Week 7: Funny Faces, Storytelling #2, Logos and Magazine Spreads

This week the Preps had a lot of fun making faces out of fruit and other assorted objects, the Grade 1-2s were finishing off their Toy Stories using Adobe Spark Video, the Grade 3-4s started work on designing logos for their mock app games and the Grade 5-6s were given an extra session to finish off their work on magazine spreads.


Based on the work by reknowned Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo, I found a fantastic app for students to create funny faces (or anything really) using fruit, or other kinds of food and objects. I tried this one out on my four year old daughter prior to the lesson, and I was amazed at what she came up with. The Prep kids in my class did not disappoint. The app is super easy to use. I started off by showing them this video on how the app works.

Here are some of the stellar examples the students saved for their portfolio.


One of the things I love in Media Arts is how you can tie in the skills they learn with me to what they learn in the classroom. It’s a fine line though, and I only have 45min per class per week, so retreading what they do in class is kept to a minimum.

What I mean by this is that they learn in literacy how to create and construct a narrative. With me they learn how to take that narrative and make it interactive – in this case by constructing photostories using Adobe Spark Video. When I say I keep the retread to a minimum, I notice with a lot of them that although they successfully created the video, their skills in creating a cohesive narrative were a little patchy. But when we shared them, I didn’t dwell on it too much. For me, I wanted to see that the skills they learned using the app were up to par.

This week, with their “principle photography” done, I modelled how to create a front page (creating a title for their movie) a back page (with a photo of the creators) and choosing music and themes. The music was a tricky one because they needed to understand that the mix had to be right. The music shouldn’t be too loud that it makes the story hard to hear. Some groups understood that better than others.

Here are some fun stories to see.



When I was brainstorming ideas for Media Arts at the beginning of the year, this was one I had very clearly in my head. The last couple of lessons with Illustrator really built up to this. The first being their work with colour theory and creating complementary colour swatches. And the second being last week, learning to draw in Illustrator (with the robots) using shapes.

With these skills now put into practise, their task this week and for next week was to dream up a game for the iphone and create a logo that went with it. The logo was really more of a splash screen than a iOS icon, but the kids really dove into it.

I really wanted to impress on them that I wanted them to keep it simple. Some of the most successful logos in the world (actually, probably most of them) are pretty simple. I didn’t want them to get carried away drawing beautiful pieces of art on paper and then struggle recreating that in Illustrator. I urged them to use the shape and line tools to create what they want.

As you will see next week when I show the examples, some of them chose to follow that advice, and some of them didn’t.

This video goes into what I modelled to the students in more depth.


This activity was perhaps a little more ambitious than I originally thought. The grade 5-6s could do it, more or less, but they needed more time that I originally gave them. So this week they had an extra third session to finish off their work.

Remember, the lesson was not for them to create their own idea – but to recreate (or, I guess copy) a professional design. In this way, I wanted to expand their idea of what an article in a magazine can look like, whilst looking at feature points that they may not have paid much attention to before, such as the subheadings, byline, captions, columns, page numbers, drop caps, and so on.

With each example I have here below, you will see the original design and then their recreated design.

These first few are from the grade 5s. Although I wanted their mock designs to be themed to do with the environment, the body text of the article was just placeholder text.






With the grade 6s, as I have explained, they had the additional task of importing a previously written report on natural disasters into their design, so it became a proper article.






Next week, the Grade 5-6s will look at creating magazine covers – something I hope will be easier for them, considering they only have one session to finish it off.


Week 6: Colouring, Storytelling, Robots and Magazines

This week is very much a continuation of last week. The Grade 3s and 4s finished their robot, the Grade 5s and 6s continued with their magazine spread, and the Preps went on with trying to colour accurately on the iPad. The Grade 1s and 2s, however, started a new project – tying in with their storytelling and toys topic.


Again with the app DrawingPad, this was much the same as last week, but limiting the students to using only pencils and crayons. I also showed them the eraser tool and suggested that they really look critically at their work and erase parts that went over the line. On the whole, they did a pretty good job, and the kids themselves were very proud of their work – even if some of them maybe overused the “rainbow” crayons and pencils. So much so that it hurt a little to look!

