Quality, not quantity

I always enjoy working with children on animation projects. Most of them who come here are learning it for the first and we have been very careful to build the pace of these days so that the children produce something that demonstrates understanding of the process rather than trying to do as much as possible. Today was a great example. We spent the first part of the morning defining creativity and identifying why it is ESSENTIAL to being successful in life and work. Who has the most uncreative job? I still don’t know if the suggestion of a ‘welding inspector’ was a good one! We then used that to springboard into using our creativity to solve a problem and respond to a challenge using the LEGO Build to Express kits.

A quick tour of the Stop Motion app (free – I still can’t believe it!) then furnished the children with the key skills with which to develop their ideas of a simple story. We paused briefly after lunch for a ‘top tips when animating’ discussion based on what they had learnt so far and off they went. The staff as always were magnificent supporting the children as well as two work experience placement from one of the schools, one from People’s Services and one from my very own house! The children were mixed, awesome Y4 from St Gabriels who were doing something completely new and the fabulous Y6 pupils from Ormesby Primary who had a little experience already. It was a lovely combination and a very positive comment must be made about their manners and conduct at lunchtime which is all part of the learning experience about the big wide world that I2L offers. Well done all of you, you are welcome back any time.

So enough reading, here are the videos. I would say short and sweet but actually some achieved more than could be expected of them given such a tight time frame so all different lengths. Well done to all of you.

Conceptual teaching

Green screen.


50 pupils.

Greek myths.

Great starting point.

Now I could have gone through the motions, give them a a simple myth to re-enact and use a green screen app to film it. Dead simple, but really there wouldn’t have been too much learning in that. Sure the team work focus required to pull together a plan with defined roles was important, the creativity of how to achieve certain ‘looks’ on screen but that could be achieved simply by a short drama. The green screen apps all do the technical bit. No, I wanted to try and challenge a bit further. In a day.

So we started with reducing their stories to the key plot drivers, a key sentence for each scene which drove the action. We spend a huge amount of time in schools teaching children how to embellish text and yet in most of our lives we actually look to simply things to be able to tackle a large issue as a series of steps. Following our simplification we explored Green Screen by DoInk which is my preferred app for chroma work. As expected this was easily absorbed by the children but I wanted them to really get to the concept of green screening. So we explored taking it a layer further, creating a double layer, saving then overlaying again. Many groups did not use this in their final films but they were all encouraged to add a double layer somewhere even just as a test shot. Most used Explain Everything to produce the ‘special effect’ and then overlaid it on the live action. It was a lot for one day but having worked with these children from Wheatlands in the past I was vey confident that they would get some of their films finished. So it proved. I have also included in the playlist some of the work in progress so that you can get an idea of what some were experimenting with.

Unfortunately these videos are currently unavailable until further notice.



Whoo-oa livin’ on a prayer

IMG_1985 2Always brilliant to have David Kirtlan back to lend his talents to some of our local schools in creating an iPad band in a day. It is always a challenge but somehow he always gets there in the end! Today we have pupils from St Gabriels and Saltburn who learned how to structure a piece of music, keep time, play parts and concentrate hard for a long period of time! Using GarageBand on iPads, a large mixing desk, lots of leads and a huge amount of patience the children practised solidly throughout the day to reduce the final take below. Some of the pictures below tell the tale:

Our plan for next year is to offer a more structured project that takes several weeks with inschool support and central teacher days. The culmination will be a ‘Battle of the Bands’ type event at a large venue but for now enjoy what has been created in just one day.

Oh by the way, it didn’t help that they didn’t actually know the song until about 1.30pm when all the parts, the tempo and chord work came together. Most didn’t even know it once they had watched it on Youtube. So be amazed:


Post SATS messing about

Y6 from both Ormesby and Rift House today. Of course now that SATs are over schools just mess about for the rest of the time until the Summer don’t they? I can hear the knives being sharpened by fraught Y6 teachers from here; moderation, passing on info, end of year show, keeping the children on track etc etc….

So it was lovely that they wanted to come to a day of animation. Actually a day of thinking about what creativity is and why it is important for any future jobs they might like to have. That prompted a lively discussion and all the children agreed that creative jobs that required responsibility for your own work was preferable to being a part of a human machine.

