Making animations with young(-ish) learners

Here are two sites which enable your learners to make fun animations.

Dfilm MovieMaker allows you to select your character (eight can be seen, left above), add what they're saying, etc, etc.
Using Dfilm's MovieMaker you pick from a choice of preset backgrounds, skyscapes, scenarios (rendez-vous, chase…) and characters, write their lines, add music and — in a series of straight-forward clicks, create your animation.

Once you've finished, you can send it to a friend — or yourself — which will then give you the URL (address), so that you can see it again.

ZimmerTwins (above) gives you just three characters to play with but some crazy additional features…
At ZimmerTwins you can create similar animations, though you've only (currrently) got three characters to play with. You can save your movies, watch other people's and comment on them, among other features.

Like Dfilm, it's very intuitive to work with — and kids will love exploring what you can do with it. The "How to make a movie" section explains all, if you are in any doubt (and makes good listening comprehension practice too!)

Note that you have to register (and provide an email address). You could get round your students doing that by registering yourself, and having them use your username.

Which is better?
Of the two, besides not requiring registration, Dfilm also has the advantage that your learners can input more text (important if you want them to be able to write some English).

On the other hand, ZimmerTwins seems to offer more "fun" features. If you've got really young learners, who don't know much English, it might be a better choice.

What would you do with these sites?
Make animations, of course… But what you really want is for your learners to get some language learning and practice out of it — and it's all too easy for the class to go silent (or real noisy!) while they fiddle with the animations but learn and practise zero English…

Providing them with a list of characters and features first and — in pairs — getting them to storyboard their animation first, before logging on, might be the best way to go about it.

When they do then get on-site, they will probably then have to discuss how they are going to adapt their storyboard to what the site can actually do — but that can only be a good thing!

What's the point?
For your learners, it's a fun, motivating activity. For the teacher, it must produce that language learning and practice.

If it doesn't, should you be using this technology…?

Technical note
Note that you might need to upgrade your Flash Player (an easy download, provided you have "administrator permissions" on your PC/s, which you might not if you are in a school).

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  1. Another idea
    You could have learners produce three linked movies (linked in theme, that is).

    Here's an example (created by my son Toni on Dfilm), in which we have the beginning of the story. A second animation could give us the middle, and a third the end.

    You can see in the same example that you do probably want to get your learners to use up the 100 characters you have per "line" of dialogue.

  2. Another site that allows you to do something similar is StripGenerator, where you can create comic strips.

    No animation, but it might require a greater pull on the imagination (never a bad thing in a language classroom!)

  3. Dfilms we made in the session 28 November

    In this movie by "jedanphaner" I think you can see that creating three connected movies might make for something more interesting…

    In "Kings of the World" by "sankatkat" (very funny, guys, I liked it!) you can see why you might want to use up more of the characters allowed for your dialogue lines…

    Sara, Em and Helen's "Sexy Skeleton" shows you that the dialogue is important if you are doing this in a language class…

    Tim, Luke and Tara also went for a really mimimalistic approach to dialogue

    I think it's a fun activity — I could see all of you were having fun in the session.

    But don't forget that that's not quite enough… You want your learners to be using their English, lots…

  4. Dfilms from the session 12 Jan 2007
    Here's one directed by
    "The Delphino Massacre"
    . Evidence there, I think that we should get the learners to really work on the dialogue, perhaps even before sitting down in front of the PCs.

    Note also the rude word there… Do we need to point out to (young?) learners that they need to keep it "clean"?

    And here's one that's a bit rude (but I laughed!), from Anne, Chris and David.

    Note how you want to use up all the dialogue space you get, otherwise the lip synch doesn't look right.

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