Halloween and the days around it open up a world of strange and fun stories! Check out these apps to provide a doorway (a creaky one) to developing narrative language.
Toontastic (free for iPad) is a fantastic app for all seasons and contexts, but be sure to beware of its Halloween theme! Toontastic is a screen-recording application in which you can select a Setting (or use one of your photos as a background), choose “toys” that include Characters and props, and then create a story. The app scaffolds a “plot mountain” with setup, conflict, etc., but you can use it to create simpler projects.
Toontastic includes Settings such as Dracula’s castle, Dr. Crankenstein’s Lab, a spooky graveyard and house, a dark bog, and corresponding Characters to build a story. Once you select a Setting and Characters, tap Start, and the app will record both your movement of the Characters and any language spoken.
In this way, you can choose to have students simply describe the scene (Descriptive Sequence), move the Characters to demonstrate and describe Actions (Action Sequence), or act out a Kick-Off (Reaction Sequence and beyond). Story Grammar Marker’s® story maps and Universal Magnet Set can provide an important structure and opportunity to “storyboard” the cartoon you plan with your students.
The above scene could be used to scaffold a Reaction Sequence, as below:
Character(s): Nate and David, dressed up for Halloween
Setting: On Halloween night in their neighborhood
Kick-Off: The boys are trick-or-treating when they take a wrong turn, end up in a scary, dark swamp, and a ghost appears!
Reaction: The boys scream and run away home!
Here’s a completed example video — feel free to use it to get your students storytelling!
Haunt the House: Terrortown ($1.99 for iOS and Android) is not as scary as it sounds, but is great fun. In this well-paced game, players need to “scare” inhabitants of various Settings such as a town, train, mansion or the North Pole. I love to use this app as an engaging context to have students describe and draw maps recalling the details of Settings such as the theater shown below:
While Haunt the House is ideal for grades 3 and up, a gentler, similar story is offered in Toca Boo! ($.99 for iOS and Android). Again, students assume the Character of a ghost, who is haunting a house with the plan of scaring as many people as he can! Narrative mapping can spring from the app’s premise or a description of the rooms or overall map of the house.
Finally, EPIC! Books for Kids, as always, has a spook-tackular selection of contexts for narrative and expository text mapping. Be sure to sign up for your free educator account and search the app for Halloween-related books. Their collection includes 40 high-quality storybooks and informational texts along with how-to videos on drawing various Halloween designs (great to use with the ThemeMaker® Sequencing Map).