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5 Ways To Teach Kids Animation For Fun and Learning

By Kristen Keller

As many teachers could tell you, art is an amazing vehicle for students to show self-expression and creativity, and to really let their imaginations soar. Art can be especially important for children today who are growing up with the benefits and draw-backs of an extremely fast-paced life, in which instant gratification is a given. What is not usually easy however is teaching patience, achievement, and long term satisfaction, and due to this, it is often hard to introduce projects that can be time-consuming, and may not show results right away, but can produce very satisfying achievements.

Here are 5 projects you can use to teach students about animation which span from the fast-paced and straight-forward, to the more complex and more drawn out. The various projects teach kids valuable lessons about using 2-D and 3-D images in quick succession to form the illusions of movement. There's something for every student, and you can start where you are and have great fun!

Photo Animation For Kids with Special Needs

This is one of my favorites for students with special needs, since the students don't need to be able to draw, or have much of an attention span for this one to work. Just like with any of the animation projects I teach, I like to show the students a quick video as an example of how other people have done the project, to offer inspiration, and understanding. I then get the students to come up with a general idea of what they want to have happen in the short animation clip they will be producing. The easiest way is to have one student take photos every second or two, as the other students move slowly about the room. You can also have a 'themed video', for example, I made a video where students came gliding into the frame on garbage can lids. I did this by having them stand in one place on the lids, then once the picture was taken, I'd have them move a foot forward, and take another photo, and keep repeating to continue the movement. This project works great because it can be done as a collaborative project with lots of students, or independently, so long as one student is able to operate the camera. It also works well for very low-functioning students.

Drawing Animation Is For All Levels

This project works great as an independent activity, and is still pretty straightforward and simple for students. I like to start by handing out yellow sticky pads, as the flip books for the students to draw on. Each student can start drawing a sequence of events that develop and change as the pages advance. Since this project is independent, students' works will vary depending upon their artistic abilities. Drawings can range from renditions of stick people who move slightly forward in each new frame (to walk across the page when the pages are flipped), to more advanced, more detailed drawings which could make a whole scene come to life. It's great because it gives the students a solid foundation to understand how animation works, and can be done by students at all artistic levels.

White Board Animation is Environmentally Friendly

Using a white board to create animation starts getting a bit more complex. This project can be done by either taking photos, or by using a video camera to capture footage, for a more advanced project. If you choose to take photos, it is generally better to have the camera set up on a tripod, with the white board placed in an area of good lighting. Like the flip book, the student can draw a design, and then to capture the design, they would take a photograph of it. The student can then decide to erase part, or all of the design, and draw it slightly differently, or in a sequence of actions, like they did with the flip book, making sure to take photos of the progress as they go, as to have an animated slideshow once the photos are shown quickly in sequence. One of the benefits of this is that it is a more environmentally friendly way of doing animation, since you're not using tons of paper to achieve your sequences of images. You can also step this project up a notch by filming the work with a video camera, since you can do stop-motion animation, in which you can have other objects enter the scene that interact with the drawing.

Clay Animation is Inexpensive and Fun!

Clay animation, or clay-mation, is a very popular form of animation, due to the fact that clay can be used to create 3-D characters or objects, which can then be filmed or photographed and moved slightly at intervals to create motion. The best part of using clay is that it moves so easily and it is an inexpensive way of creating animation, through stop-motion. It does however require a bit more planning though, since the content of the animation clip changes from the 2-dimensional world of drawing on paper, to the 3-dimensional realm of being sculptural. The student needs to think more about what else they will include, or exclude in the scene, such as backdrops and additional objects, or scenery to form a context.

Organic Animation is Subtle and Interesting

This type of animation is really just a time-delayed type of animation in which you can take pictures or video of something organic as the days go by, such as a plant growing, or mold consuming a piece of fruit. The benefit of using this type of animation is that the students don't have to be very creative to have a really neat video, since the object they are filming will be moving on their own every day. The students just needs to set-up a tripod, and make sure that the technical side of things stays the same, such as the sunlight, or positioning of the tripod. The downside to this type of animation however, is that it generally is more of a long-term project, since you have to wait a certain amount of time to physically show a change in the object that one is documenting. I have seen this project done many ways, even by taking a photograph of a person every day for a year, showing subtle changes that may not have been caught by the eye on a daily basis.

These are just some of the examples of how you can teach students to make animation, and they work well as an introduction for other forms of moving picture once students understand the basics.

Animation Turns Everyone into an Instant Artist

Once students begin to excel at these easier forms of "stop-motion" animation, they have a great direction to begin trying out computer animation, and other forms of more complex video projects. Just remember, animation can be done with varying complexity levels, using drawings, or objects from around the house. It is really open for interpretation and can be a ton of fun. So pick one of these projects, and help a student to enjoy the fun world of animation.

Find out more about creative project ideas, fun teaching techniques, and experiential ways of learning at my Teaching With Fun website.

Kristen Keller is a teaching consultant, and workshop director for the Coast-to-Coast Robot Tour. She has been teaching at various school boards across Northern Ontario, as well as across Canada for the past 5 years.

Kristen truly believes experiential learning is for everyone, and is especially committed to teaching students in a fun, hands-on way, since she believes students learn the best when they are enjoying, and are fully immersed in what they are doing. Kristen currently teaches Artistic Robot Workshops, in schools across Southern Ontario.

Find out more about creative project ideas, fun teaching techniques, and experiential ways of learning at her Teaching With Fun website, or contact Kristen for more information on how to bring more fun, hands-on projects to your school at

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