The Kiva Ninja Movie

IMG_1252Whenever I see projects that other classes have put together I am always curious about the process that produced the product, so I thought I would share a little of how the Kiva Ninja video came together and a few things I have learned along the way.

The purpose…

Our purpose for making the video was to say “thank-you” to the Salem Middle School Kiva club and Mr. Ferriter for giving us a very generous gift card helping us get started with our Kiva project.

I was in the car listening to the radio when “Inner Ninja” came on.  (you can see the youTube video here)  It’s a catchy tune and I thought it might be fun to do something with our Kiva project.  I framed out a few ideas and a basic storyline and brought it to the class.

The process…

As a class we looked at the original lyrics and rewrote them to tell the story of our Kiva project. We then divided up the lyrics so that every student who wanted to have a singing part could.  (An aside: I don’t force students to participate.  There are lots of kids who need to sit back and watch before they are comfortable joining in.  The same goes for questions in class, students always have the option to “pass” on a question-I can always ask them individually if I need to know what they are thinking)

It was at this point in the process that we were offered the help of Mr. Shareski.  So we had a bit of a deadline to get everything together…. six classes.  No problem, kids can do anything!  We practiced our song and played around with our “ninja sticks” (dowels purchased at Home Depot).  I showed them a few basic moves, had the students self-select groups and then they worked in the hall and in the classroom to come up with choreography counting by groups of 8’s.   We shared with the class and gave feedback, “borrowed” moves from other groups and then the small groups/pairs refined/changed and had one more practice.

The big day…

Thursday came quickly!  The first order of the day was to get an audio track of the students singing.  Dean used the “Recorder Pro” app on his iPhone and then e-mailed me the file.  Next we imported the file into iTunes and from there we imported it into iMovie to use as the vocal track. (the link to Recorder Pro is here).  I’ve since used Recorder Pro a number of times, it’s a pretty good app that works well.


The next step in the process was the filming.  Dean brought a green screen for us to use.  We played around with it a little.  The green screen effect will only work if all of the background is green in the camera shot.  We found that we would have more room for the kids to move if we had a bigger screen.  We quickly made one with green bulletin board paper.    The paper worked fairly well, the trick is to have no lines or wrinkles so that when you do the “overlay” with iMovie you don’t have to adjust the colours.  If you have the money, definitely invest in a fabric green screen that can be pulled tight.

Because we didn’t finish filming all of the lip-sync and ninja choreography parts on  Thursday, we built an even bigger green screen on Friday morning before school.  This one reached the floor so that we could have the students’ feet in the shot for the ninja choreography.

Another tip when using green screen is to make sure the light is not too bright.  I have large windows in my classroom and the light ended up overexposing some of the students’ faces when they are doing the “rap” section, so iMovie overcompensated with brown/black.  They kinda look like they have paint on their faces, while unintentional, the kids thought it was cool 🙂

We filmed the scenes with Dean and the kids, some group shots and some choreography on Thursday and finished the filming on Friday.  Then we were off for two weeks.  Naievely, I figured I could put it all together over the two-week break and we would be able to show the video when we were back.   Yeah, no.  Didn’t happen.  As much as I love my work, sometimes you need to take a break.  Being rested and having a balance is really important when working with kids.

Once back from the break, I spent many evenings editing, it was a slow process at first because I was only able to work for small chunks of time.  I had a big break though at the YEG airport waiting for a flight.  I parked myself in a comfy leather chair by the window, put my earbuds in and edited for 5 hours straight.  Having a big chunk of time allowed me to repeat the same task with the editing more than once which developed fluency with the iMovie platform.  It was a good reminder that sometimes kids need to do the same task with different content several times to really become fluent.

With any new learning, having time to immerse yourself in your project can really lead to deeper understanding…which I why I have a very loose schedule in my classroom.  My students and I live in a responsive curriculum where we can dig into projects and don’t follow half hour blocks for subjects.  We get the PLO’s covered over the term-it seems to work for how I teach.

The “how to”…

When you begin your project, you need to go to preferences and select “advanced tools“ and then you have the option of green screen and many other neat effects.

We imported the audio track and chose background footage and then placed the kids singing on top.  From there you have to line up the lip sync by moving the clip of the kids singing forward or back to match the audio track.

Before you can drop in the clip in front of the green screen, you have to know roughly how long the “front” clip will be because the background clip goes in first and has to be slightly longer in duration than the clip with the kids.


For the background, I used Discovery Education video footage.  If you don’t already know about Discovery Education video streaming, you really should.  If you are a #sd36learn teacher, you have access with your Surreyschools e-mail and the password is streaming123.   Go to (not .com) and log in, then change your password.   If your district doesn’t have Discovery Education streaming services, it’s time to start bugging the powers at be!

The Discovery Education site is such a great resource for teachers.  Not only is it searchable by subject, grade level etc., you can also search by PLO for the BC curriculum.  Once you have found the video you want, you can download, edit, save to your content and easily find what you need.  It’s so versatile to use in the classroom and takes seconds to set up.  My favourite part of using DE footage is the fact that you can download what you need so you aren’t dependent on the wireless (although, our district has fast, reliable WIFI, so it isn’t usually a problem.)


Finding just the perfect clip was time consuming and I have to admit I did get distracted watching video when I would come across something interesting.  (like watching “The Heart of Darkness” in its entirety).  I searched by “editable” and downloaded the video to my desktop and then imported it into iMovie.  I then chose clips that matched what the kids were singing about and dropped them into the project.

After the background footage was in, I selected the clip of the kids singing and placed it on top.  The green screen menu pops up and it’s just that easy!  The most time consuming part of the editing process was matching the video of the students singing with the audio track.  Working to line up lip sync was pretty picky work.  I finally figured out that I could use the arrows on the keyboard instead of the mouse to move a video clip by a half second at a time, which made aligning the clips much faster and more accurate.

I am still not totally satisfied with how the sync looks…but given that I very little down time, coupled with the fact that some of my students are hearing impaired and found it a challenge to speak in sync to what they are hearing, I’m happy enough.  There comes a point at which it you have to decide if it’s good enough and stop, or you will drive yourself crazy trying!

After the audio track was filled with video, I “pinned” it and then did the scenes at the beginning and the end.  Without pinning it, it kept bumping all of my carefully synced footage completely out of alignment.  I ended up with three audio tracks, the first and third were “floating” and the middle track with the kids singing was “pinned”.

Dean and Tia were very kind to give me some constructive criticism-like slowing down how fast the words moved, using transitions to make the “dream” sequence work and including some important details like location and grade to the preamble at the beginning.

And just when I thought I was finished, I couldn’t upload the final version to youTube!  My computer was working at it’s max and kept crashing before the upload was complete…but after I spent 35 minutes waiting for it to upload.  Three times.  Thank goodness I have really smart friends!   My good buddy, Kevin Amboe (@amboe_k on twitter) came to my rescue.  His trick was to upload the video to the itunes account on my MacBook Pro and then from there, upload to youTube.

Another tip: google plus will automatically share your youTube video to your google+ community unless you unclick the box!

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I have lovely supportive friends who tweeted out the link…unfortunately it was the version that kept crashing with the edits out of sync.  A few deleted tweets later, some final edits on my part then the final version was uploaded a la Kevin’s method…and the video was done!

I think I have put 30 hours into the editing of this project.  The joke with my friends is this is my genius hour project…or genius30hours project!

At the time of this blog post we have had 488 views and many really supportive comments on youTube.  I want to say big thank you to everyone who has tweeted out and shared our video.  The class is so proud of the work they are doing and really understand the power of sharing their learning with others. Thanks everyone!

Here is the link to the Grade Three KIVA Ninjas we hope you enjoy!


The Kiva Ninja Movie — 5 Comments

    • Thank you for your kind words, Derek! It is a labour of love! I take tasks and break them into small pieces and do a little each day. 🙂

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  2. I love it, Pal.

    Thanks for writing this. Your practical description of the process will help other teachers to imagine what’s possible from a video production standpoint.

    So glad that to be a #kivaninja with you.

    Rock on,

    • Hey Buddy,
      Thanks for the comment 🙂 Glad to be a #kivaninja with you too. Thanks for all your encouragement and support!

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