Make a Zoetrope: A Short Lesson on How to Create a Simple Animation

This lesson introduces concepts of animation and visual storytelling through the production of a zoetrope. Kids also have a chance to practice cooperative interaction, reading and writing.


  • Use of mouse—clicking, selecting objects
  • Use of Web browser—back, forward, up, down tool bars; adjust sound in video window; adjust frames in video window
  • Listening, taking turns, sharing tools
  • Composing original sentences
  • Reading—sight recognition of letters and words, decoding
  • Drawing
  • Planning—predicting an action and how to represent it visually

Materials and Equipment: 
Like Likes Like by Chris Raschka (children's book), Large index cards, Pencils, Easel paper,
Fine tip colored markers, Manila folders, Scissors, Plastic lazy susan (for zoetrope), Cardboard strip, enough to create zoetrope at least 10" in diameter
QuickTime, How to Make a Zoetrope, by Ruth Hayes, from the Random Motion site, Videos by students at Hoffer Elementary School in Banning, California, from the California Museum of Photography site
Preparation (Before You Begin): 
    • Give a pencil and a manila folder to each child.
    • Prepare Web page with links to video sites.
    • Place Web page shortcut icon on desktops.
    • Download QuickTime onto at least five workstations.
    • Charge up digital camera batteries.
    • Make zoetrope.
    • Cut paper to make zoetrope animation strips.
Activity Steps: 
    • Word for the day/Organic reading and writing exercise (20 min.)
      Group in circle. The children each have a turn to give one word that is "their" word." It could be a word that describes a feeling, something that is special or important to him or her, something that the child is thinking about. The instructor writes each word on an index card as it given. Children will then work in groups of two or three to write a sentence about their word on the other side of the index card. An instructor works with each group to help pre-readers spell the words for their sentences and to facilitate group interaction. Groups should be balanced to include at least one independent reader/writer in each group. Each child receives a manila folder in which to store his or her card.

    • Read aloud (10 min.)
      Read Like Likes Like by Chris Raschka. (This book was selected because it has great illustrations; the story is told with a few simple words; the story evokes several themes, including loneliness, companionship, difference and sameness; and it is an excellent example of visual storytelling.)

    • Review videos made by children (15-20 min.)
      Instructors show the group how to pull up the video Web page on a workstation and demonstrate how to download and manipulate video clips. Instructors note how each clip consists of a series of frames—still images—that when run together, quickly create the motion we see. Group divides into pairs to look at video clips on Hoffer site.

    • Make zoetrope animations (30 min.)
      The group views model zoetrope and sample zoetrope animation strips made by the instructor. Instructors note how the animation was created in frames—think of a simple motion, draw the first movement, then draw the final movement, and fill in the gradual changes in between. Each child then receives a strip of paper to make his or her own zoetrope animation with the colored markers. The group sits together on the floor and shares markers. Have paper and scissors available for children to make additional animation strips if they need them.

This lesson was prepared by Andrea Schorr, program specialist for the YDC Pilot, for a model lesson with Tomeka Gibbs, Networked Learning Center Coordinator for the Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC) in Washington, DC.