Short Stop Motion Film: Ocean Animals and Their Habitats
By Beth
New Literacies Unit

This unit is designed to have kindergartners collaborate to produce information about an ocean animal and its environment to be shared with their school and family community. The goal is to have students work together to create understanding of ocean animals and habitats. Then help others learn from them.

The world students are growing up in revolves around technology and digital media. Students need to learn to be a part of this culture, one that produces knowledge and shares it, and interacts with other people. Students will be exposed to various new literacies: oral (sounds), visual, and research, to help them develop a stop motion film (Martinez, 2010). “The new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking” (Jenkins et al., 2006, p 19). Students need new literacies to use technology to the fullest potential. New literacies create “new ways of designing and communicating meaning” (Vasudevan, 2010, p63). The culture these students are part of is the participatory culture. This unit strives to bring that culture into the classroom so that these students can have 21st century skills, collaborating, problem solving, inquiry, reflecting, and critical thinking in a digital world.

Students will be working together to create a short stop motion film. In today’s world, people are expected to “master new social skills that allow them to listen to and respond to a range of different perspectives” (Jenkins et al., 2006, p53). This unit helps kindergartners start developing these social skills. Kindergarten is an important age to develop social skills that can be carried on throughout their school career. In this unit students will be working together to create a product for others to view. They will need to share ideas and listen to each other. They will be collaborating on a level they never have before. Through their collaboration they will be solving problems and deciding which direction to take their project. This will push the students to work together and communicate their ideas. They can bounce ideas off of each other and pose questions to one another to gain clarification. Their ideas can piggy back off of each other. These are important skills in participatory culture. These students will be “learning to be” part of participatory culture.

In this unit students will be picking an animal to investigate based on their interest. It is extremely important that the students have some choice. If they are interested in the animal, they will want to find out more. They will be invested in the project. “Students passion can set the stage for students to acquire both a deep knowledge about a subject (“learning about”) and the ability to participate in…productive inquiry and peer-based learning (“learning to be”)” (Seely Brown & Alder, 2008, np). This project has many layers: researching the animal, creating a story, making props and a setting for the story, filming the story, and editing the film. There are different aspects that can interest each student. The students might come in with knowledge of some areas (editing, picture taking, making props, ocean knowledge) that they can teach to their group. “People can participate in various ways according to their skills and interests, because they depend on peer-to-peer teaching with each participant constantly motivated to acquire new knowledge or refine their existing skills” (Jenkins et al., 2006, p.9). They will be learning from each other throughout this unit. They will be motivated by their interest. Students need to be actively engaged in learning. What the students are learning should matter to them. They need it to be relevant and want to find out more. They should be asking questions and determining where the investigation goes. This unit has boundaries, but students determine the story, what questions they need answered, what message they want to share with others.

Students need to research to learn about their animal and its environment. There are many options on how to gather research. Students can read books, go online and read articles, look at websites, watch videos, and find photographs. They can ‘pull’ information from anywhere they want. They are deciding how to go about finding the answers they need. They need to research with a critical eye, “learn skills to evaluate and selectively use this information” (Martinez, 2010, p.73). This unit will introduce them to thinking critically when gathering information. It has the “capacity to teach young people not just sills but ethics and values and understandings about the world” (Knobel & Lankshear, 2010, p.182). Each student might find different information when researching. They will work together to decide which information is accurate and determine which information they want to use.

They will create a visual representation based on the research they gather. They will listen to videos and music to develop their understanding of an ocean animal as well as how a film relays a message. It provides them other ways of thinking about ocean animals and their environment. They will use what they learn through these various media to make their own film. The meaning they make and the stop motion film they create will involve team work. Their film will reflect their understanding of the ocean animal. It will be meaningful to them, because they are taking ownership. It will be their ideas and how they want to convey them. This is activity based learning (Knobel & Lankshear, 2011). They are doing something and learning information as they go about completing this unit. They can take the skills (collaboration, problem solving, producing) learned in short motion film and apply it to other content areas, projects. They are learning facts, but also learning how to learn.

Stop motion film encourages students’ creativity. They make the story, set, and props. It will be their original work of art. We need to be “nurturing the innovator and creative producer in every person” (Knobel & Lankshear, 2011, p 216). They are responsible for the materials they use, the story they tell, and how it all comes together. It provides students with another way to express themselves.