Here are some of the better examples:


As one of the big parts of the media arts curriculum is storytelling, I wanted to do this project with the Grade 1 & 2s. I had previously asked them to come in with a couple of their favourite toys. And did they ever! Any excuse to bring toys to school, right?

The task was fairly straight forward. Tell a story using your toys. For this, they would be in bigger groups (of four) and they had to work together to construct a basic narrative that would work with their toys.

The tool for this would be Adobe Voice (now called Adobe Spark Video). I modelled how to use the app, taking photos of toys and putting an audio narration on each slide. I told them they only needed one line per page.

Next week I will upload some of the students’ final work.


This week the Grade 3s and 4s finished drawing their robots. The main issue the kids had were that a lot of them were not very confident in using a mouse. There was a lot of silly mistakes with mouses being used incorrectly, wrong buttons pressed, shakey hands. In fact, several times I had to reset the Illustrator workspace on kids’ computers because they had accidently put them everywhere. Note to Adobe: Please include a way to lock this down!

Given that this was the first time most of them had done anything like this (and no one had used Illustrator before), I think they did really well. Some kids still couldn’t catch to the idea of using the selection arrow tool to draw a marque and group objects to move. That was something I helped the kids the most with.

Since the idea was that their robots were meant to look the same as mine, I didn’t save any of the kids’ work. Next week, we start logos and that certainly will be saved and kept on their portfolio. Really, the idea behind the robot activity was to get them practising using the tools they will use for their proper project in the next couple of weeks.


Week 7: Adobe Voice, PhotoshopMix #3 and Composites in Photoshop #2

This week, the Prep class were introduced to a new app for them – Adobe Voice, the Grade 1-2s continue with PhotoshopMix to complete their “Think Board”, and the Grade 3-6s finished their work on their composite project. As usual, I’ll start with the Preps, then on to PhotoshopMix and finally the Photoshop composite project at the end of the post.


Adobe Voice has been around for a couple of years now, and I absolutely love it. I love it because of how easy it is to use. When I introduced it to the Prep students, I said it was like making a book on the iPad, but instead of words and pictures, we have sound and pictures and each “page” the student needs to record their voice.

I’ve used it in my past life as a generalist classroom teacher to great effect. Its been great as another format to publish or tell a story, and it’s also been especially useful with students with disabilities in telling their story in a way they understand and can handle. In this case, I wanted to present to the younger children a way to “tell” their story without having to write words. Enter – Adobe Voice. This week was really just about getting the kids to play with it. I explained how it worked. I explained how to record lines for each page and how to find (or take) photos.

Next, we will revisit Voice and look at doing projects where they talk about themselves and their families.


I was pleasently surprised this week how easily the grade 1/2s coped with what they had to do. Essentially the students were asked to “fill” their thought bubbles with images found in Google. I explained how to go into Safari, find the picture they want and press/hold their finger on the image until the popup comes up asking if they want to save their image. Once they had enough images, they were to go back into their project in PhotoshopMix and create new layers for each picture and pop them in. Once in they could resize and rotate the images to get their best fit.

I was on hand to help spell any words they found tricky (they are 6-7 year olds, after all), but aside from that, they need very little help, and many groups actually got to finish early. One thing I didn’t realise until teaching the first class – PhotoshopMix seems to limit the number of layers you can have in a composite to 5. So the kids could only choose three pictures (since the photo of them and the background image were two images already in.

The grade 1s were asked: What pops in your head when you think of Healthy Choices? The grade 2s were asked: What pops in your head when you think of Communities? Both topics were covered extensively in their classrooms, so they had some ready made ideas. I told the kids that I would print them out for their teachers and they had to explain to their teachers why they chose the images they did.

Here are some examples of grade 1 posters on healthy choices.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And here are some examples of grade 2 posters on communities.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



This week the older students finished their work (most of them) on composites. They did a reasonable job selecting the background and deleting it. Today I ran through with them how to copy and paste from one file to another. Then how to use Free Transform to scale, move and rotate it in position. You can see that, for the most part, its almost exactly the same skill set that the grade 1/2s were using this week on the iPads.

The lessons went off without a hitch. The ideas came out, more or less, as planned. There were a few tweaks that I suggested here and there; as well as some students asking how to do various things (such as a colour overlay, transparency, etc.).

The results were inspiring, to be honest. I can teach the skills and how to use the tools. I can go through with them best practise. But the ideas, the creativity – that’s all them.

