Why animation for teenage refugees?

When you think “What do refugees need?”, the first answer to pop into your head is always “animation!” O.K….maybe not.

After teaching English to these remarkable kids for a few months,  I could see that they did need experience with computers, confidence, and some fun. As an animator, I knew that animation would be a great platform to offer all of that.

These kids need skills that will help them towards a successful profession. Although animation skills are not necessarily essential in today’s job market, computer skills are! Animation is a fun way to introduce those skills.

My primary focus for the workshop was not inspiring professional animators, but it was important  that the students produce quality animation. After all, the main goal of the workshop was to foster confidence and a sense of accomplishment.  The better the results of their efforts, the greater the pride.

Animation Workshop it is then! One problem, we didn’t have any computers in our classroom. Besides a few pencils and pens, there wasn’t much that we did have in the classroom. So it was time to reach out for help. I’m so thrilled to say we got tons of it! It was incedibly heartwarming to find out how generous and caring people can be! We raised enough money to buy five computers and received donations from companies including software and animation kits from Zulogic LTD, cameras from Hue Animation, and a LapCabby 20V  locking and charging cabinet to protect our new computers!


Now, we were all set! Time for the fun to begin.




Big Day: Film Premiere!

fimposterYes! I printed out lots of posters and sent out lots of emails inviting people to the “studnet” film screening.  Oops! Future lesson for studnets: Always proofread!

In spite of the typo, our little classroom was packed for the screening. We were especially happy to welcome Francesca representing Zulogic Ltd. They generously donated the fantastic Zu3D software and animation theatres we used during the workshop! This workshop was only made possible by the kindness of  big-hearted individual donors and generous companies.

After watching a behind the scenes video, which included some great stop-motion dance moves from one of our students, I played the music video that the students made during the second week of the workshop. There was a lot of emotion in the room and I had a hard time keeping it together. It was the first time the students saw all of the scenes they had produced  fully edited together. I loved seeing the pride appearing across their faces as they watched what they had created on the big screen.

They have a lot to be proud of! Before the workshop, most of them had little computer experience, one student was at a beginner level of English, and of course none of them had  animation experience. In just two weeks, they learned how to build models with wire and modeling compound, create backgrounds and props, and animate on the computer.  I think you will agree that their final project, a music video to the song “Let Her Go” by Passenger is an outstanding achievement and a testament to their drive and character!


I had mixed emotions as I handed out their certificates, gift bags of goodies donated by Cowling and Wilcox, and their little mini-mes that are almost as sweet as they are. I became so attached to each of them during the two weeks and I am already missing them!


Keep an eye on the blog for all of the behind the scenes details as I will be posting about each day of the workshop over the next couple of weeks. I’m happy to share ideas and am very grateful for any feedback on how to improve for future workshops!







Mog and World Refugee Day

The lesson is 2 hours long with a 10 minute break.

The beginner class joined my intermediate class for this lesson.

There were 15 students with a wide range of English ability.

Lesson Goals

  • students will be proud to be a refugee
  • students will know that there are many successful refugees in the UK
  • students will be able to recognise and use sequence transitional phrases
  • students will be able to use appropriate punctuation with transitional phrases


I had students guess what I did yesterday evening from prop clues. When the students said a sequencing transitional word (first, then, next, etc.),  I wrote it on the board.


I then asked students what they did yesterday and asked them if they knew it was a special day. None of them knew that yesterday was World Refugee Day.  😮 I explained that World Refugee Day was a day to celebrate the strength and courage of refugees.  I put three refugees on the board and asked the students how the refugees were related to my evening yesterday. After I explained that Michael Marks cofounded Marks & Spencers, they were able to guess the connection with the other refugees and my events. I found the refugee biographies and graphics at I am a refugee.



Use it in Conversation

I then gave out sheets with the stories of the refugees on the board. I gave a sheet with more detail and more advanced vocabulary to the intermediate students.  Using the visual on the sheet, I reviewed how transitional phrases take us from one event in the story to the next.  I had a student read an event and then we would discuss it as a class.  While discussing, I prompted students to use transitions.  (IMPROVEMENT FOR NEXT TIME: To increase student talking time, I will put students in small groups and give each student in the group a different refugee story and have them tell their group about the story they received.)

myeveningrefugees2 beginners


Listening and Writing Exercise

Dictation time! I had students turn over their story sheets so they could no longer look at them. I read out one of the events three times while the students tried to write it. I asked the intermediate students to try to write the entire event. I told the beginner students to pick out any words they could recognize and try to write them. I left some clue words on the board for them. (IMPROVEMENT FOR NEXT TIME: Have a fill in the blank worksheet of the dictation for beginners.) At the end, I revealed the complete wording on the board and let students check their work. I emphasised the transitional phrase and asked who remembered the comma.  The students loved this activity and wanted to try again with another event to try to do better than their last attempt. We repeated the exercise three times with three events. I gave lots of praise to beginners if they were able to write any of the words. The intermediate classmates offered lots of encouragement to the beginners. ❤

Review Puzzle


I broke students up into groups of mixed ability and gave them Alek Wek’s story cut into pieces. I asked the groups to put them into order. The puzzle had simple wording and one transitional word choice for each paragraph. If a team finished correctly, I had a more difficult story puzzle of Gulwali Passarlay.  Gulwali’s story had advanced vocabulary and several choices of transitional words for each paragraph. Students enjoyed the puzzles. (IMPROVEMENT FOR NEXT TIME: Have students stick the pieces of the puzzle in order on a mini whiteboards so that we can hold it up and talk to the class about it once they have finished. Have a third puzzle available for groups that are really fast.)


It was an unusually hot day in Croydon, 33°. It felt like 40° in the classroom, so I broke for break 10 minutes early.  One of the beginner students chose to skip break and copy the Alek story to practice his writing. 😎

IMG_1757 (1)

Real-World Practice

I gave the students a letter that Gulwali Passarlay kindly wrote to them. In the letter, Gulwali gave them advice, including to have a clear plan for the next five years. So I asked the students to write their plan for the next five years. I reminded them to use sequence transitional words and phrases.  I gave the beginner students sheets that had paragraphs started for them.  I also put a word bank on the board of words they might need.  Students who wanted to, read their plans to the class.

I had students check to see if they had used the transitional words correctly with correct punctuation.

It was fun to hear the wide variety of goals the students had. We have future engineers, lawyers, doctors, and game designers in our class!

At the end of class, I wished the students happy Refugee Day and told them how proud I am of them.

Teacher Notes

THINGS TO WORK ON: I noticed students using good as an adverb. 


What a great day to launch my blog about teaching young refugees!

The United Nations’ (UN) World Refugee Day is observed on June 20 each year. This event honors the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

learn more about Refugee Day

To celebrate Refugee Day, we will be talking about some influential refugees and their contributions to the UK in our next lesson. A post on this lesson coming soon!