This unit encourages the sharing of ideas. Students are expected to reflect on their work as well as their classmates. They will provide feedback to each other. Each child has a voice and it is valued. Through these interactions they will be encouraging each other to develop their understanding. They will be teaching themselves and each other (Vasudevan, 2010). Everyone has something to offer to this activity. These interactions allow for different perspectives and ideas about the world. The ideas of others can provide new ways of thinking about ocean animals, writing a story, creating a film, making the props, and finding information. They have a chance to hear other ways of thinking. Through these interactions students will learn more about themselves and others. “The art of stop motion resonates closely with philosophies of arts-based education, which, values imagination, creativity, story telling, performance, active participation, collaboration, and self expression” (Knobel & Lankshear, 2010, p 182). Film helps develop “language, critical analysis, and literacy skills” (Hobbs &Jensen, 2009, p2).

Students will be producers of knowledge. They are encouraged in this project to ask questions, seek answers and make connections between ideas and the real world. Students will have a creative way to represent their understanding. Stop motion film will help them see learning and the world in a different way. They will be able to create stop motion films on other topics and collaborate with people of diverse backgrounds.

5.3.2.C.1 Describe the ways in which organisms interact with each other and their habitats in order to meet basic needs.
5.3.2 C.2 Identify the characteristics of a habitat that enable the habitat to support the growth of many different plants and animals.
W.K.3. Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.
W.K.7. Participate in shared research and writing projects.
W.K.8. With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
21st Century Standards
9.1.4.A.2 Evaluate available resources that can assist in solving problems.
9.1.4.A.4 Use data accessed on the Web to inform solutions to problems and the decision-making process.
9.1.4.A.5 Apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills in classroom and family settings.
9.1.4.B.1 Participate in brainstorming sessions to seek information, ideas, and strategies that foster creative thinking
Objectives Students will apply critical thinking skills to collaborate to
create a stop motion film about ocean animals and their environment.
Differentiate between predator and prey.
write the script for their film. make a storyboard, props, and set.
edit stop motion film.
Objectives After Short Stop Motion Film is Shared
Students will
compare ocean animals
reflect on the project
respond to others stop motion film.
Unit Description
Students will collaborate in groups to create a film of an ocean animal in its habitat. Students will pick an ocean animal to learn about. Students will focus on the animal’s habitat and the way it interacts in its environment. Students will become knowledgeable of animals as predator and prey. They will learn how ocean animals protect themselves (camouflage, hard shell, etc.) and live in their environment. They will research and gather information to help them depict their animal accurately.

In their groups, they will be responsible for creating a nonfiction story. They will write a script for their story. They will learn how to work together to make a story representing how the animal interacts in the ocean: what part of the ocean it lives in, how it moves, what it eats or is eaten by. Next, they will work together to draw out each part of the story to create a storyboard that they will use to create the set and props. Students will use different mediums to make the props and set. They will learn how to work together to make each piece and how to arrange the set and props to make animation that flows. It will involve listening to each other and discussing the best way to take on this activity.

They will use digital cameras to take pictures for the film and upload them on the computer. Using editing software, Windows Movie Maker, students will learn to piece together the pictures to create a film. They will work on timing and adding music. Students will learn how to find music and add it to the animation. They will understand the importance that music plays in setting the tone of a film. Each student will be responsible for a task and each member will be instrumental in the creation and editing of the film.

After students finish their stop motion film, they will reflect on the project. They will share what they liked and didn’t like, what they learned, and what they would do differently. Then each film will be shared with the whole class. The class will comment on each group’s film and make comparisons between the habitats, prey and predators. The films will be shared with the rest of the school for feedback and will be posted for the parents to view.
This unit will enlist the help of parent volunteers and older students. They will sit with a group to answer any questions and help with technology if need be. They can read information that the children find. Also, they will be available as a sounding board for the children. They can listen to discussions and help pose questions to help the students along. Since this is the first time students will be working together on short motion film.
Digital cameras
Windows Movie Maker
Day 1
Begin by reading Under the Sea to the class. Name the animals in the story. Create a list of ocean animals. Model writing about an ocean animal that you like. Then students will write about an ocean animal they are interested in and share it with the class. Students will form groups based on the ocean animal they want to know more about. (Some tweaking might need to be involved so that there aren’t uneven numbers of people in the groups or a group of one).

