Like most educators with iPads, I’m constantly looking for apps and apptivities that I can use in my classroom to foster higher level thinking. We had iPad training in the fall where I was introduced to Alice in New York. This app is so creative, and I knew I wanted my kids to create something similar, but I had no idea how to do it.
I first heard of Toontastic before Christmas and downloaded it immediately. Within minutes I could tell it was the app I was looking for. I loved that the kids could animate and narrate their own stories. We’ll get into that later. However, I also appreciate that students begin by charting their story on a Story Arc. We call it a plot hill in my room, but it’s the same concept. They see that hill and they know what to do. Brilliant!
We had just started a group project in my fifth grade Reading class where students had to act out a chapter of a book. One of my students was sick that week and could not participate in the group activity, so I assigned him a Toontastic project instead. He finished it and could not wait to show his classmates. They were all as amazed as I was, and I was happy that I found an app that could enable my students to create animated stories quickly and easily.
We played with Toontastic a week or so later during a station day. (I created Station Day years ago as an opportunity to use centers in the classroom. It seemed that my students never had the opportunity to do centers on a daily basis, so I brought the centers to one lesson. Students have roughly ten minutes at each station and can learn through a more laid back activity.) Each student was asked to experiment with Toontastic and give me their impressions. The feedback was unanimous. We had a winner! The only complaint I got from the kids during station day was that it was too loud in the room to do the voices.
After the holiday, we embarked upon our class wide Toontastic project. For this first project, I gave the kids wide parameters, basically allowing them to write whatever story they wanted to. I did, however, require them to create a Story Arc and a script before they got into the animation.
Unfortunately, I got called into more professional development halfway through this project, so a sub handled a lot of the production phase. We tried to counter the noise problem by utilizing different classrooms in my hallway. Two of the rooms are rarely used so we could divide and conquer. The times I was able to be in the room with the kids, it was the organized chaos I love so much. I had small groups of kids gathering around iPads helping each other with their projects, lending their voices. I even got to be a voice in one boy’s cartoon. I was a Golden Tusk, and I was honored to help out.
We had one day where all the iPads were on student desks, and the kids went around watching each other’s presentations. They loved it! I’m recommending that a few kids publish their cartoons on the app but leaving that up to their parents.
I gave them a questionnaire about the experience. In general, everyone loved the project because they could create their own story and help each other. I also saw comments about enjoying the stock characters and props and music background. My favorite comment… “It was fun to see my drawings move around and talk.” I also asked then to think outside the box and tell me how we can use this app in other classes. Most kids talked about using it to reenact historical events in history class, but I also got suggestions for using it to animate chapters in a book or teaching scientific principles.
I’m excited to use Toontastic again in the near future. It’s great to have a tool at my disposal that the kids enjoy and can help them think creatively. Now my sixth graders want to use it too.