Here are some of my favourites.

That’s the last week. It was a short term 1, this year. Next term will be 12 weeks (ouch!) but that does suit perfectly the idea I have of stretching out Design. More to be revealed later.

Next week, due to other commitments, I’ll only be teaching grade 3 and grade 5. We’re going to be doing the Photoshop Filter Challenge. Stay tuned for next week!

Week 4: PuppetPals #3, ColorSplash & Adobe Photoshop

This week, the Prep class finished their PuppetPals project, The Grade 1-2s used ColorSplash to paint colour back into a photo, and the Grade 3-6s were introduced to Photoshop Desktop, creating lower third captions to photos. I’ll start with PuppetPals, then on to ColorSplash and finally Photoshop at the end of the post.


So because of last week, the Preps (unlike the Grade 1-2s) had to finish their project on PuppetPals. We did a refresher on what they were supposed to do (introduce each other on PuppetPals using some key “get-to-know-you” questions) and then gave them the time to complete. Many students needed a lot of support in doing this – mainly due to an ability to focus on the given task – so in some cases I had to have my finger on their ipad record/pause button, as they went through each question. The results were varied, but the core skill of telling a story using a digital tool is definitely there. Here is an example of one of the Prep videos below.


Excuse the American spelling. I like to keep the spelling as the app is called so people can track it down.

I’ve known about ColorSplash for a while now, and have been excited to try it out on students. Basically, it’s an app that allows you to either take a photo or import one in, turn it black and white, and then get you to paint the colour back in to any given area. I thought this would be an excellent way to highlight focus in a photo, so I tied it into “Healthy Choices” – which was technically only the Grade 1 topic for the term, but I stretched it to the Grade 2s as well.

I went out and bought a variety of fruit and vegetables from the supermarket. I asked the students in their pair groups to select a few and then pose for a photo (which, due to time and practicality, I took for them). They then were tasked with painting the colour back in, but only on the food, to highlight the healthy choices you can make with food.

I spent a little time modelling how to do this in the class. I showed how you can zoom into the photo using the pinch gesture, how to paint carefully around and inside the object, and how to switch back to the black and white brush to refine and edit any mistakes. The photo on the iPad retains the colour information, even if it’s not visible, so the students didn’t need to pick out colours, they just needed to use their fingers to paint the colour back in.

I was impressed how careful the students were in trying to do the best job possible. The photos came out quite well. When they were done, they handed the iPad to me, I gave them some feedback – sent them back if I think they needed to do further work – then uploaded them into their class’ Google Drive folder so we could share them at the end of the lesson. Below are some examples from the Grade 1 & 2s. (P.S – The Instagramy border and crop was done by me)


An aside, first.

As much as possible, I try to use Adobe tools where I can. Thanks to the new agreement between the Victorian Education Department and Adobe, state schools can now subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite of programs for a hugely subsidised rate. Full disclosure, I am an Adobe Education Leader, so part of that role is to promote and teach Adobe tools in the education system. So, I suppose, there’s a bit of politics involved there as well. But, I honestly believe that Adobe’s tools are brilliant at giving people license to be as creative as possible.

Not everyone agrees. A conversation with a friend of mine – a graphic designer – has stayed with me. He was very supportive and excited learning about my new specialist classes, but questioned the idea of using Adobe tools in the classroom. Adobe tools – take Photoshop as an example – are hugely complex, industry standard applications. His argument was that in using such tools, the students will spend more time learning how to use the tool, and less time being creative in it’s use. To him, it would be better to use simplified, cheaper programs that achieve much the same thing.

I completely see where he’s coming from. But there are a couple of arguments I’d make against that. Firstly, you don’t need to teach everything about Photoshop (to stay with that particular example) to still have a successful unit of lessons. In the same way that a child does not need to know every word in the English language to be able to read effectively. Secondly, I know Adobe tools. I’d hardly class myself as an expert, but why spend the time sourcing and then learning new tools, when the ones I really want are readily available. Thirdly, I know kids. I know how well they can adapt to technology. I went in confident that they would get there. Finally, and this comes from my principal, even at this age – it gives them valuable job skills. These are tools and techniques that professionals use. I teach with Adobe tools on the desktop from Grades 3-6. I can only imagine how well a student will be skilled when they’ve gone through four years of learning Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere and the like. It’s very exciting.

