Animation Made Easy


Today’s essential question: How can I teach animation using my current classroom setup?

Animation is surprisingly easy to teach, and is always one of my students’ favorite units. Today’s PD will focus on low-tech animation methods that utilize equipment available in most district art rooms. These methods will work for grades 5-12.

Today’s presenters:
  • Stephanie Lawson, facilitator, Digital Art Teacher at School of the Arts
  • Tashi, teaching assistant/youth consultant, 7th grader at Arcadia Middle School

Today we will:

  • Briefly overview the history of animation and different animation methods
  • Create short animations using the following methods:
    • hand drawn animation
      • thaumatrope
      • flip book
    • stop motion animation using the StikBot studio app on our cell phones/tablets
  • Post our animations to YouTube
  • Collaborate with colleagues who teach similar grade levels to plan an animation lesson that is doable with your current classroom setup
  • Upload all resources created to the shared Animation Made Easy Google Drive folder

Part 1: Traditional hand drawn animation


thaumatrope.jpgA thaumatropeis an optical toy that was popular in the 19th century. A disk with a picture on each side is attached to two pieces of string. When the strings are twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to blend into one due to the persistence of vision. Thaumatropes are often seen as important antecedents of motion pictures and in particular of animation.

Play with the sample thaumatrope, then create your own.

Click here to view the PDF of the thaumatrope handout. (Feel free to download it and use it in your own classroom.)

Thaumatrope tips:
  • Draw your thaumatrope on card stock, or glue your thaumatrope images to opposite sides of a piece of card stock.
  • Preview flipping your thaumatrope before gluing anything to make sure nothing appears upside down when the thaumatrope is in use.

Flip Book

flip_bookA flip book is a book with a series of pictures that vary gradually from one page to the next, so that when the pages are turned rapidly, the pictures appear to animate by simulating motion or some other change. Flip books are essentially a primitive form of animation. They rely on persistence of vision to create the illusion that continuous motion is being seen rather than a series of discontinuous images being exchanged in succession

Play with the sample flip book, then make your own.

Click here to view the PDF of the flip book handout. (Feel free to download it and use it in your own classroom.)

Flip Book Tips:
  • Use card stock – heavier weight paper works much better than thinner paper. If you do not have a light board and are using tracing paper, transfer each traced image onto card stock.
  • Only draw on the right half of the card stock – the left half usually is not visible.
  • Draw each frame of your animation on its own page in your flip book.
  • Use a light board or tracing paper to make sure you are lining up each frame in the correct position so your animation does not jump around.
  • Add 4-5 pieces of blank card stock at the end of the flip book. This ensures that you will be able to see the last few frames of your animation.

Part 2: Stop motion animation

Stop motion is a type of animation that is photographed one frame at time, with physical objects that are moved between frames. When you play back the sequence of images rapidly, it creates the illusion of movement.

Today you will create your own 5-second stop motion animation that brings a common, every day object to life. Check out the animated eraser created by one of my eleventh grade students, Andrew.

This animated keychain is another example of what I am looking for.
Look at how little the keychain moves in each frame:

The StikBot Studio App is set at a default of 10 frames per second. This means that you will need to take 50 photos to make your 5 second clip. Follow these steps from the iMore website to get started!

Getting started with StikBot Studio

  1. Download and Install StikBot Studio from the App Store.
  2. Tap Open.
  3. Tap the Video Camera icon.
  4. Tap OK to allow access to the camera.

Set your scene

At this point your camera will be enables and ready to start taking photos.

  1. Set you camera on a small stable location like a tripod for best results.
  2. Set up your initial scene.
  3. Tap the red face to take your first shot.
  4. Make a small adjustment to your figure. You’ll see a ghost image of your previous position so that you get the motion “just right”.
  5. Tap the red face to take your next shot. You’ll notice that the ghost image in now gone awaiting your next stop motion movement.
  6. Continue until you have completed your scene.
  7. Once you’ve completed your scene, tap the video editor icon.

Modify your animation

Once you have your desired scene completed, you can add sound effects, dialog, text, and items from your camera roll in the video editor.

  1. Tap the new scene you’ve created.
  2. You can preview your video by tapping the play arrow.
  3. Press the pause button to stop the preview.

Exporting and sharing

Once you’ve completed your awesome animation you’re ready to save and share it!

  1. Tap the export icon.
  2. Tap YES to save your movie to the camera roll.
  3. Choose your video format.
  4. Tap OK to allow StikBot to access your photos.
  5. Tap OK once the export to camera roll is complete.
  6. Go into your Photos.
  7. Tap your movie.
  8. Tap the Share icon.
  9. Select the method your wish to share your video. For this workshop, you should upload it to YouTube.

Part 3 (bonus projects for fast workers):

Turn your flip book into a computer animation using the StikBot Studio App

Now that you know how to use the StikBot Studio app, you can use it to digitize your hand drawn flip book. Take a photo of each page of the flip book. Use the ghost feature to make sure you are properly lining up each page to create a seamless animation. One of my seniors, McKenzie, used this method to create an animation of her cat.


Use sculpey to create a character, then use the StikBot Studio app to shoot a stop motion animation with the character. Here are some examples created by my students:

Part 4: Plan an animation lesson to use in your class

For this portion of today’s workshop, you may choose to either work on your own or with a partner/partners who teach similar grade levels. You will create a lesson plan that is doable with your current classroom setup, and upload the lesson plan and any related resources to the “Animation Made Easy” shared Google Drive folder.

Here are some helpful resources to get you started:

  • Artist/Art History Connections:
    • hand drawn animation – Walt Disney, Hayao Miyazaki, Salvador Dali
    • stop motion animation – Tim Burton, Art Clokey (creator of Gumby)
  • Elements and Principles – blog post explaining the principles of animation.
    Note: This is geared towards an 11th/12th grade audience.
  • Cross-curricular Connections:
    • Foreign language – animation created by one of my juniors, Yoly, to illustrate the meaning of a Spanish word to non-native speakers
    • ELA – review the elements of a plot as students plan their animations
    • Math/Science
      • experiment with different frame rates to see how it affects the animation
      • have students figure out how many frames/photos they will need to create in order to make an animation that is the required length
      • discuss how to animators use science to create more realistic animations (ex. a ball speeds up as it falls)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s