Bev's adventures in ICT

Fantastic Journeys

Every child loves having the opportunity to create fantasy stories set in imaginary places but it can sometimes  be difficult to inspire pupils and get their creative juices flowing. It’s much easier if they can visualise a setting for their story and some pupils might need a little extra support to do this. So here’s an idea to get them enthused; and it costs nothing and is lots of fun too. It just involves a bit of fun photo editing.

We all know that visual images can be used to stimulate the senses and get pupils writing creatively so this project involves them creating some of their own. Now you could get your pupils to search on the internet for suitable landscape images, or use a site like Deviant art (not a site for children to access but very useful nonetheless)to find them a suitable selection to adapt, but the pictures created here used a set of clip art images I had prepared and created (you can download a few samples, if you want to use them, here). Of course you could extend the activity by getting the pupils to design their own landscape using a suitable art package first (like the ones listed here and here) before they manipulated it using a photo editing package – that’s up to you. It’s just the effect we’re after here: allowing the pupils to customise their image to transform it into something special.

The choice of photo editing software is totally up to you but there are some great online tools out there, many of which I’ve mentioned before, that are great for the job and easy to use. Tuxpi has a number of different photo effects available (although not all would be suitable for this activity). I especially like the way the heat map effect transforms the space scene above and makes it look truly ‘other worldly’. I’m also a big fan of Pixlr, which was used to create the unusual lighthouse image (utilising the water swirl filter followed by the color lookup effect). It also has a fabulous kaleidoscope filter which can look tremendous on some backgrounds – try it and see!

Of course the images don’t have to be a riot of colour (although that’s what I appear to be showcasing here): simple filters that tweak the backgrounds slightly (such as altering the pictures hue and saturation levels) can be just as effective. Different editing suites have slightly different settings and it’s worth investigating a few yourself to see which you prefer. I like to give the pupils a choice so I’ve looked at a number of them including FotoFlexer, MyImager and Picnik (to name just a few). Choice is key and different layouts might suit different pupils in addition to which the pupils may already know of something else that they use at home – and I’m all in favour of finding out something from the pupils.

I’m not saying you have to use online tools though. If you’ve got suitable software installed just go ahead and use that! With younger pupils, and those who need additional support, I like to use Photo Simple as the interface really lends itself for use with that group of pupils and it has two settings (simple and advanced) that you can ‘match up’ the pupil’s abilities. Downloadable items like Fotosketcher and Irfanview could also be used for an activity like this: both are free and have different things to offer so they’re definitely worth exploring.

Finally, I’d like to emphasise that this activity, while providing a useful link to ICT in the classroom and being a lot of fun, is really a way to get pupils engaged in their creative story writing. Once they’ve created the settings pupils could print them out and brainstorm suitable vocabulary (using post it notes), or do the same thing online by importing the picture into Linoit or Dabbleboard and doing it that way. You could even extend the activity into character creation to go with the fantasy backgrounds. How about displaying the finished images onto your IWB and giving the pupils sentence starters? Or using them as a starting point to work on similes? Take it wherever you need it to go – I’m sure the children will love it!

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