From Puppets to YouTube in 2 Hours: Stop Motion Movies for Teens

By Barratt Miller, Crook County Library


Want to do some sort of tech-y, maker-y program for your teens but have limited time, money, and fancy supplies? Never fear! You, too, can get a room full of teens to make 30-second stop motion movies in a single 2-hour program using supplies you probably already have on hand.

What is a stop motion movie, you ask? The formal definition is “a filming technique used in animation, in which the camera is stopped after filming each frame or every few frames so as to allow objects within the scene, such as clay figures or paper cutouts, to be adjusted for the following frame.” For our purposes, it’s movie-making using photographs instead of video footage.

I don’t have room to include the full lesson plan or song clips in this article. If you want to use any of my resources, shoot me an e-mail at and I’ll send the files your way! [Files are available on the OYAN Blog:]

Step 1: Preparation, Preparation, Preparation…and Set Some Limitations

I modified the lesson plan from a workshop I attended in grad school. Luckily for you, all of the resources have been put online at:

Since it’s easy to get carried away with time-intensive activities like arguing over the plot or choosing the perfect soundtrack, I set some limitations to keep the teens on track:

Each person chose ONE character for the film. We used the puppets from our children’s storytime collection and borrowed action figures from other staff members.

Films had to be 30-seconds or less. To keep the plot simple, I gave the teens a worksheet that asked: where do you character start, where do they end, and how do they get there?

 I preselected the music. Prior to the program, I used Jamendo ( to find Creative Commons-licensed music and used Audacity ( to edit the songs into 30-second clips.

No dialogue or video clips allowed. While these elements could have been used in the program, having too many options makes it easy to get distracted. Keeping it simple kept everyone on schedule.

Prep your tech. I made sure all of our computers were pre-loaded with the audio files and Windows MovieMaker so that the teens could start editing their films as soon as they were done taking photos. It also helps to make a practice video so you can help the teens with the editing process. If you want to post the videos online, you’ll also need to sign up for a free YouTube account.

Step 2: Gather Your Supplies

Luckily, the supply list for this program is pretty straightforward. You’ll need:

Characters. Toys! We used puppets from the children’s storytime collection and action figures on loan from other staff members. You could also pick up toys from the thrift store, order tiny dinosaurs from Oriental Trading, or ask teens to bring their own.

Craft Supplies. Index cards, pencils, plot worksheets, construction paper, scissors, string. We used some of the supplies for activities and some were available to create speech bubbles and scenery. String (especially fishing line) allows the teens to manipulate their characters for effects like flying.

Technology. Cameras or some sort of picture-taking device. Computers loaded with Windows MovieMaker. Audio files for the soundtrack, preferably loaded onto a flash drive. A YouTube account if you want to post your videos online. We had a camera, an iPod, and an iPad available but all of the teens used their own cameras or smartphones. (If you ask teens to bring their own tech, make sure they also bring connecting cables so you can upload the photos onto the computer!)

Step 3: Stick to the Plan

6:30-6:45 PM: Introductions. What is stop motion? Watch Penguin’Stuff video.

6:45-7:00 PM: What is a character? Choose a character. Write the character’s name and one interesting fact about them on an index card. With your group, choose a setting for your film.

7:00-7:15 PM: What is mood? Listen to music samples and choose your mood. What is plot? Fill out plot worksheet with your group.

7:15-7:45 PM: Spend up to 10 minutes doing a walkthrough to work out any bugs before you start taking pictures. Take your photos.

7:45-8:15 PM: Import your photos into Windows MovieMaker. Import your soundtrack. Edit the film, adjusting the length of the photo display time to match the music.  Save movie (Save movie arrow_310_1 For high definition display saves it as a YouTube compatible file, not a MovieMaker file) and post to YouTube.

8:15-8:30 PM: Watch movies. Clean up.


The short films are fairly basic but impressive nonetheless! Our teen’s produced three 30-second masterpieces:

Best of all, teens can use their newfound knowledge to make more complex stop motion films using their smartphones and free video-editing software.


“The Teen Video Challenge is an annual event from the Collaborative Summer Library Program, which encourages teens to create their own 30-90 second videos promoting Summer Reading. One winner from Oregon will represent us on the national CSLP website, and all the state winners will be posted for anyone to use to promote their “Spark a Reaction” teen summer reading program for 2014. Each state’s winners will also receive a cash prize of $275, plus their public library gets goodies from Upstart/Highsmith/Demco worth $125.

We had two terrific entries this year, one from Cedar Mill Library and one from Dexter McCarty Middle School in Gresham. To place your vote:

1) go to the OYAN TVC channel on YouTube ( by midnight this Sunday

2) click on the 2014 TVC Playlist

3) watch the videos

4) rejoice that such amazing talents glow so bright among our young people

5) place your vote by clicking “Like” for the one you like best.

Here’s a direct link to the 2014 TVC OR entries playlist:

Go! Vote! Rejoice!”

Your OYAN CSLP Liaison,
Abbie Anderson