RSA animation in the classroom

Inspired by the RSA Animation method of presenting information, my grade 11 IB History class decided to try it out on some Russian History. Specifically, we wanted to illustrate a historiographical dispute on why Tsarism failed in Russia after 300 years. What follows is a step by step account on how to pursue this method of communicating an idea.

  1. Your students will need to create a “storyboard” that will look something like this:


The storyboard is essential. It will require the students to illustrate their ideas, with appropriate written captions. The image above is a partial outline of our RSA Animation.

2. You will want to post this storyboard on a wall, cabinet, etc.. where the artist who will be drawing the images for the film can easily see it. Keep in mind that owing to the nature of RSA animations, the artist remains in a fixed position during filming. S/he will be using the storyboard as a template for the final product. Be extra thoughtful in terms of storyboard placement.

3. It is now time to mount the camera that will be used during filming. We decided on an overhead mount, as you can see from the image below. However I have also heard of students doing RSA animations on the whiteboard, which would require a shoulder mounted camera, or a camera fixed to tripod and placed on a table. Be sure the camera battery is charged. And remember to have an SD card or USB cable handy to transfer the video to a computer after filming. Good lighting is also essential.

4. You are now ready to create. For this stage, you will need LOTS of paper, that you will want to tape end to end, like a scroll. One student will need to drag the scroll across the writing table as the artist draws the images. You will also want to have several markers of different colors ready. Here is our crew in action:

RSA Script

You can see from the above picture the camera mounted overhead, the script, and the white paper posted on the cabinet to the right of the student is the storyboard.

5. It is now time to edit. Provided the filming was completed in one clip, the work is relatively easy. More likely, there will be several clips cobbled together. It is essential that the sound overlay matches the drawing. We used imovie, and our editor was able to speed up the drawing so that it matched the speaking. Here is the final product:

The student feedback on this project was very positive. Most importantly, the tedious, repetitive process of creating the video made for solid retention of concepts, events, people, and dates. Overall, a thumping success, and I must confess to feelings of pride when I watch the video. A lot of effort goes into the creation. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do….

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