From Creative Writing to Science Reports and Breaking News Updates, teachers around the world are empowering students through digital storytelling with Toontastic and TeleStory.
In my 2nd-grade ESL classroom, we brainstorm, plan, and write fictional stories by “smashing” three iPad apps together to create green-screen TV shows. I start by introducing the Story Arc in Toontastic – walking through each scene type and discussing examples of scene types from familiar stories. I then demonstrate how to record a live scene using TeleStory and what a “smashed” video looks like using the green-screen.
After dividing the class into groups of 3 or 4, I ask students to plan their stories using the Story Design worksheet, reminding them to include close-up shots from TeleStory. We then film our shows – animations in Toontastic and video shots in TeleStory in front of the green-screen. Once all the scenes are recorded and exported to the camera roll, we use the DoInk GreenScreen app to combine the live video shots and animations, creating even more “Hollywood” flair to students’ already dynamic stories.
Once all the shows are complete, I host a “Movie Day” for the students with popcorn and drinks to celebrate their projects. It’s so rewarding to see my students proudly introducing their stories to the class.
Our 5th grade science classes are 2500 miles apart. By connecting them together in “Project PenPal”, however, we helped our students realize the “aha” moment that every science teacher dreams of – that the Scientific Method is the universal tool behind all research and discovery.
For Project PenPal, we divided our classes into groups of 3 or 4 and paired each group with a corresponding team from the other class (one in Ohio, one in California). For this project, the groups in Ohio studied and prototyped robotic arms for NASA while the teams in California studied magnification, though it could work with any subject matter. At each stage of the project, we asked each team to create an animated science report in Toontastic, swapping out the traditional Setup/
After sharing their cartoon reports with each other (use the "Export to Camera Roll" functionality to share cartoons) each group peer-reviewed their corresponding team’s report and provided a critique. At the end of the project, we joined the classes together via video chat to share their takeaways from the project. It was engaging, fun, and above all insightful - offering students higher-level perspective and context beyond their textbooks and introducing them to the world of peer-reviewed science.
We use Toontastic to improve students’ reading comprehension by creating animated summaries of the stories they read. It helps them retell, paraphrase, and sequence key events while considering how a character’s point of view shapes narrative. They have a great time and take a lot of pride in seeing their drawings and voices come to life onscreen.
To start the activity, we choose a familiar book as a class before dividing up into groups of two or three students. Using the Toontastic Story Design Worksheet, students break the story into three simple events. How did the story begin? What is a key event that happens in the middle of the story? How did the story end?
Next, each group chooses a character to narrate their summary and recreate each event from that character’s perspective. I often challenge students to refer back to the text to locate evidence supporting their interpretations. Where in the book does it mention that? How would the character’s voice sound saying that? How would you describe the feeling in this scene?
After completing their summaries, each group presents its cartoon to the class. Here, I ask them to talk about the characters and perspectives they chose. What emotions did they pick for each scene and why? How did their character’s perspective differ from other characters presented by other groups?
Animating story summaries with Toontastic is fun and engaging for students, but it also helps them connect with literature beyond traditional book reports. With Toontastic, they’re not just analyzing stories, they’re rebuilding them - and, like a good mechanic, developing a greater understanding of all the nuts and bolts under the hood.
BrainPOP’s animated content is great for illustrating complex concepts and engaging students, but what if kids could make their own BrainPOP animations teaching other students and improving their own understanding of the content along the way?
I start by showing a BrainPOP animation about a topic relevant to the class. Together, we discuss how BrainPOP movies are structured. They begin with a guiding question, then feature two characters asking questions and making comments – making sure to introduce relevant vocabulary and show, not just tell, answers to the questions.
From there, I divide students into small groups and have each group pick a topic they’re “experts” on. I give the students a number of prompts including: What’s the guiding question? (i.e. Are there really Martians?) Who are your characters? What vocabulary will you introduce? (i.e. solar system, planet, orbit, atmosphere) How will you show AND tell the answer to your question?
After I approve their scripts, students animate their movies. Once a first draft is complete, have groups share their work with other groups to get feedback and iterate. Then, once students’ movies are complete, invite another class - perhaps a younger grade? - to view your students’ creations and see what they learn!
I’m always looking for ways to instill a love of reading in my students and, as a teacher, I LOVE the library. Compared to modern media, however, those old jacket cover descriptions lack a certain pizazz. To spice them up, I ask students to create “Movie Trailers” on Toontastic for the books they check out of the library. I then share their stories online and create QR codes for future book-browsers to scan and watch. It’s not only a great way to entice new readers, but a fun and engaging alternative to the traditional Book Report.
I start with the end in mind. I show them a finished book trailer of a popular book and then let students explore the Toontastic app. The students then check out a book of their choice and I give them two weeks to read it. I then pair up the students and ask them to create storyboards for their cartoons including sketches, dialogue, and music type.
Once I approve students’ storyboards, they proceed with animation and export their stories for me to post online. The final step is to create a QR code of the URL, cut the image out and laminate it, and finally work with the Librarian to adhere the code to the library books so future students can watch their critiques. We have an iPad in the library for kids to scan the books. It’s been amazing to see the younger students encouraged to read by the kids they look up to most!
How do you use Toontastic & TeleStory in school? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may end up sharing your story right here!
Give a kid a couple of toys or a box of crayons and he or she is likely to play for hours, deeply engrossed in an imaginary world. Yet, ask that same child to write a story in a blank notebook or a word processor and you would be lucky to capture a fraction of the depth and splendor of that imagination. Drawing from Constructionist and Social Development learning theories, as well as Robert McKee's work on Story Structure, Toontastic and TeleStory empower kids to bridge this gap between imaginative play and creative writing by creating their own cartoon videos and animations to share with friends and family around the world.