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Review by Kim Alessi, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2013

Toontastic

Writer, actor, director: Kids play all parts in riveting storytelling tool

Common Sense says
Teachers say (53 Reviews)
$avg_user_learning_rating
Grades
K-5 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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5 images

Pros: Students can learn the process of effective storytelling and create impressive animated cartoons.

Cons: With no way to lock in the voice-over, kids may need to repeat narratives several times.

Bottom Line: A fantastic digital storytelling tool that empowers kids to organize ideas, transforming them into entertaining animated cartoons.

The Parent & Teacher Guide outlines the Story Arc. Connect the app with things you're already doing in class to teach about effective storytelling. Ask students to tell simple versions of stories they know well. Encourage young kids to work out real conflicts they're having in class.

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Editor's Note: Toontastic has been replaced with Toontastic 3D.

Toontastic is a digital storytelling tool that teaches kids how to organize and present story ideas through cartoons. It employs a "Story Arc" that contains five sequential scenes to guide story structure (Setup, Conflict, Challenge, Climax, and Resolution). Each scene in the arc drives the story forward, and kids can even change the order of the arc elements. Kids create original cartoon shorts scene by scene in the app's Story Arc. First they choose a setting, characters, and props from templates or their camera roll, or create them with the in-app drawing tool. They animate these items by moving them around the screen while speaking a narrative that's recorded by the iPad's built-in microphone. Last, they add a musical score based on emotions (friendly, happy, surprised, frustrated, sad, or nervous). Each emotion can be scaled up and down for intensity (happy, for instance, can be amped up to joyous and ecstatic).

The animation feature is especially impressive –- it's where kids add motion and narrative to propel their stories forward. Tap the Start Animation button to move characters or props on-screen and to speak a narrative (limit of seven animated characters/props and one recorded narrative per scene). Characters can be scaled and rotated using single and multi-touch gestures.

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You'll find a very engaging tool that teaches skills that can be applied to other story arts like writing, moviemaking, songwriting, storyboarding, and more. Students will be able to use their imagination while learning the essential elements of story structure. The interface is visually and aurally based –- kids use their voices, in-app images, and music to tell stories scene by scene along the arc. There's no text tool for scenes, though; in fact, kids can only add text at the very end when titling their creation.

There's a wide range of things students can do in Toontastic. They create original cartoon shorts, scene by scene, using images for settings, characters, and props (the app refers to the latter two as "Toys"). Kids can also import images from a camera roll, create their own images with the in-app drawing tool, or use the drawing tool to modify images. The app's animation feature empowers kids to set their ideas into motion and give action to their story. Kids can record a spoken narrative or dialogue during the animation process -- just note that only the last "take" of a narrative will be heard in the final version.

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Overall Rating
5

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
5

Toontastic is a powerful and engaging tool for digital storytelling. It's visually appealing, has great in-app support and sharing features, and relies on self-created animation and narration to tell stories.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
5

A visually based interface uses images, animation, spoken words, and music to tell stories. Kids learn story structure by compiling elements (settings, characters, mood, etc.) into a visual Story Arc.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
5

There's excellent in-app support for kids, teachers, and parents. The Parent & Teacher Guide outlines the Story Arc, and kids can tap the question mark at the top of each screen for help.


Common Sense Reviewer
Kim Alessi Technology coordinator

Teacher Reviews

4
(See all 53 reviews) (53 reviews)
Featured review by
Jennifer O. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
4
This tool really lets students have fun with story elements!

I really enjoyed working with this app because it gave students an opportunity to bring their stories to life! they also were able to see what worked on paper and what didn't work in narration. It definitely was a team-work oriented app and students had to share the device; I liked seeing them work out their disagreements. At the

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