“They’re strong VERBALLY.” How often have you heard that? Has it become an euphemism? Or is it, perhaps, a truism?

Animato – a free digital slideshow maker – can allow pupils to connect with texts, ideas and values in an intuitive and engaging way. Sometimes connecting with a first response through writing is akin to shooting down a flock of ducks one at a time. For some pupils, this generous analogy sees the shotgun become a pea-shooter and the ducks a flight of swallows.

Rather than shooting down ideas and responses at this stage of the game, why not use a slideshow to frame initial responses, and then peer-assess and see what connections are made from the images and music?

My class – an able year 9 – took as their inspiration ‘Breathe’ by Cliff McNish (a genuinely creepy read.) Their remit was to create a moving slideshow, with music, to justify why they had chosen the images, and then for the class to comment if they found the transitions creatively inspiring.

This was what we did:
Signed up to a free educational account via the animoto website, therefore giving us 30-odd accounts and usernames.

1) After reading the first section of the book, the pupils brainstormed different aspects of horror film. (Caution, you may be shocked by the extent of a teenager’s knowledge of Japanese psychological horror.)

2) Using www.zamzar.com/url, we found suitably spooky music for homework (the most popular were a tubular bells take-off, and the theme from ‘Ringu’, which some pupils commented reminded them of Pingu. Pingu was scary though.)

3) In one session, pupils watched the following video.

4) They then ran up to the computer room and, after logging onto two computers and working in pairs (a cunning ploy to double the chances of someone having a working computer), they found between eight and fifteen suitable pictures. To differentiate, I had links to some Google searches on the pupil work area, and a bank of images already found.

If you intend to publish the videos, I recommend that you use Flickr’s Creative Common’s option.

5) Pupils then whacked the images and the music together, a process that involved simply clicking ‘ok’ repeatedly. Again, this was differentiated by some pupils adding text and ‘highlighting’ the most important pictures. Pleasingly, this was done naturally by the students without prompting by myself.

6) All the videos were sent to my original email address about 5-10 mins after completion, allowing us to view some competed videos that lesson.

7) When viewing the videos the lesson after, pupils were encouraged to explain how the video could be made into a short story. Modelling was necessary for this I found.

An example of a video can be found here: