The Toontastic app has long been a good companion for interventions with Story Grammar Marker®. The original app, released in the early 2010s, was designed with scaffolding in mind, as a “patch,” so to speak, on the problem of decreased play time and increased expectations for students to “write stories” as they reached first grade. Toontastic has undergone some changes after being purchased by Google a few years ago, and is now available as a free “Toontastic 3D” version for both iPad and Android.
With Toontastic 3D, you have many of the features that we had in the original version:
Additionally, Toontastic 3D lives up to its name, by providing scenes that have depth and potential Kick-Offs throughout each setting.
I was initially a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of the scenes in Toontastic 3D, but an introductory lesson for my students helped all of us to become excited by the storytelling potential!
When first using the app, I recommend choosing one scene or theme to explore; this month, try the “Spooky Camp.” Allow your students to choose one character and do a “walkthrough” of the camp without necessarily recording--this will help them see how easy it is to navigate, and in doing so they can observe the elements of the setting: tent, fire pit, stream, forest, and so on.
As you continue, it’s helpful to have students perform a “Kick-Off Hunt”: “What in this setting could make a Kick-Off for our characters?” Spoiler Alert! You could utilize:
I’ve employed a few spins on using Toontastic that you may find good extensions of the narrative learning opportunities.
Some time back, I discussed here some ideas for using LEGO baseplates and simple blocks in narrative activities. This fall, especially given that Toontastic 3D has a LEGO-like look and feel, I found these activities to pair very well contextually. Exploring the scenes in the app served to “preload the imagination” (a term used by Social Thinking® particularly in relation to their We Thinkers storybooks providing ideas for follow-up cooperative play activities), and after spending one session constructing the camp setting, had many ideas for Kick-Offs, Reactions, and Conclusions within very cooperative and conversational activities.
Besides using the Story Grammar Marker® and its visual story maps or Magnet Sets (large or small) when creating a story with Toontastic, I have found that my students have benefited from the use of a visual play plan. This can be accomplished by breaking down roles and actions (who is going to do what) on a story map. Also, forms for scaffolding play moves can also be found in Social Thinking’s We Thinkers: Volume 2, Social Problem Solvers Set.