How Students Can Create Animated Movies to Teach Each Other

In addition to learning our content and curriculum standards, today’s students also need to be able to do the following effectively:

collaborate with one another,

synthesize ideas,

create content,

communicate ideas clearly, and

use technology.

A great way to accomplish all of these learning goals is to have students create movies of classroom content (i.e., textbook) to share with each other.

About a year ago, I came across this blog post to learn the ins-and-outs of using RSA-animate style movies in the classroom. After learning all I could I created the example animated movie below (using Ch. 9/Sec. 1 of our Arkansas History book) and mapped out a daily schedule to share with our teachers.

Wouldn’t it be great if your students created similar videos to share with their class? Wouldn’t they be engaged and have fun learning?

Having students create RSA-animate style movies is a fun way to teach content– by having the students become the teacher. It’s not too tough once you get the hang of it, and in a BYOD or 1:1 school, the tools are there.

Here’s how students in your class can create their own animated movies to share…

Chapter Notes (Day 1)

On Day 1, divide the students into groups of 3 (if possible— but having one or two groups of 4 isn’t a deal-breaker). I highly recommend that you assign the groups rather than having students select their own group. Before students begin working on the assignment, do a quick check to make sure that someone in each group has a device with a camera on it.

After all the groups have been formed, assign each group a section from your textbook. Have them use the class period to read their section and write down all the key facts, ideas, and vocabulary words. As students work, the teacher should float around the room answering questions, monitoring students, and making sure students aren’t leaving out key ideas from the section. Having students divide their paper into 6-10 squares seems to help them organize info (see example below).

Textbook Notes


Check each group’s work when they are finished to make sure all of the key ideas you want them to know are included. THIS IS CRITICAL!

Rough Draft Sketches (Day 2)

On Day 2, after checking each group’s notes, have them begin to sketch their ideas that will help them illustrate their ideas. I used ShowMe on my iPad for this, but students can use pen-and-paper and it will work just fine. I was able to condense my key ideas from notes (6 boxes) into four sketches, but students may prefer to have one sketch per box of notes.

SketchesRecord Video (Day 3)

Day 3 is a fun day— time to record (so students need their devices)! The beauty of recording these videos is that it doesn’t have to be quiet in the room and students won’t need a lot of space— just a few markers and a section of whiteboard. While one student in the group draws their sketches, another student needs to be recording which will take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. (By the way, because I was working alone, I used ShowMe to create my video and I downloaded it from their site.)

When they’re finished, they’ll need to import the video into iMovie or the Motion Pictures app and speed it up to 5x the normal speed.

Write a Detailed Script and Record Audio (Day 4)

Now it’s time to put it all together. Once the video has been recorded and sped up, it’s time to add the audio narration. In my opinion, this is both the most important and time-consuming step (because students will need to match up their script to the video they’ve made).

Here is a copy of my script:

By 1835, 24 states had entered the Union— and Arkansans were eager to join as well. Due to the Missouri Compromise, states entering the Union needed to join in pairs— one free state and one slave state. The talk going around the land was that Florida and Michigan were getting set to join, so Arkansans needed to act quickly to beat Florida to the punch.

In January of 1836, after much debate over the issue of slavery, delegates wrote state constitution to send to Congress. Charles Noland of Batesville was assigned the task of taking the proposal to Washington.

At the same time, William Woodruff had sent a special edition of the Gazette using the good ol’ U.S. Postal Service. As shocking as it might seem today, the U.S. Postal Service provided fast delivery— beating Charles Noland and even beating Florida’s proposal (yet another shock for Arkansans today— beating Florida at anything).

Arkansas officially entered the union as the 25th state on June 15, 1836.

The final version of the first state constitution was completed January 30, 1836, with the following key elements:

     I. Governors, state legislators, and almost all local officials were to be elected by popular vote.

     II. The governor had to be old— at least 30— and must have lived in Arkansas for at least ten years.

     III. Voting was limited to free white adult males— not necessarily property owners

     IV. Poll taxes were prohibited

     V. The legislature would choose US Senators to represent Arkansas in Washington, state supreme court justices, the secretary of state, the state treasurer, and many other important offices.

Much like today, in 1836 two main political parties emerged for the Arkansas wealthy elite and those parties campaigned for political office— the Democrats and the Whigs. The democratic party was made up of planters and the working poor. The Whigs were made up of planters and businessmen. The Democrats, also known as “The Family” won all the key offices during the first election.

The state’s economy was booming in 1837— it was so great, the state realized it had a $50,000 surplus burning a hole in their pocket. One option was to start a state university, but instead the state chose to give the money back to citizens by lowering taxes. However, the government chose to build a state prison which was located on the hill where our state capital stands today. The state’s university wouldn’t exist until 1871.

Around that time, the federal government also began building a military arsenal in Little Rock and things are looking up for Arkansans.

However, as often happens when things are going well, a big problem emerged as state banks began borrowing too much money from other banks (over $2,000,000!), which led to the Panic of 1837 when we faced an economic depression. It would take several years for Arkansas’ economy to recover— but at least we had a prison, right?

When they’re ready to record their narration, students will need to go to a quiet area (either the office, library, empty science labs, etc.) and record using iMovie (or any voice memo app). After finalizing

Movie Premieres (Day 5)

Spend Friday watching each group’s video. Students can take notes or just watch— your call.


What do you think? Will it work in your class? Feel free to comment below.

Extending the Classroom

Students often need help when working from home, and a great way to do this is to use a shared class notebook to provide links, resources, videos, and online help.

Watch the video below to see how it works for me.

Extend the Classroom with Evernote from Jordan Collier on Vimeo.

This is just one way (well, actually two ways) Evernote can work in a classroom. And that’s why I love Evernote! Every user has a unique way and system that works for them. Feel free to share in the comment section how YOU use Evernote either personally or professionally (or both).