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Animation Ideas

By Mark Warner
Age Range: 5 to 11

We recently spent a few days thinking about animation. The children had been making their own stop motion animations (using I Can Animate and iMovie) with considerable success. We've been making these for many years now and we seem to learn new tricks each and every time we make another. The children were all incredibly enthused by their stop-motion animations, so I wanted to take advantage of this by trying other forms of animation. Here are some of the activities that we did during our 'Animation Days':

1) We watched some animations! Over the course of the days, we watched the Wallace and Gromit Cracking Contraptions short films. These are only a few minutes long, but they were great as inspiration for ideas.

2) One of our first practical activities was making thaumatropes. These are incredibly easy to create (instructions here), requiring only two circles of card and some string. This simple idea was really effective and the children were able to see how the two images could be combined to make an early form of animation. They all made lots of them, and came up with some really creative designs.

3) We then progressed to making Flick Books (also known as flip books). There are some great examples online, and we also shared some flick books which I bought for 99p from The Works many years ago. Again, the children made some fantastic animations. I gave them a template with lots of card rectangles which they then cut and combined to make the book. To make a decent animation in this way, you need lots of frames, so the more rectangles the better!

4) After making our own individual animations, we then worked as a class to make a giant 'Art Attack' style animation. I set up a video camera on my desk (as high up in the air as possible), pointing down to our class carpet area. The children then came up with ideas for things to animate and how to move them to make the animation effective. We had cuddly toys magically walking around our classroom, as well as children animating themselves moving across the area! This process really emphasised the importance of keeping the movements as small as possible in order to create a smooth animation.

5) I then gave the children a chance to use Pivot Stick Animator, as suggested by MrKp. We had a few network issues which restricted our use of the software a little, but the class absolutely loved exploring the program (after minimal instruction from myself) and they came up with some amazing animations which really showed their creativity and dedication to the task. Lots of the children also asked where they could download the software for use at home too.

Here are a few other links / tools which I didn't use, but are also useful for animation:

  • SAM Animation - Free PC / Mac software which allows you to make your own stop-motion animations. Thanks to Lucy Barrow for suggesting this in the comments.
  • Pencil - Another free tool for PC / Mac / Linux users which is a traditional 2D drawing / animation program. I haven't tried this one yet, but it's on my 'To Do' list!
  • Doink - An online service which for viewing, creating and collaborating on animations. Requires registration.
  • XtraNormal - A site which allows you to make 3D characters come to life by adding speech, scenery, actions and audio.
  • Fluxtime - Create simple animations using this site which is specifically designed for children. Requires registration.
  • FlickerBlox - Make simple three frame animations online with this free site.
  • Scratch - Excellent software for making animated stories. It is free and very easy for kids to use.
Have you used any of these sites? Do you have any other ideas for 'animation-style' activities to use in the classroom?
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