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.