Lesson plans

The following dot points are practical guidelines which address the process of creating an explanatory animation. More technical considerations are contained in the Explanatory Animation Framework.

The majority of the Storyboard sessions consisted of free time for the students to work on their animations. The initial focus session from me was responsive to needs as they arise so a basic dot-point description of these sessions outlines the actual session development. Some of these points are written retrospectively after the class as I endeavour to remain flexible to the needs of the group and might choose to include information which wasn't planned for that session if it seems to be appropriate.

Lesson plan
Retrospective reflections on sessions

Session 1

21st July 2011

  • Introduction to the task of explanatory animation creation. (The Explanatory Animation Framework is not listed here as that would be too much information at this early stage).
  • File saving conventions. (i.e. concept name with date suffix).
  • Introduction to PowerPoint 'insert duplicate slide' function to create various slides.
  • Time set aside for recording prior knowledge videos.


The students were very attentive during the initial focus session. I was careful not to talk for too long as the children wanted to get started as soon as possible.

I must not have explained the voice-over script clearly as many children thought that the voice-over script simply a transcript of their prior knowledge video.


Session 2

28th July 2011

  • Distinguishing between the director's commentary genre and that of the voice-over script.
  • Reminder that children do not need to ask me for permission for their ideas or plans as this project seeks to track the decisions and progress that they make. (n.b This might seems obvious but there were several such questions during the first session).

During the first session I had spread the children out as much as possible including the two smaller rooms off to the side. This was because the 2010 class was very chatty.

This class is only half the size and the children seem to be much more productive. I now have them in the same big room so that they can hear the interactions that I have with the other children.

These discussions could be seen as a distraction but I believe they can be a catalyst for the children to look at their own topics from different angles and perspectives.

Session 3

11th August 2011

  • Demo of students work from Storyboard web site. (This is a gentle reminder to the group that their work is being published. The main area I would like to see improvement in is their voice-over texts as these must be in the 3rd person).
  • Additional reminder about the distinction between voice-over script and director's commentaries.
  • Introduction to concept maps.

The children already knew about concept maps.

Session 4

18th August 2011

  • Demonstrate the reverse engineering approach to graphics. This involves drawing an image with the required detail and then erasing parts which are then saved as separate images. There are two benefits from this technique:
  1. It is faster to erase than it is to draw.
  2. Sufficient detail is included in the first instance. The alternative to this is where a student decides that they need to add more detail and then have to add it to every slide.
  3. Stability of the image is maintained as there is no risk of the position of object being moved unintentionally.

Only 5 out of 8 children recorded commentaries as we ran out of time. Director's commentaries could start being recorded any time after the teaching focus has concluded.

Session 5

25th August 2011

  • Review file saving conventions
  • Explain macroconcepts
  • Discuss representations

During this session I promised the children who didn't have internet access that I would arrange different computers for them from now on.

Session 6

1st September 2011

  • Explain my definition of a concept
  • Explain paraphrase

I see similarities between concepts and paraphrasing in that they both identify key information.

None of the children knew about paraphrasing but they seemed to pick it up quickly. I used comedy as an example where comedians twist or invert some point in a story for comedic effect. My specific example was from 20 minutes before the session when a colleague asked me in the staffroom: 'How many sleeps until the Circus show?' (that I'm working on for our annual production). The real answer would have been 12 but I said 'None'.

After the session I concluded that the specific advice or feedback I have for each student should be shared during the focus session in front of the class. This would be beneficial for 3 reasons:

  1. I can't forget or run out of time.
  2. These instructions have some relevance to the other students.
  3. I can proceed immediately with recording director's commentaries as these always take longer than I think.

Session 7

8th September 2011

  • Explain new lesson structure with feedback during the focus session as follows:

Cell duplication - Investigate chromosomes, Transitional imagery.

Chemical reactions - Decide on whether to specialise

Electromagnetic fields - How do the LCDs work?

Hair - Cross-section, close-up imagery.

Satellites - How many satellites are needed to transmit a signal around the world?

Sol Feige - Fix the grid

Solar panels - View other animations about how photovoltaic cells

Stadium design - Soundproofing recommendations?

Providing feedback to each student during the focus session is a definite improvement. I will continue to start each session in this manner.

Session 8

22nd September 2011

Cell duplication - Consolidate chromosomes

Chemical bonds - Mention molecules and suggest 'Molecules' or "Molecular chemistry" as a title.

Hair - Commence cross-sectional imagery.

Satellites - Continue investigation of the question about the number of satellites required for a global transmission.

Stadium design - Mention bass traps and reflective panels.

I has anticipated that the three Grade 5 students would be absent due to the Grade 5 camp. The 'Chemical bonds' student was also absent leaving only 4 out of 8 students.

This was actually beneficial in terms of providing me with more time to spend with the remaining students. I has a very long interaction with the Grade 6 girl who was working on 'Cell duplication'. By the end of this interaction she had changed her topic to 'Stringed instruments'.

Session 9

14th October 2011

Electromagnetic fields - Suggest an electric motor as a suitable visualisation instead of LCD screens.