So, in introducing Photoshop – in which most students had heard of before – I thought the key thing to start is to talk about layers. Layers is central to how most things in Photoshop work. If you understand layers, you have a solid foundation to build upon.

So, I printed and laminated three sheets. One with a background photo, one with a rectangle shape and one with a layer of text. The key thing being that the last two layers were clear aside from what was on it. Putting the three together creates a composite. But the composite is made up of the three layers.

By showing them in a physical form, the students understood that layers together combine to form the piece of art or the composite they want to make.

I brought Photoshop up on the screen and gave them a quick tour of the interface. The menu bar, the tool bar, the options bar and the panels. I didn’t go through every little thing, obviously, but I did point out the tools they’d be using for this project, as well as the layer panel and the properties panel. In reflection, I probably should have pointed out the history panel as well, so they knew where to go if they needed to go back and fix mistakes.

We then talked about what a lower third was, an industry term that refers to (often) boxed information on the lower part of the screen (or the image).

I then explained I wanted them to caption an image using the shape tool to draw out a rectangle, the type tool to write some text, and then the move tool to position them together. I also talked about formatting options, such as rounding the rectangle corners, creating a drop shadow, how to change the font, the text size and fill as well.

For the grade 3-4s that’s as far as I went. The grade 5-6s I also mentioned how to use opacity on the shape layer to give it a slightly transparent look. I also showed them how to unlink the corners of the rectangle, so that they could play around with the corners to see what looked good.

Most students didn’t finish this lesson, so I’ve extended it to next week’s lesson. Those that didn’t finish didn’t have much to do, so I will still go ahead with the new project next week as well.

Week 3: PuppetPals #2 & Black and White Portraiture

This week, the Prep – Grade 2s practised a story to tell on PuppetPals. The Grade 3-6s continued their unit on Photography, looking at Black and White Portraiture. I’ll start with PuppetPals and go through the Portraiture at the end of the post.


I learned something about working with the little kids this week. Don’t give them too much at one time to handle. What I had planned was that I would give the students their topic to make up a story, and get them to go ahead and rehearse it (ie: tell the story on PuppetPals without recording) and then record it as a movie when they were done. This was too much for my brand new Prep class, so I simplified it.

For the Preps, we just had a discussion about their topic (simply, friends introducing each other) and some of the questions you might ask. For instance:

  1. What’s your name?
  2. How old are you?
  3. What’s your favourite colour?
  4. What’s your favourite healthy food?
  5. What’s your favourite non-healthy food?
  6. Who is your favourite teacher?

I got a Prep out to come and help me model the conversation, drilling in to everyone those six questions. I even had them up on the screen, which would help the readers amongst them remember. I then said, no iPads today, just have the conversation with your partner and have your answers ready for next week.

The same activity, with the Grade 1-2s, I was able to fit in the plan, the rehearse and record as planned. The Grade 2s, I further extended the task by getting them to take photos of themselves on the iPad, and using PuppetPals to “cut themselves out” so that they themselves could be characters in the PuppetPals play.

With the Prep topic being “All about Me”, the task was for two new friends to introduce themselves to each other. The Grade 1 and 2’s were doing “Healthy Choices” so we extended it to planning a birthday party. Who are you inviting? What activities do you want? And (most importantly) what balanced food will you have at your party?

This is a perfect example how, most of the time, I try to tie in the skill I’m teaching in Media Arts (in this case, storytelling with PuppetPals) to their Inquiry topic for the term. Below you can find an example from Grade 1 and Grade 2.


I had a lot of fun with this series of classes. Doing it with the Grade 3-6s, we began by discussing what a portrait is. Some knew that portrait also refers to the rotation of a page. But everyone had the prior knowledge that a portrait is a drawing or painting (or photo!) of a person, usually just the shoulders and head.

I wasn’t bothered by how much of the student would be photographed, but we did discuss how the subject of the photo should be the star of the photo. You might take an amazing photo of a playground with someone by themselves playing, but unless they are prominantly featured in the foreground, it’s not a proper portrait. We looked at examples of good portraits – but after the first day I always ended up with showing a picture that a Grade 4 student took.


