Capturing Claymation Activity

We spent a lot of time working on Claymation Movies yesterday and, with a couple of exceptions, the students were really focused. Much of the work was just capturing the raw video, which requires patience and teamwork and a vision of how the stories might unfold. The theme this year is Climate Change, and I am going about the movie making process a little different than in years past (I will reflect later).

But as I was helping the groups, I took a couple of pictures of them at work, and made this collage.

I love their little creatures!
Peace (in multicolored clay),

Getting a Glimpse of Digital Math Picture Books

My students are hard at work with their Digital Math Picture Books and some are now starting to panic about some deadlines that I have set for next week. But I think most of them will be OK. They need a little fire under them to reduce some of the social chatter during class and focus in on their work. Some of the books are just amazing. Others are going to need some significant work. But everyone — from the strongest writers to the most reluctant — are fully engaged in what they are doing with this project.

I grabbed some of the pages from books and went back to Animoto to see if I could create a fun little overview of some of their work. Here goes:

Peace (in pictures),

Creating a Virtual Art Museum

Along with classroom teacher, I am also one of the technology coordinators at our school. It sounds better than it is. Usually, it means fixing wires, turning on someone’s printer when they think it is just broken, or making sure the laptop cart is all charged up. Glory work, really.

I would like to find ways to help other teachers in my building think more about technology. Time does not always allow it. I have gone into other classrooms to show teachers how to do podcasting (for poetry), and had my sixth graders work as mentors with third graders on creating pictures in MS Paint.

This past week, I have been working as the technology person for a wonderful project that was envisioned by our librarian and art teacher. It fuses history, art, research skills and technology together. It is the We The People Virtual Art Museum and it is done by a group of fifth graders. The two teachers received some grants to get prints of famous artwork (found at Picturing America website, which is run by the National Endowment for the Humanities). The students researched the art and then recorded (on my little voice recorder) a guided tour of the print.

Next Friday, when the fifth grade hold its annual Living HistoryMuseum, we are going to set up a series of laptop computers with headphones, and allow visitors to “tour” the virtual art museum. We decided to make little movies with the podcasts (using Photostory3), and now we are working on developing a website resource. What I like is that this kind of project has many layers to it and hats off to my colleagues.

Here is one sample. This is about The Ladder for Booker T. Washington by Martin Puryear:

When the website is completed, you can be sure that I will share it out.Peace (in exploration of art across the curriculum),

Comic Dad and Our Picture Books

My students are fully immersed right now in creating Digital Math Picture Books, using PowerPoint as the platform for creation and MS Paint as the (cumbersome) illustration tool. Despite the many limitations of both of those software programs, they are hard at work and fully engaged in creating picture book stories that weave mathematical elements into the mix.

There are stories explaining the geometry of shapes; using order of operations to solve mysteries; and explaining the difference between pie and Pi. Their audience is going to be students at our school in lower grades, but they are having a blast with the creation.


This past week, we were fortunate to have a father of one of my students come in (I will refer to him as Comic Dad) and he worked with our four classes on the process he goes through to create a comic called Rocketboy, which has been featured in Nick Magazine (as a 3D comic, no less). He and his partner have also worked on other projects over the years, but he focused in on Rocketboy — who wishes more than anything that he can fly, but cannot.

What I liked about what Comic Dad said:

  • his collaboration is a true collaboration with his partner — ideas are bounced in and bounced at all the time;
  • the work is being revised constantly right up until publication and he had the storyboards to show the changes;
  • creating a character with flaws leads to story lines (each Rocket Boy story revolves around his failed attempts to fly);
  • humor — both outright and subtle — has a special place in comics, where the visual medium meets the writing;
  • perseverance is a key word for any writer wanting to be published.

Meanwhile, my students were finishing up their own storyboards and so I grabbed a few of the pages and made this little movie of their initial brainstorming work that must take place before they even get to boot up the computer.

I’ll share out more as the process progresses, including some of the characters they are creating (some are just so amazing and interesting, I think).Peace (in picture books),

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),

The Staff Talent Show: Stray Cat Strut

I should have know someone would have videotaped our staff act at the Talent Show and put it up on YouTube. I don’t mind. In fact, it allows me to share it with you (I shared it with all of my students today since some of them did not attend the event).

That’s me on the saxophone — in white shirt and black hat. And we are playing live — no lip syncing for us. Everyone on stage is a member of our staff, except the drummer, who is a friend of the staff (he drums for us whenever we have a need).

