Claymation – 3rd Time Lucky!

This is the third year Margot and I have worked on a claymation project with the Grade 5s, and we both feel this is the year that everything is coming together!

I have written about our adventures with animation here and here, so you can see a bit of the history.

This year, we are again connecting with the Grade 5 unit entitled Voices.

Central idea: “Through the arts we tell our stories of who we are: our beliefs, our values and our experiences”

What’s different this year?

This year, we are making more of a connection to Art.

The students have been instructed to select a piece of abstract art that interests them, and use it as an inspiration for their animation. We showed them this delightful claymation that shows the sort of thing we envisioned.

It’s been great to see the diversity in the works of art the students have chosen. We are confident they will be able to express themselves creatively through having selected a work of art that interests them.

This year, we have more measures in place to make kids successful.

Hafiz, the fabulous new TA for art has personally tested the best positioning of the macbooks and the animation stages, and constructed some 90 degree wooden frames to help keep the macbooks in the same position each time.

The more consistency kids can have in keeping their macbooks still, the better their finished product.

This year, we have provided more scaffolding.

Due to time constraints, we launched straight into the projects last year. This year, we have included time to play and learn some claymation techniques. We asked the students to roll a ball back & forth, make it disappear, then explore some other ways of moving. Below you can see Kelly & Maia’s first experimentation with claymation.

Upside-down: Get a different perspective

When I was at Teachers’ College, I remember approaching my art course with trepidation. I wasn’t too shabby at art as a child, but as I had effectively given up the subject at the ripe old age of 13, it would be fair to say I wasn’t what you’d call confident!

One of the first things I remember our 2 lecturers getting us to do, was to sketch FAST (in 15 mins) the line drawing they put on the Overhead Projector (remember those?). The thing is, they put the drawing on upside-down. Deliberately.

The drawing was clearly beyond me, but as I’ve always been a good student, I duly attempted to copy it as best I could.

When our 15 mins was up, we were told to turn our drawings the right way up, and I think 99% of the students were amazed at having done a lot better than they anticipated. When the drawing was upside-down, we had to keep looking up to check we were putting the lines in the right places, not just guess from our prior knowledge of the subject.

It reminds me that our perception of our own abilities (or lack thereof) can sometimes affect the quality of our performance. If we look at something from another perspective, we might just surprise ourselves.

For my Extra Curricular Activity with the iPads,  I found an image online that was upside-down, and had my students do the same thing, but using Brushes on the iPad.

Here are two students’ representations of the illustration above. I will include them both upside-down and right-side-up for comparison.

Michelle, in Grade 6 did this one:

Michelle 1

Ji Min in Grade 5 did this one:


I’m pretty proud of both them!

Creating Art on the iPad

In terms of artistic ability, I’m afraid to say that my sister Shelley got the lion’s share of the talent being dished out in my family. I do appreciate art however, so it was with great interest that I found these videos demonstrating the amazing possibilities of the Brushes app on the iPad.

Well, I was simultaneously amazed and inspired watching those artworks unfold. I also discovered this fabulous flickr group showing artwork created solely using Brushes.

I decided to search for a tutorial, and who better to teach me than Kyle Lambert, the artist who created the Beyonce image? I have used TubeChop to crop the original video, but it is worth watching the whole thing to see what is possible and learn more about the artist himself.

I had a bit of a play and tried to copy an eye that Kyle had demonstrated in his tutorial. At risk of great personal embarrassment, I show it to you now:

photo (1)

One of the fantastic functions of the app is it has a built in video where you can see exactly how your picture unfolded as you drew it! Think about the possibilities for kids using it as a part of their art portfolio, where they have both a piece of art they have created, and a video showing how they produced it!

I have decided to do an after school activity with art on the iPads using brushes. I would love some suggestions of where to go from here.

Are you an artist who can suggest beginner projects for me and my merry band of students?

Do you have a great link to more beginner tutorials?

I look forward to hearing your ideas!

Stop-Motion Animation: Round 2

The Singapore International Student Film Festival 2011 is just around the corner, so much of my time working with kids centres around video projects at the moment (I’m in heaven, I tell you!). I will explain other projects in more detail later, but with Grade 5’s, our wonderful Art teacher @togramann has been brave enough to have another go at animation with me. I documented our approach last year here, including rather detailed descriptions of my failures and (thankfully) our successes too, so here are the changes we have made this time around:

1. Ownership – We have given the students more freedom to choose their groups, and their storyline. This has had the natural added benefits of the groups being more focused, engaged and dedicated.

Overheard today: Margot said, “You may stay in at lunch time to keep working on this.” The kids unanimously shouted, “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!”

