Week 3 – Sticknodes, Basic Animation in Photoshop and Editing with Premiere Pro

This week the Prep-Gr 2’s used an iPad app called Sticknodes, the Gr 3-4s looked at how you can use Photoshop to create animations, and the Gr 5-6s were introduced to Premiere Pro in order to create trailers for their videos.


The first thing you’ll notice about Sticknodes is that it is virtually identical to Pivot Animator, and that is true. I’ll admit, I haven’t dived deeply enough into the app to see where the differences lie, but this was a good way of doing the same lesson that I had done with the older kids – using Pivot Animator – to the younger kids using the iPads.

The more I think about, the more I am grateful that I decided to stick to the Prep-Grade 2’s on iPads from the beginning of the year. I find that, even with the Grade 3-4s on desktops, the skill of using a mouse accurately and non destructively has been quite poor. I’ve had students moving files or entire folders by accident and not being able to double click properly. This is what you get in a world of touch screens and touch pads.

Anyway, even the kids as young as Preps could understand the concept of frame by frame animation by using this app. Although I did notice that, without guidance, the movements between each frame can be quite big, causing the animation to flash figures on screen, rather than create an illusion of movement (I mentioned this in the previous post). I let it go with the younger kids, but I did make sure that with the Grade 2’s at least, that I had higher expectations.

This week we just used the stick figures in the app. I didn’t mention the other figures available in the library. Next week we will consolidate our skills and understanding using the app, but with more choice of characters.

Here is a grade 1 example

Frame-by-Frame Animation with Photoshop

Little known fact about Photoshop – you can edit videos and create frame by frame animations as well as the normal image editing and composites. It’s not a fully robust video editor like Premiere Pro, but it gets the job done for basic projects.

I had some fun with the grade 3-4 classes. I sneakily took photos of their empty classrooms during lunchtime, and created a Photoshop file that had the classroom as the background, but then added layers which had Simpsons characters. Within Photoshop it looked like this.


The idea was that the students had to activate the timeline, choose frame by frame animation, and move their characters around, a little bit each frame.

Below is a video tutorial of what I did.

The students were highly engaged with this activity, as you can imagine. There were some things that came up. Firstly, the kids noticed that the animations were quite limited. In other words, you couldn’t move any of the parts of the characters around, just the characters themselves. I knew about this, of course, and assured the kids that in the next lesson we would look at how to achieve something a little more functional.

The second thing is that, like with the Sticknodes, some kids followed the instruction of moving a little at a time, and some didn’t. Those that didn’t tended to do very random animations of characters just flashing about everywhere.

As noted in the video, about half way through, I did call them back to the floor to show them “tweening”. That process of creating a start and end point, and letting the computer fill in the gaps in between. This changed their world and suddenly doing the animation was a lot less tedious. To be honest, I wasn’t too concern with the quality of the animation. I was more trying to get them to understand the process and skill. We can finesse their animations later on.

Here is a couple of examples of what the kids did. You can see where the ability to tween came in!

Next week we will animate a single character in Photoshop using the Puppet Warp feature.

Creating a Trailer in Premiere Pro

Originally I had planned that I would get the grade 5-6s to edit the video they did last week with Screencast-o-Matic. But I decided that a good way to introduce them to Premiere was to cut together a 30 second trailer from that video using clips, titles and music.

Aside from Premiere, a fantastic resource I used and shared with the students is the YouTube audio library. Not many people know that YouTube provide royalty free music and sound effects free of charge to download and use in projects.

Here is a two-part tutorial about how I modelled this process to the students. Note that, of course, we could spend a long time being picky about what clips to show or what transition matches which audio beat, but really it was just an introduction to some features and skills in Premiere Pro.

Here are a couple of examples.

I think their favourite thing was to choose the music. They got a kick out of that.

Next week we dive into learning about shot compositions and filming examples of different kinds of shots.


Week 2: Easy Animator, Pivot Animator and Screencasts

This week the Prep-2s started off easy with an app called Easy Animator, the Grade 3-4s looked at Pivot Animator and the Grade 5-6s started their unit on Video Production with making screencasts (or instructional videos) using the free web based tool “Screencast-o-Matic”.


Really, you could get easier than this. This is basic app, made by Crayola, that lets the students choose a character, a background and then punch in some predefined movements to have the character move in sequence. It’s a perfect introduction to how animation works without having to learn any difficult concepts.

There is also another layer to this app that we haven’t used yet, but I would love to in the future. You can buy a kit that allows you to manipulate a puppet, record the movements, and program that into the app. The video below shows how this works:

As I say, a perfect introduction for the younger kids on how animation. Below is an example of what some Prep kids did. Note, there is the facility (similar to PuppetPals) for the students to record audio over their animations.


Pivot Animator is a great desktop application that introduces students to the idea of frame by frame animation. You start of with a basic stick figure with pivot points that can be manipulated.

It’s important to stress to the students – in my case the Grade 3-4s doing this – that to create the illusion of movement, the changes between frames needs to be very slight. Small movements, and LOTS of frames. Otherwise what you get is a lot of figures flashing on the screens in random positions.

I talked to them about the onion-skin feature. That “shadow” that shows where the previous frame was, so they can get an idea of what kind of movements they should be looking at. We also looked at creating backgrounds from taking photos, as well as playing with colour and opacity.

The software is free to use at www.pivotanimator.net

Here is a Grade Four example. These kids even found out where the other “characters” could be accessed from at the end.


Screencasting is making a video of your computer or device. Usually it’s for making a tutorial on how to do things. Linking this in with the students’ knowledge of procedural texts, we discussed how a video version of the same thing would work. Simple, step by step instructions, showing along the way, and giving voice to their thoughts and processes as they do so.

I asked them to pick something they knew easily how to do on the computer and record that particular activity or skill. Something that would last about 2 minutes, no longer. Some kids demonstrated how to find things on Google, some about how to use PowerPoint and Word. Some even found Pivot Animator and did a video on that. Most, however, were keen to get on Minecraft (we have a school license) and demonstrate that.

The software – again free to use in a limited capacity – is called Screencast-O-Matic and you can find it here: http://screencast-o-matic.com. This installs a recorder on your computer where you can record a screencast. Using headsets, the students can narrate as they go through it.

We found a great program called Voicemeeter Banana – which you can find at http://vb-audio.pagesperso-orange.fr/Voicemeeter/banana.htm – that acts like a virtual mixing desk. This was essential when I had each computer set up with two USB headset/microphones. Without this program, Windows would not recognise both devices operating at the same time. With tweaking, this program worked great.

I’ve had a lot of feedback saying this was one of their favourite projects to do, and I can see why. The kids are showing off and demonstrating what they know.

Here below is a great example from the Grade 5s going through some basics in Minecraft.

Next week, the Grades 5-6s will take the video they have done, and make a 30 second trailer using editing techniques and Adobe Premiere Pro.