Peace (as a real cool cat),

Stop-Motion Lego Exploration

Yesterday, I finally got some students working on using our stop-motion software (it’s free for PC!) on the laptops. I carted in a HUGE bucket of Legos from my kids’ closet (don’t say a thing … top secret) and let my students just explore the use of creating short stop-motion movies.

In about 30 minutes, all five groups had created something and most had begun to understand how to capture frames, how to get your hand out of the way (crucial) and how to be incremental in your movements of objects.

This will all lead us to a Claymation Project very soon (this year’s theme: climate change).

I uploaded two small Lego Movies via Flickr and share them here. These are raw — no sound or anything. So, hum a little song in your head as you watch, OK?

Peace (in ssssslllllllloooooooo mmmmmmmooooootttttiiiiioooooonnnnnnn),

Space, Edition 2

George Mayo and his students continue to promote a great idea: an online student journal that is essentially run by students. The first edition was released about a month ago and this weekend, the finishing touches were put on the second edition.

It is a pretty amazing collection of student work that reflects some inroads into writing in the digital age. There are movies, stories, essays, poems and animation — all with links back to student and class sites. Students submit work through the YouthTwitter Network.

I have a handful of students who submitted some pieces to Space again this time around, including a few hyperlinked poems. We used Powerpoint for our linked compositions, but other students from other schools used Hypertextopia as the platform for publications and sharing.

Here are pieces from my students:

What I like is the possibilities here. The digital canvas might allow for students to really explore different kinds of composition and writing, and then share it with a real audience of other students. You could never do this with a paper journal. Movies, audio, animation, etc, would all be flattened down.

The next edition of Space may be handed off to students elsewhere (more on that in the coming weeks) and a wiki may become the publishing platform. I like how the investigation of the right tool is still being explored. The first edition used Google Docs, then Google Page Creator, and now maybe Wikispaces.

Peace (in student work),


PS — Another amazing project by George and his students was a collective writing project called @manyvoices, in which more than 100 students from around the world contributed to a collaborative story using Twitter. I ordered a book version from Lulu publishing, and it was pretty amazing. You can also download a free PDF version from Lulu, too.


Alliteration, Personification and Quidditch: A classroom tour

Every now and then, I like to share out some of the projects my students are engaged with in the classroom. The past two weeks, we have been working on Figurative Language as we gear up for poetry, and then songwriting. I wrote a post about the use of hyperbole for tall tales over at TeachEng.Us last week. We also looked at comic books for Onomatopoeia, did some games around Idioms, reviewed similes and metaphors, and listened to color poems for Imagery.

For Alliteration, we worked on tongue twisters, using Dr. Seuss as an entry point into the crazy ways that words can make your tongue jump, twist and turn. Some of the students participated in a podcast of their tongue twisters, after I first shared out the twisters that I wrote for myself and the other three teachers on my team. I used a little Olympus voice recorder to move around the room.

Take a listen to our Tongue Twister Podcast

Then, for Personification, we talked about how it can be used for an entire story (Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, for example) or in a sentence. We created some sentences, got on the computers, and they had to illustrate one of the four Personification sentences that we composed. Here are some of the illustrations:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Finally, our school is in the middle of Quidditch season, and one art activity that we do with them is the creation of team t-shirts. I went into the art room with my camera to capture some of the work they were doing for our team: The Ice Legend.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Here is the shirt the kids are working on for me. I let them do what they want and hope they won’t embarrass me too much.

Peace (in student work),

Space: the new (literary) frontier

George Mayo, who helped pull together the Many Voices for Darfur project, is at it again — this time, he has launched an online magazine to showcase student writing. It is called Space and it is an offshoot of the YouthTwitter Project that he and others (including friend Paul Allison) have begun as a way to connect students together.

George is using Google Docs as a main platform for the online publication and students submit pieces of writing through YouthTwitter. I really wanted some of my students to get some “space” and so we joined YouthTwitter as a classroom account (for now) and submitted six short stories based on the Chris Van Allsburg book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (which I wrote about before and even did a podcast book review). I used Google Page Creator to put the stories on their own webpages and then shared the web addresses via YouthTwitter.

One day, I read a concrete poem that George submitted (about concrete poems, appropriately enougy), so I figured I would submit some writing myself — a concrete poem in the shape of a saxophone that I created a few years ago and share with my students every year.

Today is the first publication date of Space and it is a nice mix of student work. I would love to have my students move more into hyperlinked poetry (next month, I hope!) and multimedia creations (I have some burdening moviemakers in class). I think the digital platform holds some interesting opportunities for students to compose and publish for a real audience (always a good thing).

Space might even inspire me to venture into hyperlinked poetry myself, something I have considered but never pursued. Thanks, George, for the inspiration.

Peace (in publication),