28 Nov 2012
Marion’s nurture group is an all-day creative media project group for around 7 – 8 Year 7 & 8 children on a weekly basis for a few weeks at a time. This is a permanent fixture in the school. Animator John Harmer is working with this group to create an animation over 4 days (2 x 2 days at a time, this was session 3 out of 4.). The children decided on the theme: a haunted house. Each pair took a room each. Scenes, characters and a basic storyline was established. Rosy is Marion’s full time assistant. The nurture group consists of girls and boys who struggle in what they all call “the mainstream” due to behavioural issues… they’re considered disruptive in the classroom.
Marion lays down very clear rules as to expected behaviour in her large project space. There’s little in the way of equipment beyond arts and craft material. Often experts come in with their own. They have bought into a ‘package’ on offer from the local CLC. Susie – the project manager from the CLC – came by in the afternoon to see how things were going.
Four work stations had been set up with cameras pointing down on the flat artwork. The kids were cutting out and colouring their characters. They had to cut off all the limbs/heads so as to be able to animate them. One child doesn’t want to work with the others, knock things on the floor, only allowed out at break time after a discussion.
Artwork – very effective use of chalks and shading and water colours. Children talk of the ghostly effects and use of translucent tissue for ghosts. The girls invite me over to see their animation so far. They’re using a technique whereby their animated scenes ‘draw themselves’. Writing is contextual – jotting down dialogue as an aide-memoire and later – jotting down types of camera shot.
Marion mentions Michael Armstrong – he began researching education in the 70’s. To look up: Closely Observed Children: the diary of a primary classroom & Children Writing Stories (2006) & a collection of essays entitled What Children Know: essays on children’s literary and visual art, came out in 2011. Made a few more notes here that could be useful.
Marion wants to employ a researcher to document the process and record achievement.
After lunch: interesting group huddle to watch a screening of a BFI short – Between Us – as an introduction to camera movement and distance.
Very few words spoken in this film, only background arguing of parents which is like an abstract soundtrack rather than any narrative development of plot. Watch it twice after some protest from one or two. The general critique covers: camera angles, feelings, barriers to clear visibility, point of view shots, argument/antagonism through hand gestures, loud/muted sounds, close-ups to develop story. Some of the kids know about panning shots from previous work in Year 7. Perhaps they could have been given things to look out for the 2nd time around?
Marion always mindful of children listening to each other and asking questions appropriately, pointing out non-specific vocabulary use (eg. saying “this thing” instead of “this cupboard“). Reassuring physical contact between adults and these children, where appropriate.
Whilst they’re working there’s intermittent work-related per-to-peer chat – helping each other with techniques and things they’ve discovered. This way of working subtly incorporates their interests & personalities and allows their individual needs to be met. There’s time for patience to develop, challenges to be managed and the flow / integrity of connected work to be realised. There’s also social banter.
Children are set the task of writing down their camera shots ready for the next filming session. A variety of shots will enliven their animations and allow for audience connection with the characters. This exercise was quite challenging for some whose literacy was low but they were using the right vocabulary. Most important thing was that the writing was meaningful and contextualised and there was a clear reason and therefore motivation to be writing. See photos.
iPhone clips of children’s animation and work in progress:
I’m adding this link a few months later… this is the final product: