Creating a Thaumatrope


Instructor: Amy Johnson

Grade Level: Elementary School K-5th grades/Middle School

Media: cardstock, markers, rubber bands

Time: 1-2 hour long session(s)

TLW define animation and thaumatrope
TLW choose appropriate images that can be combined to make on image in a logical manner
TLW create a circular thaumatrope

Step 1: Students will view the slides pertaining to toys and thaumatropes (slides 1-3) in the “History of Animation” Power Point by Amy Johnson. The teacher will discuss the origins of thaumatropes as toys in Victorian Europe and Colonial America. The teacher will break down the word “thaumatrope” into “thauma” and “trope.” She/he will define “thauma” as Greek for “magic,” and “trope” Greek for “turn.” She/he will underline how the name “thaumatrope” really means “magic turn.” The teacher will ask the students to infer as to why the toy might be named as such. She/he will encourage students to think about the time period of the thaumatropes invention in this discussion.

Step 2: The teacher will show the students an exemplar of an actual thaumatrope. She/he will demonstrate the thaumatrope several times for all the students in the room. Should she/he choose, the thaumatrope may be passed from student to student to experience as the teacher introduces the next portion of the lesson.

Step 3: The teacher will lead the students in a demonstration in how to build a thaumatrope. At the beginning of this demonstration she/he will present the students with the worksheet entitled “How to Make a Thaumatrope.” Students will be encouraged to follow along as the teacher presents the demonstration. The teacher will stress the importance of following directions and coloring neatly for this project.

Step 4: The students will begin working on their thaumatropes while the teacher circulates. The teacher will provide assistance to students as needed.

Step 5: Once the students are finished, each student will be asked to demonstrate her/his thaumatrope for the class. They will be asked to define thaumatrope and animation in their own words. During the presentation the teacher will assess the student’s work using the checklist system provided.

Step 6: At the conclusion of class (or classes as the case may be) the teacher will ask the students at their tables to define the word “thaumatrope” and “animation” before leaving class. As each group defines it orally to the teacher, they are dismissed. The teacher may keep or allow the students to keep their thaumatropes. *In the event of sending the thaumatropes with the students: it may be better to leave them with their homeroom teacher since the students will be likely to play with them in class otherwise.

Art Materials:

-cardstock cut into small pieces (note-cards work fine)
-permanent markers
-rubber bands (enough for each student to have 2, plus a few extra for breakage)

Animation: a rapid display of images in order to create an illusion of movement.

Thaumatrope: A disk or card with a picture on each side is attached to two pieces of string. When the strings are twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to combine into a single image.

-DLP Projector
-Worksheet “How to Make a Thaumatrope”

The Power-Point for this lesson features active .gif file animations that create flashing. This is a SERIOUS health hazard for students with epilepsy. Be aware for of any students you have with epilepsy and/or any students who show signs of reacting poorly physically to the flashing. Should your classroom have students with epilepsy: Delete the flashing imagery in the Power-Point and instead show the students actual exemplars of the animations. Follow the instructions and goals of the students’ IEP. For students who need more structure/rules, take the time to have some independent instruction with them. Have the student mimic the technique back to you, so you can assure mastery

Modifications for younger students: For students in K-2nd grades reproducing images in the format provided may prove difficult. Instead, provide these students with pre-set clip art images that could be used in sequence. Allow the children to pick which images they wish to use. Have students color and glue their images to pre-cut thaumatrope pieces. Allow them to assemble the thaumatrope themselves as this assemblage is important for critical hand-eye development. Also, for students who find using a compass challenging, you can use rectangular note cards instead of pre-cut circle shapes.

Interdisciplinary/Cultural Connections:
1. Discuss the historical background of thaumatropes as toys. Encourage the students to think of who might of used them and why.
2. Ask the students if they can think of any popular cultural examples of thaumatropes or applications of thaumatropes in popular culture.
-Johnny Depp’s character, Ichabod Crane, has a necklace thaumatrope in Sleepy Hollow
-In The Prestige Michael Caine’s character frequently plays with a thaumatrope


Students will be assessed according to the following checklist (a full version with room for all student names is enclosed; this is just a sample):
7 checks = A
6 checks = B
4-5 checks = C
3 checks = D
0-2 checks = F

student name

skills assessed

correct circle size (compass measurement)

images align (accurate construction)

Appropriate images in logical manner

images are colored

able to define thaumatrope in own words

able to define animation in own words

thaumatrope is completed