To contextualise we then explored the creative possibilities of using LEGO and stop motion animation. Time was tight but you can see below that the focus on team roles, creating a clear plan and working to it were vital lessons from the day.

Scrapheap Challenge May 2017

What an unusual week! After several last minute cancellations we were left with just one school for today’s Scrapheap Challenge, Layfield Primary from Yarm. Luckily the talented 22 from Y3-6 have more than made up for the reduced numbers and thrown themselves fully into the task. Mixing teams of boys and girls with different ages has also resulted in the children having to gel as teams in a way that they probably won’t have had to in the past. The result has been some amazing team dynamics with lots of discussion, shared planning and a common sense of purpose. The pictures below promise some really innovative designs and as ever there will be a live stream on here from about 2.15. The morning has been slightly disrupted by the press photographer who came to catalogue the support that we have received this year from UK Steel Enterprise who help to fund the events.

Percy Scrapstore has yet again delivered an amazing range of materials for the children to work with and they are definitely making good use. Dates for next year are now available for YOUR pupils to attend….

An Animated Challenge

‘Reception from Rift House in Hartlepool and Whale Hill Y3 from R&C,’ Jordan told me two weeks ago when I asked which schools would be taking part in today’s animation workshop. Reception. Y3. Hmmm, an interesting mix. I always look to mixing age groups at our events here because regardless of the physical/digital output of the pupils, the experience of working with others, leading, developing interpersonal skills is the underlying objective.

And what a great mix today has proved to be. Whale Hill should be very proud of their children who have helped, not taken over, helped their younger fellow animators absolutely brilliantly. It gave us the opportunity to talk about effective leadership and mentoring in a live situation and they responded to it so well. It might sound daft to many that eight year olds were discussing leadership and mentoring skills but their responses and insights were as good as any I’ve come across with KS3 students.

The Reception children in turn have had great role models to follow and have risen to their task brilliantly. It is never easy to ask children of this age to collaborate on a story, that tends to come along as they get a little older, but the way that the staff have supported them, the structured nature of the task and their total enthusiasm has created a brilliant working atmosphere. Pics below of their work so far and their videos will appear here later:

And here are the fabulous first time animations created by Whale Hill Y3 in Stop Motion and assembled in iMovie. Well done all of you:

and below is the amazing work by the lovely children from Rift House Primary. An excellent end to a difficult week.

Tales of the Tees

Tales of the Tees

If you are a school, you are very welcome to take part.

If you are a business who might like to support the work in a school on the day, please let me know.

If you re a venue who can offer a great space, resource or lead for pupils on the day please let me know. We can bus them to you!

Depth of Understanding

I remember being aghast at the fact that the children in my Y5 class were pretty hazy on the details of the Christmas story when I was teaching it 20 years ago. Surely they had been in nativity plays, heard the story loads of times and recognised bits of the story from the Christmas songs?
Apparently not.
My response was to turn my classroom into a stable with a giant star, finger knitted vines round the stable, wool wound shingles for the roof (surrounding my blackboard) and so on. I seem to remember a 6ft painted donkey…. but maybe I imagined that bit. We didn’t do a cloze procedure worksheet, answer a short comprehension or even rearrange some carefully cut out story bullet points into the correct order. They had done that before when they had ‘covered’ the topic.
Two weeks ago we were delighted to host Pennyman Academy Y4s for the week. Sadly they were unable to stay in their own building because of fire damage. They used some rooms each day and even took part in our Scrapheap Challenge but it was the Thursday and Friday that stand out in my mind. The teachers had plenty of work for the children to do and one of those tasks was to ‘do’ the Easter Story. Their experience appeared to mirror mine from 20 years previously. The children had worked on the story every year since they were in school but the majority could recall barely a few details about what happened.
Because we have the space and facilities here, I suggested that they might like to work on the story from a creative angle, using our animation equipment (iPad and a stand!). The teachers did their input on the key points, ensuring the children created effective key bullet points for each stage. I then showed the children how to animate (and let them practice a few tasks for an hour). Animating is simple, I have done it with nursery children; quality animation takes time to develop. Like skilled writing it develops with an understanding of the audience, use of sounds to create mood, ensuring the language track is clear and much more. Coupling an app like Stop Motion with iMovie to bring it all together into a quality piece of work takes time and these children were up against it. I left backgrounds and characters for them because I was unable to be there for their 2 hour attempt to create the scenes and then pull them all together.
I arrived back in the centre late on the Friday morning to see various groups of children huddled in corners to ensure that sound pollution didn’t affect their voice overs (some clearly hadn’t spotted that this was useful!). “How are they getting on?’ I asked one of the teachers. The answer was hesitant but positive.

