Today’s app is a fun way of teaching your students about setting, plot, climax, resolution, and other important literary terms. Toontastic is an app that lets students create their own cartoons and animations. It is a heftier investment than many apps we cover on this blog at $19.99 (although there is a free version available for you to use to test it out), but if you want a well-made and fun app for your students to use to create some really interesting and unique projects/presentations, then it is worth the money.
Let me run you through how it works.
When students first load the app, they are taken to an outline of a typical plot structure. Right off the bat they are seeing and learning how a typical story progresses and concludes. Making a cartoon is as easy as creating a scene for each part of the plot, but if they have a more advanced story to tell, they can add additional scenes. Teachers could use this image to walk students through a few examples using stories the class has read together in the past.
Once you click on a scene to animate, you are asked to pick a setting. Toontastic provides a bunch of default backdrops, but students can also draw their own or important a picture from their camera roll to use asa background. You can pick a different setting for each scene in the story which shows students how there can be a variety of settings in a single book or story.
Once you have your setting, you have to add your characters and effects. Toontastic calls these “toys” and you can add several to the scene at once. Many of the characters and effects have animated limbs and other details that you will be able to control yourself. Once again, if students don’t like any of the choices (and there are a lot of choices), they can draw their own characters.
Next, the students have to actually “act out” the scene. The app will ask permission to utilize the iPad’s microphone so students can provide voices for the characters. If students are working in a group, each character can be done by a different student. This is a fun activity for students learning about the importance of writing scripts, dialogue, or writing concisely and creatively.
Students place the characters, props, or effects in their starting positions for the scene. They can also experiment with what parts of the images are animated (such as arms and legs) so they know in advance. Once they are ready, they hit “Start” at the top and animate the scene while recording their voices. Any movements of the characters will be recorded, so students should try to keep their motions fluid. The dialogue is also recorded at the same time, so it is good to have one student in charge of animations while the others read the script.
Once done, students hit “Stop” and can watch the scene play out. If there were mistakes, they can redo it. So now the students are learning about the importance of drafting your work or doing multiple takes when filming, too!
Finally, students can pick some background music for their scene. They are now back on the plot outline, so they can move right on to creating the next scene from the story. Once finished, students can share their animations or project them for the class using AirPlay.
I gave this app to my students last year and they had a real blast with it. It appealed to a wide range of learning styles, especially the more artsy and creative students. Some ways we used it:
- Students would read books and then recreate scenes from the book (or the entire book) to show the class what they had read.
- They would come up with sequels to books, short stories, or movies.
- They would create their own version of a movie they had seen.
- They would create their own stories from scratch to practice scriptwriting and dialogue.
- They would just play around with it during free time, which I was okay with as I considered it a fun and educational creative outlet, not a game.
Check it out, and please leave any comments or questions you might have.