Screen shot 2010-12-01 at PM 08.18.522. Hardware and Software – in the last 6 months, our school has changed from a PC to a Mac platform, and we are loving the ease of use that using Macs brings. We stumbled across a piece of free Mac software called FrameByFrame which makes stop-motion animation a breeze. We now use the iSight camera to take the pictures (negating the need to download from a camera), and the onion-skinning feature makes it easy to see where they moved their characters last time.

3. Creativity – Letting the kids loose on their choice of narrative has meant their creativity has had a chance to shine. There are some very clever storylines out there, and with a little bit of dedication and a little bit of luck, they could well blow your mind.

4. Group Size – Last year (due to resource constraints) we had groups of 4 or 5 students working together, which was a bit cumbersome. Now we have groups of 2 and 3, which means students are more involved.

Animation image I took this great photo yesterday – it was a candid shot, and not at all staged. I love the obvious joy they are getting from their work, their pride in sharing it, and the excitement for learning that it demonstrates.

This is the sort of photo that makes me want to keep teaching!

Attempting Animation

Comfort ZoneEvery now and then I think it’s character building to step outside your comfort zone and try something you wouldn’t normally try. That’s what I kept telling myself – repeatedly – having made the decision to take on Stop-Motion Animation.

Luckily for me, people who have far more patience than I were on hand to help.

For starters, @beckcollect gave me some great ideas on how to begin, and kindly shared the Animation Stage plans he used, together with some student examples.

I found a partner-in-crime in Margot (@togramann, our wonderful Art teacher), who was also willing to have a go at this in a combined project. Finally, we found (read: strongly convinced) the Grade 5 team to let us use their students as our figurative crash-test-dummies.

Grade 5 were doing a unit on inquiry called Voices, with the following enduring  understanding (Central Idea in PYP-speak) as its focus:

Through the Arts we tell our stories of who we are: our beliefs, our values and our experiences of life.

Background (Medium)Our idea was to animate Aboriginal Dreamtime stories using Stop-Motion Animation, which we had hoped to narrate (however think we’ll just add title slides with the main story elements instead).

In Art, the students painted the backgrounds and foregrounds for the project and created the characters of their story out of plasticine.

In the ICT Lab, we had a practice run by learning to animate a sketched character and adding music to the background, to prepare for our final project, which will be animating the characters across the background and foregrounds they have constructed in Art.

Here is an example of our first-try animations, made by Al.

P1000062 (Medium)Thankfully our estates staff helped build the Animation Stages using recycled materials. They were fantastic! We ordered new digital still cameras (we went with this model) and adjustable lamps (we tried these ones, but they were a bit tricky to use).

We are now in the final stages of the project, and I have high hopes that some of the kids will be finished in time to enter their movie into the inaugural Singapore International Schools Film Festival.

Stay tuned…

Comfort zone image: / CC BY 2.0

50 Educational Apps for the iPod Touch

I have been getting a lot of questions about the Apps we have on our iPod Touches at school, so here you are:


Miss Spell

Check to see whether the word lists are spelled correctly or not.

Super Hangman LE & Global High Scores

Fairly standard Hangman app, with good graphics

Story Kit

Create an electronic story book by writing text, and either drawing on the screen or using your own photos. Record sound effects too!

Spell It Lite

Basic spelling app where you can select different levels. You can hear audio, get hints etc



This app gives you the ability to read e-books, including over 50,000 free titles.

iSign Lite

A Sign Language app that teaches basic signs using animations. We will be using this when our Grade 1 students investigate communication.


KT-Dict CE

Chinese-English dictionary. See here for more details on how we use it at school.

Finger Lite
Turn your iPod Touch into a wireless Chinese writing tablet.

Spanish Tutor
Puzzles, writing, flashcards – this free Spanish app has it all.


Number Line
Excellent little app for ordering decimals, percentages and fractions. Would suit middle to upper primary.

Basic Math
Choose from the 4 operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication & division) and complete multiple choice questions on them.

App which allows you to select from coin toss, yes/no, dice roll, card choice, rock/paper/scissors and many other options. Great for probability and statistics.

Match Lite
Match the tiles on the screen, e.g. 9 and 7 + 2. Great for reinforcing basic skills. It also times you completing each board.

Math Quizzer
Choose from addition, subtraction, multiplication & division (or a combination of these) and then complete the questions. Multi-choice answers are provided below.

Brain Blaze Divide
This is ok… You go through the sets of division problems, unlocking a new set each time you correctly answer each set. Only thing is, it allows you to work with one set at a time (e.g. division by 1, division by 2 etc), rather than mix them up. Still, it’s a good starting place.

