Claymation in the Classroom, part one

As I did with my Digital Math Book reflections, I am going to break my reflection about our recent claymation projects down over a few days.

With the school year ending in just a few days, my students were rushing to finish up their Claymation Movies this past week. More time would have been helpful and I was frantically carving out small blocks of time here and there just to get them some space for editing and adding audio. It didn’t help that we had a few kids absent on a few days.

But eight small movies are now done, with mixed results, I think. On one hand, my sixth graders loved working with the clay and with the stop-motion animation software. They “got” it pretty quickly, although my constant preaching for patience doesn’t always resonate with all students. Patience is key to claymation and the more raw video they can gather, the more flexibility they will have later.

The theme this year was Climate Change and I will detail a bit further how we went about things in another post. Essentially, they had to work in some aspect of the environment into their stories. In the past, I have had groups of students work collaboratively with second graders, but that didn’t work out this year due to scheduling difficulties. So we were on our own.

I also experimented with a different approach: I let the students create characters out of clay first and then they developed the story second, via storyboarding and concept mapping. I had hoped that the characters might infuse the stories and I do believe that happened, for the most part. I wish I had forced more time on them to develop scripts, but I wanted to see how it would turn out if I was not quite as vigilant. That didn’t work out so well, I think, as the stories in the movies seem weaker than usual this year. The script-writing process gives them focus.

I will detail the unit planning and the resources, and how we publish the movies, a bit further later this week. Plus, I will give a lowdown on a summer camp for kids that I am helping to run again this year that focuses on stop-motion movie making.

Here is one of the movies from the classroom:

Peace (in stop-motion),

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),

Creating with Clay: I give it a try

This afternoon, as my three year old watched and tried to stick his fingers in the mix, I created a build-it-from-a-blob claymation figure. This is the assignment I had given my students yesterday and I should have tried it myself first (one of my mantras).

I could have used some more patience, too, but my excited audience of one made that a bit difficult. You can see it in the change of lighting, as he leans over to get a closer look at my little man. The NWP reference at the end is the National Writing Project, of which I am a technology liaison and an avid supporter.

Here is my strange little man coming to life:
The music is my own, created using the JamStudio music site.Peace (in stopmotion),

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),

Is it summer (planning) already?

We still have snow in our backyard, yet I am thinking of summer. (Spring should happen in there somewhere, too, I hope).

Last year, my wife and I led two four-day summer camps around the idea of Claymation Movie Making, to great success. (See the camp blog here, with the movies). This year, I am leading a one-week Claymation Camp with Tina, who is part of our new Western Massachusetts Writing Project Technology Team and is avidly exploring the blogging world herself in the last month. The camp is a partnership for middle school students between our writing project and the local vocational high school.

Here is our Claymation flier:

Last year, I also worked up an overview of the camp to share out, providing some structure to our work and also links to programs, etc. If you are interested in claymation or stop-motion animation, then perhaps this website might help you.

In my classroom, I am just now introducing the software to my students and we will be tinkering with Legos later this week, I think. In years past, my sixth graders have teamed up with second graders for a movie project, but this year, we may do it on our own, as I want them to create a movie on the theme of Global Warming.

Peace (in sculpted clay figures),

Wow! Peter and the Wolf, in Clay

This is an amazing claymation production from Poland of Peter and the Wolf as claymation. Another wonderful YouTube discovery. The movie, nominated for an award this year, comes in three parts.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in music, storytelling and claymation),