Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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« You’ve got Chocolate in my Peanut Butter! Teaching Transliteracy | Main | Transforming Student Learning with Technology in Art »

December 09, 2013

Allow us to Illustrate: Transliteracy in Action

When I learned that our school building’s improvement goal for the year was about common core standards in literacy I began trying to find ways to reinforce this in art class. I learned about close reading to examine the text and make predictions as I considered the role that illustrations have in helping young readers discover the meaning of words. So I invited my 5th grade students to work on a film project that would explain the role and benefits of illustrations. I created a permission slip explaining that participants may be singing, dancing, animating, storyboarding, and editing a film about illustration and that the product may be shared online, in contests, and/or film festivals.  Not only does the permission slip communicate with parents it helps to keep my numbers down to the first 10 students who return a signed slip.

Allow us to Illustrate from Tricia Fuglestad on Vimeo.

Organizing a movie project can be done with many different levels of student involvement. This particular project was structured with a song which became a guide to inform all their decisions. The song was an original composition using Garageband loops. The lyrics were written to teach the listeners about the benefits of illustration with each verse touching on a new idea. The chorus was a fun mix of repeated sounds based on the word “doodle”. My filmmakers rehearsed the song until they felt very comfortable singing before their peers.  Then they chose how to perform the song by creating parts. This decision happened before the storyboard step since it influences the visuals. They recorded the song into garageband using a simple USB microphone. We would pause the recording between parts, listen, evaluate, delete, and try again until every voice sang with a similar volume, clarity, and energy level. I am not a trained musician so I rely heavily on my students’ ability to apply their training. The more confident singers helped correct timing and key issues until we were all happy with our results.

Once we had our song recorded, our next step was to plan out the storyboard. This was a piece of roll paper with squares drawn in black marker. The filmmakers had the task of deciding how to best communicate the message of the song phrase by phrase. They decided that there would be a bit of dialogue during the introduction portion that would also introduce the concept of the story. Next, they sketched in what the camera would see in each square corresponding to each phrase of the song. We wanted to create a flow from one scene to the next while also creating a variety of images, shots, and movements. There was an energetic frenzy of creative problem-solving and flow of ideas.  Because so many amazing ideas we flowing so quickly we had trouble hearing everyone’s thoughts. So we jotted them on note cards to capture them for later.

The Making of Allow us to Illustrate from Tricia Fuglestad on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, I had learned about an exciting opportunity to be a part of beta-testing the DOINK green screen app. When my students said things like, “I want illustrations to float out of the book as I’m holding it.” I was able to do a quick inventory of the functions of this new app and determined that this idea was completely possible. When students said, “I want to draw a creature dancing along next to me.” Again, we discovered that the app can do this easily. After filling in all our ideas into the storyboard, we began preparing for filming. This step was necessary since they intended to interact with their own animations and illustrations. We used iPads to draw illustrations in Sketchbook Express and make animations in DOINK animation app. Students didn’t want this step to end. They would have been content drawing and animating all school year during our lunch recesses. Eventually we learned about a deadline for the student video contest. That motivated the students to wrap up the drawings and begin filming. At this point the students had become so comfortable with the drawing/animating tools on the iPads that they were teaching each other new tricks and exploring new ideas. So many of the original decisions evolved into better ones as they worked. They also learned how to navigate the iPads to save and share through the dropbox with one learning from me and in turn teaching the others. We discovered as we tested our animations that we needed to understand how to use the chroma key effect as we animated. This meant that their animation needed a saturated color background that was opposite to the character’s coloring so we could eliminate it with the chromo key function in the green screen app and create a transparent background to interact with our live footage. Once we moved to the filming stage, this all made sense.  

For more information about “Allow us to Illustrate” view this post from the Fugleblog.
The art room has a 12’x10’ green screen made of non-reflective muslin draped over a board. We don’t use special lighting since our room is evenly lit but I purchased an iPad tripod mount adaptor for this project since the filming would be done through the green screen iPad app. We loaded their animations to one iPad and began filming each scene from the storyboard. Since students were helping to beta test, we would sometimes sit down at the end of our session and compose an email to the app developer to give him feedback on how the app worked (or didn’t work).  There was a glitch in the app that kept us from being able to save our recordings. The filmmakers decided to keep trying, troubleshooting on our end, and communicating clearly with the app developer to help him understand what we were experiencing. Eventually, the app developer was able to fix the issue and we were able to continue filming.  This authentic real life application of communication, collaboration, and persistence was an unexpected and powerful learning experience for us all.

Fig. 3.Filmmakers Using the DOINK Green Screen App

Figure 3: Filmmakers Using the DOINK Green Screen App

Students worked on piecing all the video clips together, lining up the audio track to the images, creating credits, and making the behind the scenes video which they filmed throughout the whole 2 ½ month long project. The final video, Allow us to Illustrate, has become part of our Fugleflicks collection. It will be used as a teaching resource in our art program every time students need to reflect on the value of illustrations.
However, this transliteracy learning experience combining music, animation, video special effects, dancing, acting, and editing has given my filmmakers a valuable and authentic creative collaboration experience.

For more information about “Allow us to Illustrate” view this post from the Fugleblog.

-Tricia Fuglestad


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