The Green Screen Scene at Maplewood ES

Today’s Contributor: Amanda Braziel is mom to a 4th grader and a 7th grader and is in her 12th year as a school librarian. She’s a lifelong learner with a passion for making learning in her neighborhood public school fun, relevant, and equitable.

I made it one of my personal goals this year to try to record green screen photos or videos with students at every grade level. I wasn’t quite sure how I’d accomplish this task, but inspiration struck around Halloween when a 4th grade teacher told me his class would be reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I decided to piggyback on their lesson by sharing The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight: More Poems to Trouble Your Sleep, by Jack Prelutsky, then help his students remove their heads to create spooky greetings to share with their families. It was a great way to bring their literature study to life.

I hung a large green sheet as a backdrop, searched for spooky background images, and loaded my favorite green screen app (Do Ink) on a school iPad. I carefully covered the students’ faces with a green hood and photographed their bodies in front of the green screen (most students put their hands on their hips so we could insert their “heads” into the crook of their arms).

Next, I draped the students’ bodies in a green plastic table cloth and photographed their heads only, having them make a spooky face. Then, I placed the background photo on the bottom layer, added the body photo in the center layer, and added the head photo on the top layer. The results were SUPER fun. Parents, students, and teachers loved the outcome, and I was inspired to try several more green screen projects as a result.

The PE teacher and I collaborated to create a “look at the bones inside of our bodies” video using a skeleton poster as the background and a green circle as a “hand lens” that showed the skeleton as she moved the circle up and down her leg to reveal the bones hidden underneath. 

Fifth graders at our school study various Native American groups and build dioramas to accompany their research reports each year. This year, we inserted students into their dioramas so they could report on them from the inside. They loved the experience!  Kindergartners used green gloves to cover their hands then slipped on finger puppets. We lined a milk crate with green butcher paper, laid the iPad on top with the camera aimed carefully through one of the holes in the crate, and students retold a story we read together in the library. I also inserted 3rd grade students’ faces into the covers of their favorite books using green screen technology. The process is much easier than I thought it would be, and now half the school has experienced using this fun tool. As a bonus, I uploaded the videos to our private YouTube channel, and my students were thrilled to share them with their families!

If you’d like to give green screen special effects a try, I highly recommend the app, Green Screen by Do Ink, which costs $4.99. Similar effects can be achieved using iMovie, which now comes standard on iOS devices. There are several other options, including WeVideo, which is highly compatible with Chromebooks and which offers a 30 day free trial for educators. I also highly recommend checking out The Green Screen Makerspace Project Book by Todd Burleson.

Gather a few green items to get started, such as: green playdoh or modeling clay, green straws, green chenille stems, green yarn, green plastic tablecloths, green butcher paper, green poster board, green paint, green clothing, green sheets, and green gloves. Pixabay.com offers royalty-free greenscreen images and short animations, and YouTube is full of greenscreen special effects background videos, too. Have fun engaging students and upping the “wow” factor on your campus using green screen special effects.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing! A friend of mine presents her use of greenscreens and shared a couple of great gems. Teachers leave her session running for the nearest Starbucks for their big green straws. Also, she had students taping green paper on the inside of pizza boxes. When the portable box is open, it provides a green floor and wall for small projects. When they are done, fold the boxes and stack them on a shelf. Lastly, some teachers have shared that Ikea has green shower curtains for cheap and they already have grommets at the top for hanging. Nice article Amanda!!

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