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November 14, 2011

How to Preserve School (or Holiday!) Memories with Windows Live Movie Maker via @kludgymom

The following blog is a guest post by one of our Windows Champions bloggers. Gigi Ross is a mom of two hailing from southern California. Her blog, KludgyMom, combines a snappish take on parenting with technology and blogging tips to make women’s lives more productive. Gigi also co-runs Fourtini Social Media Consulting and runs Have Wine, Will Drink, a site dedicated to making wine fun for women.


In 2009, when my son’s year of kindergarten was drawing to a close, I realized two important things:

1. All the other kinder room parents were putting together fabulous end-of-year goodie bags filled with treats for the entire classroom, and I was not, AND

2. I had made no real plan for lining my kid up for a great 1st grade teacher. In our school, current year teachers had a huge say in placements for the following year. Sure, I was doing the normal things to butter the teacher up. I was volunteering in the classroom. I was bringing the kinder teacher treats at holiday time. But I hadn’t sealed the deal.

I needed to come up with a way to celebrate the children’s school year with a big bang. I didn’t have a lot of time, goodie bags are useless, and I didn’t have a lot of money.

What’s a harried mom to do?

Well, this harried mom had an idea: A DVD photo slideshow that chronicled the entire school year from first day to nearly-last. “Yes! Brilliant!” I thought.

That is – until I tried to make the slideshow with a third-party product that left me in tears after 7 hours of frustration.

It occurred to me that maybe Microsoft made a product. Duh.

That’s when I was introduced to Windows Live Movie Maker. I made an incredible DVD slideshow that endeared me to the teacher and class parents alike. Here’s how to do one:

1. Gather photos from the teacher, your collection, and ask other class parents to send on theirs. In all, I worked with 200 to 300 photos.

2. As you gather photos, make sure you have an adequate amount of photos that feature each child in the class. If some children aren’t in enough photos, ask the teacher if you can stop in and snap a few candid shots.

3. Try to get first-day close-ups of each child (the teacher usually takes some) and ask permission to take last-week close-ups again.

4. Find some music that does not require licensing for your soundtrack.

5. When you have all of your photos, import then into Windows Live Movie Maker. (Learn how to do this here.) It’s super easy and quick to do. Once you have them loaded into a project file, you can arrange them in chronological order of the school year. Again, make sure that each child gets equal air time!

6. At the end of the chronological timeline, add the first-day and last-week close-up photos of each child, one after another. Movie Maker makes it simple to add transitions between the before and after shots.

7. Add your music, titles and credits and voila! You’re done. Burn your movie to a DVD in one simple click.

If you want to make friends of every parent in the classroom, burn each child a copy of the DVD as a keepsake from your child to theirs (this racks up seriously huge bonus points). Make a copy for the teacher as well.

The first year I made the school year keepsake DVD, we didn’t tell the other class parents what I had done. At the end-of-year celebration, we gathered up the class and all the parents, and we showed the DVD on a projection screen.

The reaction was not what I expected. The kids were over-the-top excited, watching themselves and their friends appear on screen. They reminisced about events that happened early in the school year, squealing and laughing along the way. Parents cried. I cried. The teacher cried. I felt like Francis Ford Coppola.

When it was over, the kids yelled, “Again! Again! Please, can we watch it again?”

The parents asked me if they could pay to have me burn a copy of the DVD for them because it was such a fantastic keepsake.

No need – each child has been given a copy in their backpacks,” I said.

The parents thanked me profusely and whispered that they hoped my kid was in their class again next year.

I was so happy I had put in the effort to make the DVD – and even happier that Movie Maker made it so easy.

My kid got a pretty good teacher the following year. But the best part of all? When all the other kinder classes’ goodie bags had gotten thrown away, our class of kids still had an incredible memory of kindergarten.