away by the complexity of the operations and just how long it would take to create a full movie using stop-motion. Hundreds of thousands of frames. Now, that is patience.

  6. Hi Jamie
    Thanks for your interest.
    I will drop you an email but my intention is to have students create short Public Service Announcement stories about climate change and global warming, and then offer a piece of advice. We have some resources to look at and we have discussed the issue. It will be interesting to see what happens.


  7. Pingback: Creating Stop Motion Animation Characters : Befuddled

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