Students will use a stopmotion technique to create a simple two-dimensional and/or three-dimensional animation that communicates an idea. They will also be able to define the concepts of: placement, framing, direction, and speed.


Show different examples of stop motion animation. Some DVDs of animation include “Making Of” documentaries that can also be a great way to begin discussing the techniques and strategies used in stop motion.




Students choosing objects to animate

How Can Students Create an Animated Stop Motion Narrative?


Have students spend up to an hour discussing, brainstorming, and writing everything down. Challenge students in suggesting new ideas and adding to existing ideas. Even weak ideas can be developed into something good!


  • Remind students that great ideas can come from simple, every day experiences.

  • Have students take notes and write down their thoughts on the plot, the scenes, the characters, and any extra details that come to mind while they are writing.

  • KEEP IT SIMPLE! The shortest and simplest concepts are the easiest to animate. Limit them to one or two characters, so that they can concentrate on the details.

  • The approach students take (2-D, 3-D or combined) should support their overall idea.


A script is the written description of the actions that will take place. Ask students questions such as:

  • What is your theme or idea?
  • What sort of personality would you like to create?
  • How long do you plan for this to be? How many frames and fps is that? (Make them do the math!)
  • Who in your group will do which production jobs?
  • What materials or objects will you need to collect?
  • What kind of background will you need?
  • Will 2D or 3D technique work better for this particular story? Why?
  • What different shots do you need? What close-ups?
  • Attach your storyboard! Have you varied the scale, pace, angle or whatever of the shots?
  • What else do you want to say about your idea?

Cut paper character


The story then is ready to be visually depicted as a storyboard outlining the plot, characters, and backgrounds. Remind students that storyboarding and planning on paper saves time and energy because they will figure out all the details before committing to the animation. Storyboarding will also ensure that each group selects the one approach best suited to the basic concept they’ve identified. Using poster board, preferably large, and a packet of Post-it-notes, sort out the ideas and images to be used. Divide up the page, discuss the sequence of shots, and draw in key transitions or moments, making notes as necessary. Label each section of the storyboard with sequence, camera angle, timing, and other directorial information as you go.


Once groups have decided on the story they will be telling and have created their storyboards, they need to begin gathering their props, characters, and back drops to be ready to film their animation.

Backgrounds for stop motion animation can be created from just about any materials you have on hand:

  • Art materials such as: crayons, markers, construction paper, colored paper, watercolors, cardboard boxes, whiteboard, blackboards, tempera paint, clay, etc.
  • Real objects: a rock for a boulder, a branch for a tree, etc.
  • Animated background: one that changes during the course of your animation.

Remember, arranging a 3D space with objects in the foreground can give your animation a nice sense of depth. Make sure that your background is the same scale as your characters, and that it will fill the frame for whatever camera you will use to capture the images.


Cut paper background

Cut paper character close-up

Student working on Animation Stand


You can use almost any camera to capture the individual frames of your animation. The advantage of using a digital camcorder is that it can save each picture directly onto the computer's hard drive as you take it.

Animation Stand

In 2D stop motion animation, the camera is positioned directly above the background upon which the cutout characters lay flat.

The camera is mounted on a tripod because you don't want the camera to move at all during the picture-taking process.



How do I Record Stop Motion?


Instructors may evaluate this project using the general rubric provided. Select or add criteria depending upon the needs or levels of your students, and/or other curricular concerns. This lesson introduces new terminology therefore instructors should give a quiz. In addition to that formal final assessment I encourage teachers to conduct informal, in-progress assessment thinking about questions like these:

  • How well are the groups working together?

  • How well are group members communicating?

  • To what extent is each group member contributing to the project?


© 2008 Karin Gunn. All rights reserved.
Last Updated: February 2008