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Theater Resources for Aspiring Actors and Directors

Give kids hands-on tools to learn about story, character, plot, setting, conflict, and more.

Bronwyn Harris | August 14, 2017

Storytelling and plays are extremely valuable tools to teach about character arc, plot, conflict, setting, and more to kids of any age. Now, teachers and students can use a wide variety of apps and interactive ebook options to explore this content. Some of these tools provide existing stories, while others have kids create plays from scratch. All of them provide new, hands-on ways for kids to learn about the essential elements of theater and drama.

Puppet Pals HD

Puppet Pals HD offers an easy way for students to create and record their own storytelling scenes and develop fun voice-acting skills. Simply tap "Press to Start" and choose up to eight themed, movable stickerlike characters from the available theme packs (in-app purchase required for most). Kids can select a background, resize and move the characters within the background, record audio, and save their performance.

Puppet Pals is easily incorporated into classroom lessons about history, current events, science, storytelling, literary genres, and more. Multiple students can work on a storyline together, incorporating sound effects and voice acting for each character. Teachers may want to use one of the historically based character packs (American history figures, characters from medieval times, or Thanksgiving) or the current U.S. political figures pack to bring theater and drama into the lessons and increase student engagement.

At, kids get a virtual dramatic experience as they watch videos of storybooks -- their illustrations jazzed up with simple animations -- read aloud by well-known actors. Each story is brought to life by a different actor, and most have accompanying study guides with information about the author, illustrator, and reader. They also include suggested reading lists, ideas for discussion, and activities that extend the book's learning themes or message. While the stories are not technically plays, this app provides many facets of theater arts.

Younger kids can watch the videos and do the simpler activities or just explore the elements of the stories, such as characters, motivations, and plot. Older kids can delve deeper into the books' themes, and teachers can use a story to spark a particular learning unit.

Toontastic 3D

Toontastic 3D is a storytelling app that's inspired by puppetry, theater, and animation. Produced in partnership with Google, Toontastic 3D is a flexible and easy-to-use storytelling platform with 3D scenes and characters. Creators choose from three story options: short story, classic story, and science report. Each comes with a basic story outline -- set, conflict, challenge, climax, and resolution -- and a brief overview of what each plot point means.

Use Toontastic 3D to give kids a creative outlet while also teaching them the basics of a story arc and plot points. Since there's only a basic introduction to each part of a story, teachers can walk students through the basics of the story arc (setup, conflict, challenge, climax, and resolution) and explore each point in more detail. Kids have a great time with the 3D aspect and learn the elements of theater without even realizing it.

Image courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.