Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a teacher and leader of digital learning, working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 2 class using iPads to engage and motivate learners and improve student achievement. This blog documents my teaching journey and my learning processes with iPads in the classroom. I've proud of having been a member of the inaugural Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy(MDTA) program and last year a Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher (MIT) and Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir teacher.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Animating our Writing

As part of my ongoing inquiry into accelerating learning with writing, this week I've tried something a little different with my learners.  As I planned my writing lessons for the week I had two main aims:

  • How could I spark the interest of my learners - particularly the boys - who are capable of producing some great sentences but who often complain at the mere mention of writing
  • How could we create writing blog posts that my learners are so enthusiastic about that they want to rush home and share with their whanau (thereby hopefully inspiring additional comments)
Throughout the term, our team wide focus has been on art and in particular buildings.  I have had learners create some great writing about the Sky Tower, Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower, but I sensed from my learners that interest in writing about famous buildings was starting to wane.

So this week I introduced writing about a castle - but not just any castle.  The castles that we wrote about were created in the imaginations of my learners.  Not so different to other writing we have done earlier this year, where I gifted a topic and we brainstormed ideas.  This time however, the castles were different because we used them to create animations which my whole class enthusiastically embraced.

I gifted the class a selection of backgrounds that they could access via our class site.  Our animations were created using Explain Everything with the first slide (or two) used to draw the different objects for their animation - the one criteria was they had to include a castle (keeping to our 'buildings' theme).  Many learners opted to copy my idea of a spider which was animated, although we did have some that branched out with people, butterflies and birds.  

Learners then used their second slide to insert and set the background they had selected.  They copied in the different elements (castle, spider, etc) and then duplicated that slide several times.  Over the next 10 - 12 slides, they moved their character slightly more on each slide, creating an animation effect, before exporting the project as a video.  This video was then inserted into iMovie where we sped it up slightly and added some background music.  Lastly, learners uploaded their movie to their Google Drive and I inserted them into their blogs (I needed to use the embed code from their Google Drives to publish them on their blogs).  To make this process faster, learners had already created their blog posts, with their writing and saved it as a draft.

Once upon a time there was a little blue castle. It lived in an ice forest with trees around it and there was a spider crawling around the castle. The spider was very scary and all the people got scared of the spider so they ran away from the spider. the spider was left alone inside the forest and he went in the castle so he can have a break.           - Precious

While the lesson (over a number of days) was by no means perfect, I aim to repeat it next week using a "wooden shack" as the featured building as I was particularly pleased with the enthusiasm demonstrated by even reluctant writers.  Much of the focus last week was on teaching the animation process I wanted the learners to follow (and how to use iMovie) - but now that many learners in the class are secure with this, I will be able to focus on small groups of writers while others create their animations independently.  I'm excited to see what creative writing is produced and what characters and ideas they decide to showcase through both their animations and writing.

Blog posts for all learners in my class with their animations posted are available here.


  1. Hi Karen
    I love your idea . I have tried to make an animation. how did you copy the page so that the different drawings stayed in the same place rather than being in a bunch. hope this makes sense.

    1. Thanks Raewyn :) Yes it totally makes sense - what we do is duplicate the whole slide which keeps everything in the same place, and then just move our characters a little on the next slide. In case you're not sure how to do this, to duplicate the slide, click of where it says "Slide 1 of 1" and then long press the slide you want to duplicate and press 2x.

    2. Thanks so much Karen.That makes it a lot easier .Now I will have a go at putting it on i movie. Just another question .A teacher from one of the schools that I visit was asking what reading books do other schools use online with ipads. I think they are looking at e-PM readers.What do you use? Thanks

    3. Hi Raewyn. We tend to use physical books (PM Readers & Ready to Read) so that the learners can take them home and read with whanau. We support these readers with custom activities that we create using Explain Everything (if you click on reading on my site any of these activities can be downloaded from there: https://goo.gl/V6WniV). We do also use the Sunshine Classics app and I tend to use that particularly for mileage with my learners: http://goo.gl/SNA5NV. Hope that helps. I'm more than happy for anyone to contact me with any questions (kbelt@ptengland.school.nz)

    4. Thanks Karen. Will pass this onto the teacher.