Hair - Commence cross-sectional imagery of the actual hair shaft.

Satellites - Reminder that transmission signals travel in straight lines.

Solar panels - Encourage student to identify the various layers in a solar panel.

Sol feige - Discuss making the grid angled with ascending pitch.

Stringed instruments - Share formula for determining frequency and discuss animating the formula.

This was a Friday session instead of our regular Thursday due to 'Planning week'. It was nice to be able to write these reflections immediately after the Storyboard session instead of immediately transitioning to leading a rehearsal with our school orchestra.

Session 10

20th October 2011

  • Mention the terms 'tweening' and 'keyframes'.
  • Remind students that we will be syncing video to audio so they should remember to focus on their voice-over scripts.

Chemical bonds - Suggest that just covering the naming of molecules might be a more manageable topic.

Electromagnetic fields - Confirm the essential elements of an electric motor. Discuss the option of renaming title to 'Electric motors'.

Hair - Commence cross-sectional imagery of the actual hair shaft.

Satellites - Remove references to satellites which are communicating with each other because they are not configured properly or are not part of the same network.

Solar panels - Suggestion that the handful of layers which belong in a solar panel are not merely shown and explained but rather explained as they are successively added. In this manner the animation would literally build a solar panel.

Sol feige - Discuss black and white notes and how they have no relevance to major and minor keys.

Stringed instruments - Commence voice-over script to determine the order of the variables.

Return to earlier approach where individual advice and recommendations are given individually rather than during initial focus time.

Session 11

27th October 2011

Electromagnetic fields -

Molecular naming conventions -

Solar panels -

Stringed instruments - Ask her to use my laptop from now on.

A class size of 3 or 4 is ideal.

Session 12

3rd November 2011

Electromagnetic fields - Define scope of animation.

How does hair grow? (Absent)

Molecular naming conventions - Complete conventions.

Satellites - Discuss 'Fat Jeffery' in terms of the problem of straight lines and a round globe.

Solar panels -

Sol feige - Complete voice-over script so we can commence generating appropriate imagery. Discuss how we could simulate flight (looping background imagery such as clouds).

Stadium design - 'Pong' game visualisation idea.

Stringed instruments -

Today I shared how the 8 mini case studies fit together as an additional research story:



How does hair grow?

Concepts definitions

Molecular naming conventions

Naming is arbitrary.  Representation is functional

Stadium design

Scope and sequence


Eliminate non essentials

Electromagnetic fields

Gestalt theory

Solar panels

'Building' the imagery

Stringed instruments

Pedagogical values

Sol Feige



Session 13

10th November 2011

Electromagnetic fields -

How does hair grow? (Absent)

Molecular naming conventions -

Satellites -

Solar panels -

Sol feige -

Stadium design -

Stringed instruments -

Only the Grade 6 students attended this session as the Grade 5 children had a guest speaker come for a Sex Education class. It was quite productive having a smaller group.

I ended up having additional sessions with two of the Grade 5 children on Monday 14th and one Grade 5 student on Wednesday 16th.

Session 14

17th November 2011

Electromagnetic fields - Imagery required for electric motor.

How does hair grow? (Absent)

Molecular naming conventions - Highlight colour. Preview of voice-over track draft.

Satellites - Uplink and downlinks. Black background.

Solar panels - I didn't see this student as he was absent. My own understanding of photovoltaic cells firmed up when I learnt to look at the NP junction as it functions rather than the component parts. Based on this perspective, a more interesting topic could report the efficiency and inherent limitations of the cell with the revised title 'Solar cell efficiency'.

Sol feige - Windows.

Stadium design - 'Pong' imagery first concluding with Newton's cradle.

Stringed instruments - Sruti box. Highlight colour. Title fonts and colours.

50% of the voice-over scripts have now been recorded.

Session 15

1st December 2011

How does hair grow? - additional questions about variables such as colour and texture.

Satellites - geosynchronous orbit?

Creation of b files (i.e. expanded versions where I edit content and save as original name with a 'b' for Brendan suffix.

Session 16

8th December 2011

Timetabled 3 Storyboard sessions:.

Tue: Solar cell efficiency.

Wed: Hair, Electromagnetic fields, Sol Feige.

Thurs: Molecular naming conventions, Satellites, Stadium design, Stringed instruments.

Creation of table matching voice-over script with imagery.

Session 17

15th December 2011

Debriefing session

Electromagnetic fields -

How hair grows (22/12/11)

Molecular naming conventions -

Satellites (22/12/11)

Sol feige -

Solar cell efficiency-

Stadium design -

Stringed instruments -

I realise now that there was no way I could have conducted interviews during this one hour session and still had time to record the final director's commentaries. This became apparent almost immediately so we were able to continue filming the debriefing session while children wrote what they might say in their director's commentaries in dot points.

Interviews were originally one of the 12 sources of data. I have since changed this to be Voice-over script / imagery tables which arose during the second last session as a checklist for imagery in preparation for the video editing process.


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