Day 2
Explain that they are going to create a short stop motion film. They will need to work as a group to make the film. A stop motion film is a movie made with lots of pictures. Show students different stop motion films about ocean animals. (This will give them ideas of what they can do for their stop motion film).
Stop Motion Ocean Films
(50 seconds - fish swimming in the ocean)
  1. (1-15seconds)
(30 seconds)
After they watch the films, have students reflect on them in their groups. Pass out the reflection sheet. Older students will help the children read the questions. What did you notice? What were the characters? What was the setting? What was happening in the film? What do you think the message was? How did the music make you feel? Was it a happy film or a sad film? Then share thoughts with the whole class. Help children make the connection that music helps set the feel (tone) of the film.
Day 3 and 4
In groups, begin to search for information about their animal.
  • Where it lives?
  • What does the environment look like?
  • What does the animal look like? What are the features of the animal?
  • What does the animal eat?
  • What eats the animal?
  • How do they protect themselves from predators?
Students will search for answers starting at[[%20|]]And and
They can look for YouTube videos of their animal. They can find pictures of their animal.They will use the recording sheet to write or draw answers to the questions or any useful information. Students can divide up the questions, work in pairs, or each find the answers and come together to discuss once they are done. They will share something they learned.
Days 5- 6
Students will work together to create the script/story they want to make about their animal and how it interacts with its environment. What do you want your short motion film to be about? Pick a theme:
  • show the animal as it moves through the habitat to find something to eat
  • show it in the habitat eating its prey (or plant)
  • show the animal in its habitat trying to protect/escape its predator.
Students will have paper to write or draw their ideas for the script. They will need to come to a consensus. Adults might need to help students listen to each other and make connections between ideas, help facilitate collaboration.
Day 7 and 8
Model making a storyboard. For example tell the students that you are making a storyboard for your script of an octopus spraying ink at its prey. Draw the various parts of the script. Start with the setting. Model think aloud, “I’m making the sand on the bottom of the ocean and some rocks since an octopus can be found there.” Next add the octopus. Then the dolphin looking for food and the octopus spraying the dolphin when it gets close. Then the dolphin swimming off.
Storyboard: Students will get a large piece of post it note paper to work together to sketch out their vision of the story. They will sketch their animal and the other animals they want in their story. They need to visualize how each scene should look for their story. They will be sketching how the scene changes throughout the story.

Practice making a stop motion film. First model how to set up the camera. Then model taking a picture of a ball and moving it ever so slightly. Repeat taking the picture and moving the ball until the ball is in a location 6 inches away. Give each group a digital camera and an object (lego, clay, car, etc.) to make move. Students will practice doing what was done with the ball. They will need to make someone the picture taker and the rest will help move the object.Students will work on creating the stop motion film on the computer as you model the steps. Each group will have a computer. Use the projector to project your computer screen and walk the students through the steps to down load pictures and upload them in Windows Movie Maker. After each step, have the children try. Next show them how to choose the timing for each picture. Let the children play around with this. Show them how to add music using Let them play around with music. Show how to add credits and a title. Again they should be able to play around. They will be more comfortable with the program for when they make their ocean short motion film.

Days 10-12 (longer if need be)
Students will create their set and props. Each child should be responsible for an element or aspect of the set/props. They need to collaborate to make sure everyone has a job and knows what they are doing. They can divide up parts of the storyboard, making sure every element will be made. Students can draw pictures, cut out construction paper, or make figures out of clay. They can bring in objects from home. It can be a combination of mediums. This is where their creativity and originality will shine. They will communicate where the props go. They should be working on discussing how it will come together, how the pieces will move, what is needed to represent each prop the way they want. They should be using their storyboard as a guide.
Day 13
Mock trial – students will work together to act out the script. They will place the setting and props where they are going to film in the classroom. They will figure out how to set up the camera so that there isn’t a lot of movement, if any. They should walk through how they are moving the pieces, when each piece (prop) comes into play. This is a trial run so they can make sure they have everything they need. They will figure out who is moving what and where. If they want to make the plants in the ocean move, they will practice how to do this. They should take some pictures and download them on the computer. They can upload into Windows Movie Maker to see how it is coming together and flowing. This will allow them to get a sense of how this film will come together and any changes that need to be made. They will need to communicate well and listen to each other for this to go smoothly.
Day 14
They are ready to film. They need to put the camera in place and make sure it is stationary. They will walk through the script making sure each piece is where they want it. They will slowly add, move, take away, and adjust the pieces (props) as needed to create a film that flows. They will need to make sure that when they move away, they are standing in the same place so that the lighting remains constant. Their communication and collaboration skills are key here.

Students will download the pictures on the computer and upload them into Windows Movie Maker. They will collaborate on the timing of each picture. They will use to find music to go with their stop motion film. They will add a title and credits.
Day 16
They will watch their film and reflect on it using the reflection sheet (Reflection Sheet For Your Stop Motion Film). They will share with their group their thoughts about the film.

Day 17
The class will take turns sharing each group’s film. After all films have been shared the class will discuss in their groups first their thoughts. They will use the Reflections of Ocean Stop Motion Films sheet. After they share with their group, they will share with the class.
The rubric will be used to assess the children. It will be gone over at the beginning of the unit and throughout. As it is explained to the students, it will be adapted to more child friendly terms.