This blew me away. Not just because I thought it was a beautifully natural photo, with the monochrome filters used evenly and not heavy handed, and not just because I thought the balance between foreground (subject) and background was perfect, but because this particular girl’s partner was away that day. Whereas everyone else had a partner to photograph, she chose to take a selfie. That’s right, this picture is a self portrait, and an amazing one at that.

For the black and white side of things, I used an app called Simply B&W. I told the students I wouldn’t make it as simple as pressing one button to convert to black and white, I wanted them to make adjustment choices. I demonstrated starting off with a preset, the brightness, contrast and grain, as well as border and vignette. Then they all went out to take the photos, then come back in to process them through the app and upload it to Google Drive so I could share them with the class.

They really took it seriously. There were some amazing photos. Here are a selection.

Week 2: PuppetPals & Rule Of Thirds

This week, the Prep – Grade 2s looked at using PuppetPals. The Grade 3-6s started their unit on Photography, looking at the Rule of Thirds. I’ll start with PuppetPals and go through the Rule of Thirds at the end of the post.


Given that the curriculum for Media Arts specifies developing stories using characters and settings with images, sounds and texts – it made sense to use a digital tool that younger students can cope with easily and intuitively.

To this end, I introduced the Prep-Grade 2 classes to PuppetPals, an app on the iPad that allows students to create their own puppet shows. There are a few different versions of PuppetPals out there. They are free initially, but you can pay for add-ins as well. I used PuppetPals HD. I have seen my 3 year old daughter play with it, and she can figure it out pretty well, so I knew that these kids would have no problem.

PuppetPals essentially gets kids to choose characters, choose backgrounds (sort of like a stage play) and then make up stories just by moving the characters about on the screen. Kids can move them around, rotate and resize them to their hearts content. There is also the facility to record it and then export the play as a movie.

The free version of PuppetPals comes with a small selection of characters and settings, but you can pay $AU1.49  for character packs that come with a few themed characters and backgrounds (eg: Wild West) or you can pay $AU7.99 for the entire catalog – 18 of them at the time of writing. Obviously features and prices change, so don’t hold me to that. I just paid the $AU7.99. Since all the iPads in my room are connected to the same account, they all loaded up with them. They are not all installed, you still have to go and install them yourself. I allowed the students to pick and choose which packs they wanted to play with. As a result, all my iPads have different packs loaded, but that’s fine.

Character Packs
Character Packs

This week was really about the students learning how to use the app and having fun with it. I watched them create zombie stories, fairytales, wild west adventures. It was great fun to see. I picked out a couple and mirrored the iPad on the TV to share with the class. At this stage, I didn’t want them to record anything. Just to “rehearse” as it were.

The Grade 2s I gave them an extra job to do. As part of the paid “Director’s Pass” that gives you the whole catalog, you can also take a photo of someone – cut them out (so you mask out the background) and then have them in the app as a character themselves. You can also take a photo of a background and use that as well.

Real actors as Characters
Real actors as Characters

Here is a video that goes through the features:

Next week, I intend with these kids to tie in their term 1 inquiry topics to Media Arts by giving them a set topic to do their story on. We’ll see how that goes. But the kids certainly had fun.


I did a photography course several years ago when I bought my first DSLR camera. When it came to composition, the teacher told us that the first rule of photography is the Rule Of Thirds. The second rule is, to go ahead and break the rules as you see fit. I also told my students this, and they had great delight when I told them that this would be the only time a teacher would say they were allowed to break the rules!

What I haven’t been able to obtain as yet is a collection of still and video cameras. I’m hoping a fundraiser later in the year can help pay for them down the road. So for now, we’re using iPads.

Ahead of time, I got all the iPads out and turned on the Grid function on the camera app. This overlays a Rule of Thirds grid on the camera which makes it easier for the kids to use.

With the grade 3-6s, we went through what the Rule of Thirds was, and some examples using both my own photos and ones I found on the net. I then took them out for a “field trip” into the playground and asked them to use the Rule of Thirds to line up their object of interest in the photo. We got some interesting results, and I’ve put some of the highlights down here below.

Before we went out, we talked about framing the image, looking at something from different angles, and trying to create interesting shots. I’m quite pleased with how they came out.

Next week, we’re going to look at portraiture – and just for fun, we’ll be doing them in black and white.