Four Phase Teaching Approach (Pedagogy) for Slowmation: Learner-generated Animations
Slowmation supports primary, secondary or university students in using technology to engage with science content by creating their own animations. There are various ways to implement slowmation and here is one four phase teaching approach: (i) Phase 1. Planning: students learn about a concept; (ii) Phase 2. Storyboarding: students break down the concept into its component parts with storyboarding; (iii) Phase 3. Construction: students make or use existing models and take photos of them; and (iv) Phase 4. Reconstruction: the concept is put back together in the animation as a representation of the whole concept. The educative value of learners creating slowmations can be enhanced by having them add narration, labels and real life photos because there are multiple layers of reflection involved in representing a concept in different ways.
A class demonstration by the teacher can be conducted in one hour or students can complete a slowmation for the first time in a minimum of about four lessons taking 45 minutes each (three hours total). This can be done in one shot or staggered over several days. Once students learn the process they can take more time (for an individual project) or less time (class demonstration). The age of the students determines the extent of responsibility allocated to them. The younger the children, the more direction from the teacher is needed but children as young as kindergarten have made slowmations in terms of moving the materials and taking the photos with the teacher using the software. The technology is accessible (a camera, computer, tripod and materials) and the process relatively simple so students can learn the process at school and complete it at home.
There are several ways a class can be organised to create a slowmation:
- Class demonstration (the teacher shows the whole class);
- Small group activity (students work on a complete slowmation in a small group);
- Class jigsaw (groups doing different parts that contribute to a whole slowmation);
- Individual project (individuals construct their own at home assuming students know the process); and
- Rich assessment task (students work on their own or in groups to show their understanding). These are discussed with the whole class to compare ideas.
If resources are limited to one workstation (one digital camera, one set, one tripod) then one group at a time can work on it (while the other students are occupied) one after the other or by staggering it over several days with a different group doing their section each day. The last group would then add the narration. The golden rule is "start small" until the students understand the process. More than one workstation allows for more diversity in implementation.
Generally there are four phases in the teaching approach but these can be integrated:
Phase One: Planning (Teaching/Researching)
The purpose of this phase is for the students to understand enough of a concept in order to represent it in their animation. Students can learn about the concept by direct instruction or personal research or a combination of teacher-student interactions.
- Students usually have little understanding of what animation is so show some examples of slowmations emphasising that the smaller the movements the better and that an animation is like a moving cartoon. Explain to students "principles of animation" suggesting that an animation is made up of a sequence of small movements. Make a flip book by drawing an image in different positions on separate sheets of "post it notes" or having a different position of a stick man or object on each page. Explain that the smaller the movements the better the illusion of movement. Create a "peoplemation" by taking photos of pupils making small dance movements.
- Choose a topic and brainstorm to provide examples of storytelling techniques.
- Plan who (class, group, individual), what (assess something students know or personal research) and how (resources considered such as diagrams, making models, cut outs, number of cameras, tripods, computers).
Phase Two: Storyboarding (Analysis)
The purpose of this phase is to break down the science concept into its constituent parts or key ideas using the procedure of storyboarding. It is advisable for the students to also write their narration as the narration and storyboarding inform each other.
There are two ways to storyboard: "Chunking" which means breaking the whole concept down into 4-6 major scenes or episodes (Chunking sheet, PDF, 8 KB) and "Sequencing" - which involves more detailed sketching of each movement (Sequencing sheet, PDF, 12 KB).
- What would that look like on a storyboard - How do you come up with a sequence of events (entire class) class modeling how to "chunk" a concept or story. Model identifying 4-6 scenes or chunks of a concept eg parts of a water cycle, stages of a food chain, episodes of a story. Students can do chunking on separate sheets of paper and then put them together.
- Hand out storyboarding/chunking sheets and have them begin storyboarding by breaking down (chunking) a concept or story.
- Students can complete chunking or storyboarding for homework.
- Write the narration to accompany the chunking or sequencing sheet.
- It is a good idea for teachers to check their chunking sheet and/or storyboards before students progress to the next stage.
Phase Three: Construction (Making)
The purpose of this phase is to make or use existing models and take the photos of the models whilst being moved manually.
- Students make the models of the concept. Pupils bring in or order their own resources or the teacher supplies them. Resources could be existing plastic models, cardboard cut outs, play dough, photos from a book, etc.
- Usually a cardboard project sheet is taped flat to the floor to resist movement and a camera is mounted on a tripod looking down or taped to the back of a chair to keep it still.
- Make sure the camera is set at low resolution or low picture quality otherwise the animation will be too big.
- Take the photos in order.
- Download the photos onto a separate folder on your computer desktop.
Phase Four: Reconstruction (Uploading, editing and narrating)
The purpose of this phase is for the student to reconstruct or bring together their ideas in new ways with different sign systems (visual, narrative, linguistic) to represent their understanding of the whole concept. This occurs in multiple ways by uploading the photos into the animation software program, creating the animation, editing it and recording the narration:
- Download the photos onto a computer. We suggest following the instructions for SAM animation after it has been downloaded onto your computer. This is a free program that can be used for both Mac and PC.
- Use the software according to the instructions provided.
- Add real-life photos next to the models but these need to be copyright free from Wikipedia.
- Lengthen the time exposure of individual photos for important static images
- Record the narration.
- Showing the slowmations to the class raises lots of discussion about the concept. Students can review each others.
- Upload to the website (if a member).
If the students make several slowmations they will understand the process and be able to make them at home individually as a project. Slowmations can be attached to emails and sent anywhere in the world.