: from a text to animation
Motivating the students into writing in a foreign language can present a challenge for a teacher. Being creative while doing so can seem even harder. With the help of an online programme Animated Drawings presented by Meta AI Research, the 6th graders at the Fran Erjavec Primary School in Slovenia transformed the text about their made-up strange family into animation. The process combined different skills, from writing, drawing, animating and at the final stage, presenting their made-up strange family in front of the class. The article presents the final result and challenges within this creative process that has the animation of the written text as the final result.
Key words: animation, English, teaching, online, drawings, formative.
Animated Drawings presented by Meta AI Research is a simple and easy to use tool that transforms a static drawing to a lively cartoon version in literally just seconds. It is free to use and there is no need to download a programme or an app. Easily accessible, by simply entering the link into a browser, it offers an immersive room for creativity.
Figure 1: Webpage Animated Drawings (screenshot from https://sketch.metademolab.com/)
When you were a child, you might have dreamed about your drawings becoming alive, jumping, dancing, running. This is exactly what the programme provides. The Animated Drawings transforms a drawing into an animated character within seconds.
First, draw something. Ideally, this is a human-like figure and there is a white background. You should not use paper with lines. Avoid any other objects touching the figure, or having a shadow. The hands and legs should not touch any other parts of the body, so they can move during the animation.
Step 1: Upload a drawing
Figure 2. A static drawing
By clicking on “Upload photo”, the programme will automatically upload the photo.
Figure 3. Uploading a drawing (screenshot from https://sketch.metademolab.com/)
Step 2: Finding the character
By clicking on “Next”, the programme will cut out any other people or objects in the picture. You can also cut the picture manually.
Figure 4. Finding the character (screenshot from https://sketch.metademolab.com/)
Step 3: Separating the character
Figure 5. Separating your character (screenshot from https://sketch.metademolab.com/)
By clicking on “Next”, the programme will automatically create a mask covering the surface of the character you have drawn.
The programme is good at separating the figure from the background, or any other possible character in its proximity. If the programme does not capture everything, you can use the marker and the eraser to manually correct the mask.
Step 4: Finding character joints
When the mask is created, the programme will quickly set the joints (head centre, shoulders, hips, knees, elbows, wrists, ears and eyes). This will ensure realistic animation.
Figure 6. Setting character joints (screenshot from https://sketch.metademolab.com/)
These four steps can take less than a minute.
Step 5: choosing an animation
Figure 7. Adding animation (screenshot from https://sketch.metademolab.com/)
This is the part where the students have the most fun. They can make their drawing dance, jump, walk, make funny moves, run, box or skip. There are 32 animations to choose from. The animation can be shared as a link or downloaded as an MP4. When converting into a GIF, the quality of the object can be diluted quite a bit.
Using the programme at school
The programme was used by the students of the 6th grade at the Fran Erjavec Primary School in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, which has 26 students in total. The programme was first presented to them on the projection with some of the examples.
The project “My Strange Family” was created within the formative learning. The goal the 6th graders set for themselves at the middle of the school year was to create a made-up strange, unusual family and present it in front of the class.
There were many models of the written compositions “My Strange Family” presented to them, serving as an example, model of excellency of what their goal should be. This is an example of the written composition “My Strange Family” that one of the students in the previous years wrote and was published in the school’s newspaper.
Figure 8. An example of the text “My Strange Family” from the previous years
After reading the example, this is the criteria the students set:
1. The family needs to have 4 members. One of these needs to be an animal. The student individually chose how many people and how many animals they will have.
2. What to describe with each member:
- hair (the colour and the style (wavy, short, straight, long, …),
- figure (thin, plumb …),
- height (short, tall, medium-sized, giant …),
- face (long, oval, heart-shaped …),
- nose or ears.
3. Clothes (what are they wearing and what is the colour): He is wearing …
4. Special features (a moustache, a beard, glasses …).
5. Personality (what is this person like – smart, lazy, hard-working …)
6. (He likes – He hates – I don’t like – She doesn’t like)
7. Draw the family.
This description included their knowledge of how to use the verb to be, to have, the structure like/doesn’t like, describing what people are wearing. We have practised these structures in the previous lessons and revised the vocabulary needed for describing people
With this type of exercise, the students were able to use words for describing their member’s character, such as mysterious, evil and were able to let their imagination run wild. They also loved adding special features, such as snakes instead of the hair, having red skin, horns, wings etc. This was a perfect task with the end result, the text, that served as a proof of their knowledge, which the formative learning strives towards having.
When the children completed the text, they chose an equal number of felt tip pens as there were criteria. They scanned their text and by highlighting the text with felt-tip pens, they made sure they wrote down everything from the criteria. For example, they chose a red felt-tip pen and underlined the first criteria – choosing four members with at least one animal member – and underlined the part of their text where it said which members are in their family. Then, they chose light green and underlined the parts of the text where they described the hair – for each of their family member. In this way, they made sure, that they addressed all the criteria. Some of them chose to not use this technique but simply made ticks next to the criteria for each of their family member: four ticks for each of the criteria in total.
They had a choice to give their description to one of the other students to read in order for them to check if they had missed anything, to suggest any possible upgrades or to correct mistakes. After doing this, they were given the choice to upload their description in the online classroom where I would make any necessary additional corrections, if needed.
Figure 9. The teacher’s text correction
Sara, well done! Make sure you include:
- Describing your face (oval, long …)
- Describe your brother’s character.
After they corrected the mistakes, I gave them feedback. They again had the possibility to hand in the description for one more time after upgrading the text and including the suggestions and corrections. Ten of the stodents chose to do so.
The process took 6 school lessons, one of the lessons was spent outside, where they practised descriptions with their schoolmates.
Students with additional assistance
In this classroom, there were three pupils who have additional assistance at school. During these lessons, they were working with:
- The help of the students who had already completed the descriptions,
- The help of the teachers who offer additional assistance,
- My help with one of the students who needed more motivation.
The students were offered the possibility to prepare for the oral presentation at school or to do it at home. They all chose to do it at home, together with the animation and to upload it on the internet.
Setting the criteria
When we started the discussion for how to set the criteria for grading the presentation, this is what the students came up with: if each of the criteria is addressed, they should get one point. The students pointed out that it is also important when they are speaking, the pace should be slow, that they speak loud enough, clear and keep an eye contact with other students. They added one point for each of the above, except for keeping an eye contact with the classmates, where they decided to give two points.
After the presentation
Following the presentation, the pupils chose to write about the process and share it at the Fran Erjavec Primary School webpage.
Here are some of the challenges we came upon when using the programme. The programme does not work on most of the telephones. They needed to use computers or laptops.
Figure 10. A presentation at school
Figure 11. A presentation at school
Figure 12. A presentation at school
Transforming a drawing based on a text “My Strange Family” which the 6th graders wrote in a foreign language, in this example English, and then turning it into animation with an easy-to-use programme Animated Drawings presented by Meta AI Research is a successful example of how to stimulate creativity and have a finish product, an animation, as a result. I recommend using Animated Drawings where the finish product of the students’ writing literally becomes alive at the end of the process.