Well having been away for a week, today was an opportunity for me to download the work that was created. And what an amazing collection it is! I would argue that the depth of engagement with the story is clear to see. There are examples of music being used to change mood, key pointers as titles to develop plot, inventive use of extra characters to support the story and much more. Considering the time scale they had to work in I think their work is absolutely fantastic and shows a great example of quality teaching. The analysis of the story into a clear plot was led by the teachers prior to any story planning, and this stands out clearly in that the children have not only used it to drive their story but also to ensure that they explain what is going on in each scene.

I wonder if this deeper engagement will mean they remember more of the story this year?

I have managed to recover most of the work that was created so please enjoy the videos below:

Information or Aspiration?

IMG_7066Great to see the sun shining once again on our Y5 aspiration event. Children from Handale, Layfield, Breckon Hill, Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart, Errington and Chandler’s Ridge are the latest to explore the world of work through interaction with ‘real life people’. Julie from Inspiron Learning has talked about many of the exciting engineering challenges that offer cutting edge careers; Steve from Tees Valley Wildlife Trust has shown the work that conservationists do; Glenn has shown a range of exciting roles within the RAF, especially related to engineering; Lorraine created a fabulous hands on science workshop looking at roles in later life and last but not least Gary and Harry from PD Portcentric Logistics have given the children a real insight into what Logistics is and the many roles that are involved in it. As a great complement to the specific work related sessions, Matt has worked with each group to get the children to think about their own likes, dislikes, hopes and aspirations.

I asked the children at the beginning of each session (we run one in the morning and one in the afternoon) what they thought they were here for. Broadly they were aware it was about ‘careers’. Many people are surprised that we run these sort of events for primary children but the evidence is starting to stay up, and our experience to boot, that starting that conversation younger is likely to have a greater impact than waiting until secondary and beyond. 250 children today and a similar number each month is really putting a dent in the number of children who have never really had the opportunity to think about their futures before.

The title also refers to the outcome of the day. Is it about aspiration or simply giving them a wider understanding, more information, about what they could possibly pursue in later life? The message that I leave them with is that they have every opportunity in front of them, just be curious and enthusiastic. If you have the drive to succeed, you will.

Writing this at 2.15pm also allows me to include some feedback from Breckon Hill who attended this morning. The deputy head teacher made a point of emailing me to say that the children and teachers who had attended had thought the event was excellent and that the children were ‘buzzing’.

I am assured by Julie that this had nothing to do with the session about future uses of energy!

Enterprising Pupils

IMG_0739Well done today to the children of Rift House Primary and Newcomen Primary. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances the two businesses that were going to support today were unable to make it so the children were stuck with me alone! However, as previous blog posts no doubt show, the focus of most of our work are the employability type skills and I made it clear today at the outset that it was specific aspects of teamwork that I was looking for. The children didn’t disappoint and used the vocabulary I had given them throughout the day in relation to their work.

Their first task was to use a simple business planner to create a new business: a cafe aimed at kids. Their thoughts were structured through a value proposition and USP to create a design that they could fit to a floor planner. I did lie a bit; i told them they wouldn’t be doing math or english today and they ended up having to work to scale and come up with persuasive language to sell their idea. ‘Sweet-a-licious’,’The Cracking Cafe’, ‘Read Me, Eat Me’ are all examples of the different concepts each group came up with through listening and compromise skills.

IMG_8011After break they were tasked with creating a salad but of course many of them don’t tend to eat salads very much so we had a tasting session where children recorded their thoughts. They used these notes to create their own salad after lunch. Unfortunately Rift House had to leave early due to bus timings but Newcomen stayed for half an hour longer and created the fantastic adverts that you see below. Considering the fact they had never used iMovie before it is a testament to their resilience, creativity and the ease of use of iMovie that they got their tasks done so well. Even when being distracted by the dressy up box!