Tanzen Lite
A neat little app that allows you to complete tangram puzzles (set to very zen-like music). A well thought through application.

Tape Measure
Basic ruler in inches or centimetres.

Excellent little app which will quickly show you any unit (area, temperature, length and weight, to name a few) in most other units, e.g. for Length it shows you Miles, Nautical Miles, Yard, Foot, Inch, Kilometre & Metre. The perfect app to illustrate why we should think about whether we need to spend time teaching our kids this stuff when it does it for us so quickly…


App which our Grade 5’s will be using to reinforce understanding of simple machines. This game gets progressively harder as you solve more challenging problems.

World Wiki
As it implies, gives you access to demographic info on most countries in the world.

Google Earth
Excellent iPod Touch version of the desktop programme created by Google. Absolutely awesome.

History: Maps of the world
View historical maps of the world.

iEphemeris Lite
Astronomical app showing moon phases, the surface of the moon, the distance between the earth and the moon… You get the idea!

Weather Bug
Live local weather forecasts, 7 day forecasts, maps and (in certain areas) video footage of weather conditions.

Flower Garden Lite
Neat little app where you plant, water and grow flowers and send bouquets via email.


Great app for recipes, complete with photos, clear instructions and the ability to create shopping lists.

iFirst Aid
Great basic first aid information for all. Once you have registered, you can access info on CPR, bleeding, burns, choking & poisons. I was pleased to see for the CPR section, you can choose between Adult, Child 1-8 years and Baby. There are visuals which aid instructions.

Step Trak Lite
Neat app which acts as a pedometer. Simple to use, really effective. You can upload your results to MapMyWalk.


Mini Piano
A one octave piano keyboard. Works beautifully.

Pocket Shaker
Select a percussion instrument from an extensive list, then play it!

Kalimba Free
A realistic looking kalimba, in the key of C or G.

Drum Kit Lite
Decent drum kit with some good audio output! Our music teacher plans to use it with the class to play rhythms en masse!

Touch Chords
Takes you through some easy, medium and advanced chords, and also ‘Little Hands’ chords (where you don’t play all the strings). Nice introduction.


Great list of historical artists, their lives, their art, and so much more. If $0.99 seems a little much, why not try the lite version, which is free.

Doodle Kids
Neat little app created by a 9 year old Singaporean boy. We’ve used it for fine motor skills, creativity etc. You can take screen shots of your creations and email them later.

Make a Face
This app lets you make crazy faces using various noses, mouths, face shapes etc.

Comic Touch Lite
Add captions and speech bubbles to photos. A bit like Comic Life on a Mac.

Whiteboard Collaborative Drawing
Neat little app that allows you to connect more two iPod Touches together. Great for communication!


abc Pocket Phonics
I think this is a great little app for the early years. You learn to form letters, hear the sounds of each letter, then blend sounds to make words at the end. The Lite version has the first sounds only, but the full version has sound blends as well. Give it a go! See here for more details on how we used with with K2.

Early Reader
Another great little app for beginning readers. It covers the basic sight words, phonics, etc and is easy to use. You can turn the voice on or off.

Word Magic
This app has missing letters which the kids need to select from a list to complete the word. There are a range of settings you can customize, including lowercase or uppercase letters, the missing letters at the beginning, middle or end of the word, and the length of the word (to name but a few).

Ladybug Tree
This is a good app for developing touch-pad skills. You catch ladybugs (the Kiwi in me wants to say ‘Ladybirds’, but I’ll let it go!) and put them in a jar, and see how many you can catch in the time given.

iWrite Words
Trace the letters on screen. It’s ok, but not the writing format we usually teach. Good for fun though.

Tozzle Lite
Great little puzzle for developing touch-pad skills. Tap and drag the pictures into the correct places. My 2 year old loves this one.

Classic Nursery Rhymes Lite
This version only has Humpty Dumpty on it, however it is nice the way you can listen to the nursery rhyme and then put Humpty Dumpty back together again.


Fabulous communication tool you will all know and love, I’m sure.

Link straight to the amazing TED website where you can access all of the fabulous videos for Technology, Entertainment & Design.

This computer game has been reconfigured for the iPod Touch. I hope to use it later in the year as a stimulus for creative writing. The visuals are really great, and it is a critical thinking sort of game (which I like).  There is also Myst Free for you to check out first, if you’re put off by the price tag.

Chess Free
App that allows you to play chess. Simple and to the point.

Learn Chess
Nice and simple way to learn to play chess. Good mix of visuals and instructional text.

Phew! That’s it for now! I am always on the look out for new apps, so if you have some great ones to share, why not leave a comment?

Photo Credit: Peteris B

Cross posted at uTech Tips