Accommodations: There will be parent volunteers and older children in the classroom, paired up with each group. This will give students that need extra help another person to guide them and answer their questions. Some students might have trouble writing their ideas. They will draw them instead. Some students might not be able to spell words to search online. The adults and older students can help with that. Any of these activities could take longer than planned. We will be flexible with time. Also, not every group will go at the same pace. With volunteers, there will be more freedom for groups to work at their pace to accomplish what they need to get done.

National Geographic for Kids:
YouTube Videos: videos of ocean animals

Teacher Resources
How to make a stop motion film
Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (eds.) (2010). DYI Media Chapter 7 –Stop Motion Animation. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Matte, C. How to make a stop motion animation movie. Retrieved from
How to Steps and Sample lesson for students

Examples of stop motion films kindergartners have done. They can do it.

Activity Pages


Animal: __

Where it lives?

What does it look like where it lives?

What does the animal look like?

What are the features of the animal?

What does the animal eat?

What eats the animal?

How does the animal protect itself from predators?

Stop Motion Reflection Sheet

1. What did you notice?

2. What were the characters?

3. What was the setting?

4. What was happening in the film?

5. What do you think the message was?

6. How did the music make you feel?

7. Was it a happy film or a sad film? Why do you think that?

Reflection Sheet For Your Stop Motion Film

1. What did you like about your film?

2. Were you happy with your film?

3. Did you work nicely with the people in your group?

4. What did you film teach us?

5. Is there anything you didn’t like about this project?

6. What do you think you could do differently?

Reflections of Ocean Stop Motion Films (these questions should be tweak to fit the stories the groups will be telling)

1. What did you like about the films?

2. Was there anything the same in the films?

3. How did the habitats compare?



4. What were the characters in the films?

5. Which characters were predators?

6. Which characters were prey?

7. How did the ocean animals protect themselves?

8. What did you learn?

9. Is there anything you are still curious about?

Name Date
Stop Motion Film Rubric

Needs Improvement
Script (W.K.3, W.K.7, W.K.8, 9.1.4 B.1)
Characters and setting are clear. Story makes sense and moves from one idea to the next in sequential order.
Character and setting are clear. Story makes sense a detail or two is missing.
Character and setting. Missing parts that would connect the story. Ideas lacking detail.
Storyboard (W.K.3, W.K.7, W.K.8, 9.1.4.B.1)
Detailed planning. Was followed closely during filming
Good planning, could have made animation better if a little more detailed.
Provided a general idea, caused animation to be confusing
Sets/props (9.1.4 A.4, A.5, B.1)
Sets/characters/ props were well crafted and interesting (creative)
Sets/characters/ props were nicely crafted and interesting (creative).
Sets/characters/ props were rushed and messy. Not interesting (creative).
Editing (9.1.4 B.1)
Music added to the story. The film flowed nicely. Credits and title were included.
Music added to the story. A little choppy. Credits and title were included.
Missing something credits or title. Or music choice didn’t match the story. Or film was very choppy.
Team Effort (9.1.4.A.5, B.1)
Students cooperated with each other. Everyone did an equal share.
Students cooperated with each other. Someone did a little more
Students had trouble working together. Not sharing the work.
Protection (5.3.2 C.2)
Students accurately conveyed the meaning of predator/prey or idea of protection. Clearly tell which animal is predator/prey, or how it was protected.
Students left some information to be implied.
They were missing/confused an element (predator/prey or protection).
Accuracy (5.3.2.C.1)
The ocean animal is depicted correctly in its environment. Moving, eating
The ocean animal is in its environment. Missing some details
Ocean animal is in an ocean environment. Not sure if it is its habitat. Lacking details to show clear understanding.
Discussion/ reflection (9.1.4. A.5, B.1)
Actively participated in discussion and reflection, shared ideas, and expanded on others
Responded to discussion, shared some ideas
Made a comment, or agree with someone else, didn’t share own idea

Works Cited
Brown, J., &Adler, R. (2008). Minds on fire: Open education, the long tail, and Learning 2.0. Educause Review. 43(1): 17-32. Retrieved from
Hobbs, R., & Jensen, A., (2009). The past, present, and future of media literacy education. Journal of Media Literacy Education. 1(1):1-11.
Jenkins, H., with R. Purushotma, K. Clinton, M. Weigel, & A. Robison (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st
Century. Retrieved from
Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2011). __Chapter 7and 8 on social learning from__ __New__ __Literacies:____Everyday Practices and Social Learning__. New York: Open University
Press, 209-254. pdf
Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (eds.) (2010). DYI Media. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Martinez, M. (2010). New literacies for a new era. Phi Delta Kappan. 92(3), 72-73.
Vasudevan, L. (2010). Education remix: new media, literacies, and the emerging digital geographies. 62-82. Retrieved from