When Writers Go Missing

This is just a bit of fun — but one of our Writers figures that we have sent out on a “mission” to discover more about the National Writing Project has gone missing. (You can read more about the project here) I am sure he will turn up but I used the opportunity to create this movie with Xnormal, where you turn text into video. I then used the option for YouTube, just to keep track of the videos.

Peace (in bringing Poe home!),

Bringing Kids into the World of Stopmotion

It’s been a long but productive four days of co-teaching a Claymation/Stopmotion Movie Camp for middle school students. When I think about it, they accomplished quite a bit. All 16 of the students worked on small claymation clips, learned three to four new software programs and then created (mostly through collaboration with others) a longer Claymation or Stopmotion movie.

This year, the group worked better and more creatively than past groups. It all has to do with dynamics, I suppose, but you could really get a sense of the exploration in the air. For the most part, I show them something and then get out of the way. My co-teacher, Tina, and I were tech support and allowed students to bounce ideas off us. But for the most part, they were off and running before we even said “go.”

Yesterday, we showcased the nine movies before a crowd of family and friends. I had each group or each student come up before the crowd and talk about their movie first. They did a great job and the audience was impressed by the work, as was I.

Two movies come to mind.

The first is by two boys who had a great vision, but not quite enough time to get it all done. They used wooden artistic figures more than clay, and their original story involved two little wooden guys discovering a larger wooden guy, who comes to life. As the large guy walks, his footprints would morph into claymation art. They ran out of time, but their work is still pretty cool animation:

The second was a group of three older boys. What I loved about this group was how creative and collaborative they were, and how they realized they could use a bunch of technology in their movie. So, they began with a scene from a Pivot video they made in which two stick figures push a button. Then, they used Bendaroos to create physical versions of their characters, and clay for the others. They also decided to use the digital voice component on Windows for the voice of the villain, shoving the microphone into a set of headphones. Pretty nifty.

Peace (in the movies),

PS — You can see all of the movies and more at our Summer Camp blog site.

Another Day at Claymation/Comics Camp

We had an interesting day at our Claymation and Comic Camps yesterday, as kids in the movie section worked hard on their longer claymation movies (which have to be completed today for family) and we had two visitors to our Comic Camp — Hilary Price, whose comic Rhymes with Orange runs in about 150 newspapers, and Bryant Paul Johnson, a webcomic who is now working on a historical fiction graphic novel.

First, here are two movies show some of the claymation work of a blob coming to life and also a character I created out of Bendaroos called Cal the Clayman as he visits the “sets” of the movies.

And then, here are some photos from the visits to the clay camp:

Peace (on our last day),

Sharing out: Claymation and Comics Summer Camp

We’re about half-way through with the four-day summer camps — one that focuses in claymation/stopmotion movies and the other that centers on comics and graphic novels. Both have been incredibly interesting and the middle school students (mostly boys) are very engaged in the work they are doing.

In the movie camp, they have been working on a variety of movies, but are now focused in on creating a longer Claymation Movie around the theme of a  “buddy/friend” adventure. There are some pretty fascinating stories developing, including one that begins in the world of Pivot Stickfigure and then transforms into the “real world” with stick figures made out of Bendaroos (bendable sticks).

Here are some pictures of some of the scenes coming to life:

In the comic camp, we are doing a mix of paper work and using technology tools. We worked with ComicLife yesterday and then continued to use our ToonDoo site for webcomics. ToonDoo is a huge hit with many of them, and one student is even working on a 100-part series (yes, 100 pages) that is a spy mystery of sorts. I showed him how to create an ebook in our ToonDoo space, so that the reader can follow the story in sequence. Very cool.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday as they worked on a paper comic:

And here are some comics made in camp:

Peace (in the creative world),

Talking about Student Collaboration on TTT

The second webcast of Teachers Teaching Teachers that focused on chapter authors from my book, Teaching the New Writing, has been posted by Paul Allison (Thanks, Paul!). This episode had us discussing the concept of collaboration in a writing classroom that integrates technology.

You can also view the very active chat room that was underway during the webcast over at Edtechtalk.

Listen to the podcast or download it:

The third webcast was all about audience and I will share that when Paul posts it.
Peace (in the sharing),

Making Monday Music

Here is another installment of my series of webcomics about my life in music. In this one, I remember the excitement of getting my first saxophone. It was something that set me off on a lifetime of music, really, and although I don’t have that saxophone anymore, I still carry it with me in my heart.

And here is the ebook I am creating for this series of comics:

Peace (in reflection),

Bringing Mr. Clay to Life

One different activity I am bringing to Claymation Summer Camp this coming week (ack! So soon!) is to give students a lump of clay and use stopmotion to bring it to life. (I used to use my sons’ toys and create a short movie with those, but I want to get them working with clay quicker). The idea is to use frames to watch a piece of clay “become” something.

As usual, I decided to do the activity myself and this is what I came up with:

Peace (in the frames),

The Making of Frog and Toad, explained

I’ve often heard of this little documentary around the making of Frog and Toad claymation/stopmotion movie but I often turn to a DVD extra with Wallace and Gromit to show students a look behind the scenes of stopmotion moviemaking. But I found this movie on Vimeo by John Matthews from the 1980s and it is pretty cool.

Next week, during my claymation summer camp, I may show this neat documentary and then show the WallaceGromit one to demonstrate just how far moviemaking has come in just a few years. (and now, kids can do it themselves for very little cost, on a smaller scale). It is pretty amazing how much some things have changed (the software and ease of filming) and how much some things have NOT changed (making the claymation characters act).

Frog and Toad – Behind the Scenes from John Clark Matthews on Vimeo.

Peace (with frog and toad),

A Week of Claymation and Comics

Next week, I am co-teaching two summer camps for middle school students with very creative aims: help young people make movies and create comics. These offerings are a collaboration between the local Vocational High School and the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, which is seeking to expand our offerings to youths.

The first camp in the morning (which I will teach with my friend, Tina) is a claymation/stopmotion animation class. This will be the third year that we will be doing this camp and among other things, the kids will be:

  • Exploring animation through Pivot Stickfigure freeware
  • Using Stopmotion Animator freeware with webcams to create short adventure claymation movies
  • Learning how to use Moviemaker
  • Exploring the world of movies on a small scale

The Comic Camp is something new this year, and I was explaining to Tina and Tom (who will co-teach the comic portion with me), the impetus came from walking into a comic book store during last year’s 24 Hour Comic event and seeing the store packed with young people writing and creating. This was clearly composing done outside of the classroom and I figured there might be some interest for a Comic/Graphic Novel camp. There was. It filled up quickly.

Our intentions are to balance students’ learning about the genre of comics, reading through some graphic novels and creating their own comics. We’ll be introducing ToonDoo (my pilot closed site) and ComicLife (see this great Comiclife resource for educators), but allow for them to create on paper, too, if that fits their needs. Our focus will be on character development and how character can drive a story (graphic novel) or a series (comic strips). While they won’t have time to create a graphic novel, they will begin planning for one.

I am also excited because I have at least two local artists coming in to talk with the kids (one is Hilary Price of Rhymes with Orange syndicated comic strip). We’re not quite sure how this camp will unfold but it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

I created a blog for both camps, if you are interested in following some of the progress through the week: http://claycomics.wordpress.com/

Peace (with the kids),