My first claymation unit

I was interested to note that David Warlick has recently started a wiki to try and collect links to bloggers that offer practical advice on using web 2.0 applications in the classroom.  I really appreciate teachers that are willing to share their successes and failures online so that I can learn from their experiences.  So, in the spirit of contributing to the conversation here is what happened during my Grade 7 Claymation Unit using SAM animation

Task: To create a compelling claymation movie about the impacts of computer use on health.


Our guiding question for this unit was “Can computer use cause Life Long Injuries?”.  We began with a general class discussion and then moved into doing some research on Repetitive Stress Injuries.  I use as an online space for encouraging collaboration and sharing in my classroom and find it works really well.  I posted a list of links to sites about RSI on and asked each student to read through one of the links that they found interesting.  Their first task was to summarize the information from their website and to post that summary along with a URL to a class message board on  Once the information was gathered we projected the message board onto a screen and used the information gathered to decide on the key lessons/messages regarding computer use and long term health impacts.  I typed these messages up in Word as we spoke and uploaded the document to so that they had it as a reference.

Next we needed to figure out what made for a compelling claymation movie.  I provided them with links to some Claymation resource sites using and assigned them the task of posting a list of the key steps on another discussion board.  We then used the information gathered to write up the Design Specifications for the project.

  • No more than 3 animated characters with accessories.
  • A carefully designed set and scenery built into a cardboard box
  • Smooth movements
  • Consistent look to characters
  • A story that teaches a lesson about Computers and Health in an engaging way.
  • A detailed storyboard that describes all the movement


In their groups I had them decide on ONE LESSON that their animation would teach and decide on what materials they would animate.  I then had them each group member brainstorm a storyline that they could animate and post their ideas to their webpage.  Their homework was to read each other’s story ideas so that they next day they could decide on the story that best met the Design Specs.  I think that I could have done more at this stage to encourage them to be creative with their story ideas.  Maybe we could have done a class free thinking activity first to get them thinking less linearly before they wrote down their story ideas.


Once they had agreed on a story idea each group member took on one of the following roles:

  • Set Designer, who had to get the materials and design the set in a box that could be carried around.
  • Character Builder, who had to make the clay figures for the animation
  • Storyboard Artist, who drew the storyboard and worked out how many frames each scene would need.

I gave them each a mark for their individual tasks before they were aloud to start filming.

Before they started filming I had each group fill in a planning table telling me exactly what they planned to do during each Technology class.


For the actual filming I found a great piece of software created by Tufts University called SAM animation. I looked at a lot of the free software available and in my opinion this was by far the best option.  In particular it allowed onion skinning, the addition of sound and some basic editing; it could also export to AVI so that we could import their animations into Movie Maker for final editing.

To capture the video we used both web cams and video cameras hooked up to laptops by 4 pin firewire cables.  The webcams were really easy to set up but the picture quality was quite poor (I probably should have invested in more expensive cams); the video cameras were fiddly but produced higher quality video.

I was very careful during this stage to check in with each group on a regular basis to see if their plan was working out and if it wasn’t I had them revise it.  This regular check in helped to reinforce the importance of careful time management.

The final task was to edit the movies using Movie Maker.  I gave the class a quick lesson in the basics and then encouraged them to help each other.  Some of my students recorded audio on a simple voice recorder that we then downloaded as a WAV file and imported into Movie Maker.

Every member of the class was responsible for importing their groups raw footage and creating their own claymation movie that met the Design Specifications.  This worked really well as it enabled me to hold each child accountable for their own finished product.  It was really interesting to see how each student added their own variations to the same footage.

I will upload some of the movies shortly and embed them in this post.