Animation in the Elementary Classroom

Many children’s first experience with technology is animation.  So it makes sense that animation can have a valuable and influential impact in the classroom. Currently in my coursework we are looking at ISTE Standards for Educators, specifically Standard 5: Designer- Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability. (ISTE, 2017).  One of the three indicators for this standard reads “Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.” (ISTE, 2017)  One way I have used technology to personalize learning experiences for students is through animation. Through animation I have been able to differentiate my instruction, engage my students, and help all learners make connections to the real world.  


Using Animation to Hook Students and Create Connections


As I mentioned in the previous paragraph many children’s first experience with screens is with animation. Cartoons have an ability to hook very young children (which can be viewed as positive or negative) and also have the ability for toddler and preschool age children to begin to form connections to “people” outside of their family.  In a blog post on ASCD, Janelle Vargo writes about “10 Reasons to Use Animation in the Classroom” (Vargo, 2017). She discusses how she has seen her students adjust their behavior due to the positive influences of animated characters and videos.  Of Vargo’s 10 Reasons, I have chosen the 5 that I agree with the most and have experienced in my personal and professional life. Here are my “top picks” from Vargo’s list (Vargo, 2017):


  1. “Students in K-2 Classrooms Relate to Animated Characters”
  2. “Animated Stories Can Teach Empathy”
  3. “Student’s Imitate the Character’s Behavior”
  4. “Animated Stories are an Effective Way to Convey Information”
  5. “Stories Create a Shared Viewing Experience”


Students come to us with social-emotional needs that, when not addressed, can hinder their learning experiences in our classrooms.  Animation is a tool that can be used to help address these needs and create a classroom community based on common language, relatable character “friends”,  and shared experiences.


The Art of Creating Animation


Most things that we enjoy watching or experiencing, we are bound to want to try out. How is that done? Can I do that? Creating animation in the classroom can be multidisciplinary, is learner-driven, and can be adapted to accommodate a variety of learning styles and skill sets. Animation can be a very authentic learning experience for a variety of subject areas. In my classroom I have had students create animated stories with no guidelines just to introduce them to the process. Other times I have given a specific assignment (example: create an animated video on how you got to school this morning) and/or given them instructions for features I wanted them to use or the length of their animated story.  In my experience, students approached creating the animations in very different ways. It allowed for me to see the diversity in my students’ creativities and how they worked through the design process in different ways. One thing that all students had in common was that they wanted an audience for their animations; they wanted to share their story with their peers and with me. This is what I want for my students. I want them to want to share their stories and to be comfortable and confident sharing their thinking and their creativity.


Best Programs for Elementary Students is a website that I use frequently in my classroom. I like the variety and value of the programs on the website and I appreciate that the programs are free. (There is a fee to go ad-free and for use on tablets and phone.) One of the digital tools on that I have used for my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students is Animate. I found the Animate Tutorial, which is only a couple minutes long, to be a great resource and I have shown this to each class when I introduced the program. The students found it very helpful and at times I saw them revisiting the tutorial on their own.  Animate seems best for upper elementary students who have had no or limited experience creating animation. There is an option to export an animation as a GIF file, although I have yet to do this with my students. Here are some of my favorite features on Animate:

  1. Copy Frame– I like the ability to copy each frame and how this is really emphasized in the tutorial video.
  2. Images– There are numerous images students can choose from when creating their animation. This takes away the pressure to create original drawing for those students who choose not to or have limited time.
  3. Edit Background– There are 7 backgrounds to choose from as well as the option to create your own or upload an image.
  4. Frame Rate– Students can view their animation in slow, medium, or fast speed and choose to play it in a loop as well.

While there are many other options for creating animation in the classroom, I have found success in terms of student engagement, ease of use, and the ability to accomodate for all learners with using Animate from  I especially like that it is a free program. Most other programs had costs involved in the purchase of the apps and/or weren’t compatible for the platforms I use in my classroom. If interested in other options, I encourage you to visit Common Sense Media’s blog for “16 Websites and Apps for Making Videos and Animation”. I found several apps on this list that seem to be good options when I am ready to take animation to the next level in my classroom.



Holderman, E. (2014). Common Sense Media website (Retrieved on May 1, 2018) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Educators. (Retrieved on 2018, April 30) from:

Vargo, J. (2017). ASCD Website (Retrieved on May 1, 2018) from:



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