Animated antics

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Creating animated film not only teaches pupils a lot about film-making, but also covers a range of subjects, including citizenship, ICT, personal development and literacy.

This is a project I do with 10 and 11-year-olds. I begin by teaching them some of the skills of movie-making: setting up cameras, filming, editing, adding voice-over and sound effects. We usually use peer tutors for this.

We then discuss what makes a good animation movie, taking, for example, Nick Park's Chicken Run and looking at plot, setting, characters and humour. The children then brainstorm ideas for stories and settings. We always end up with a joint mind-map displayed on A1 paper.

The storyline and characters are now fixed and the children then write first drafts for scripts. A group of editors pick the best parts to form a complete script.

I give different children small sections of the script to storyboard. We may end up with 60 sheets of paper pinned up around the room. These have pictures in the centre, a script to the right and the type of shot written on the left.

Next they make the animals from Plasticine and film them. They also do the voice-over.

Children have to empathise with the animals to get the body language and script right. If it's a kindly character, how might it act? If it's a bad character, what might it do? This brings out a lot of expression about how the children themselves feel in situations.

A spin-off has been another movie, which takes place in the barn where our original film was set. The children made an animals' dressing room where the animals are interviewed as actors playing parts in the other films.

The children put themselves into the shoes of actors. They devise personalities for the actors which are different from their characters. For example, a posh, clever pig might play a silly pig.

The project involves children considering how people feel. They have to communicate with each other, negotiate what would or wouldn't go into the film, and evaluate what they have to produce.

Joanne Murray, teacher, Cookstown Primary School, Country Tyrone, Northern Ireland

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