Monday, March 5, 2018

Stop, Drop, & Animate

If you’ve ever seen an episode of The Magic School Bus, then you have a pretty good idea of what it’s like to be a student in Mrs.Suarez’s 5th grade science class at JCT Elementary. Mrs. Suarez has a knack for engaging students through unique learning opportunities. She reels them in and then once they’re hooked, students tackle rigorous and relevant learning activities.

JCT Elementary prides itself on accepting challenges and maintaining a no matter what attitude. Students and teachers work hard to embrace the motto, never give up! Sometimes this attitude requires flexibility and creative thinking. In an effort to best meet the individual needs of all students, the 5th grade team at JCT recently decided to review their grade level data and arrange students in flexible groups; allowing the ELA and math teachers time to pull small groups. Mrs. Suarez is responsible for providing extension activities for students who have already mastered the concepts being covered during small group instruction. One day a week, this time is devoted to students extending current concepts through new technology platforms.

Mrs.Suarez’ can-do attitude and confidence to experiment with new tools, led her to Stop Motion animation using Google Slides. The idea originated from one of her favorite tech blogs, “Ditch That Textbook” by Matt Miller. Mrs. Suarez had student view the beginning of the “how to” video found on the blog. She then challenged her students to create their first project. Mrs, Suarez says, “Kids are true digital natives. I knew just enough to get them started. Students have amazed me with their creativity and the stories they can tell!” While students were exploring the tool, they were given the option to create a quick story or comic.

One student, Lucas, who become particularly fond of this activity shares, “I liked having some freedom with what I chose to make. But it was challenging to decide exactly what to put next. Then, my friend and I decided to share our stop motion animations with each other and combine our projects!”

The beauty of this activity is revealed during the next unit of study, when students will apply this technology skill into the curriculum with life cycles. Students will use Google Slides to create a stop motion animation that follows an insect through complete metamorphosis (egg, larva, pupa, adult) and incomplete metamorphosis (egg, nymph, adult). Mrs. Suarez believes Stop Motion will deepen students’ understanding of this somewhat challenging concept. Suarez states, “Metamorphosis involves change over time. The Google Slides Stop Motion animations allows students to create this change in small increments, while continuously being aware of the previous and next steps. Students can tell a story through pictures in their slideshow. Allowing students to create this change in the insects from egg to adult will help solidify their understanding of the difference between the nymph and larva stages, allowing them to more easily identify complete versus incomplete metamorphosis!” Students are already enjoying the ability to create their own animations. Grayson shares, “I think it is cool and interesting to make something that is animated that is not just a drawing. It’s digital so you can make it move so easy.”

After the students create their animations, they will use Screencastify to record themselves narrating the presentation slide by slide. Mrs. Suarez is excited to add this aspect because, “it saves the project directly into the student’s Google Drive and they can upload it directly to their ePortfolios! It is pretty seamless integration of so many different technology components!” Taking this lesson one step further, students will share their completed Slides with younger grades as visuals for metamorphosis.

In conclusion, with a little freedom to explore and time to create, students mastered a new tool that will provide them with an easier way to comprehend difficult processes. Extending beyond the walls of the classroom, some students are even motivated to continue their work at home. Fia explains, “It was so awesome! I thought stop motion would have to be done with something super fancy. I was surprised it was so easy. Now, I make them all the time!”

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