UKEdMag: Lights, Camera, Animate! By @TinaWatsonTeach

The App Stores now have a great mix of apps which can help the creative process, with story-telling apps being used to help pupils understand the animation process that goes on in film making. Tina Watson has been using Toontastic with primary and secondary pupils and shares her experiences of how well this app has supported the teaching and learning process.

The full version of this article was published in the May 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine, viewable by clicking here.

Having taught Media Studies & Film Studies in the FE sector for over ten years, I am well versed in teaching students how to analyse moving images and the practical skills associated with making their own moving image products. Now that I work increasingly with primary pupils, I was keen to find ways of introducing moving images into my teaching and learning. When I taught BTEC and A level students, we had whole terms to spend filming and editing, but now I needed to find something quick and easy that could be incorporated into a single lesson.

Being an EdTech enthusiast I naturally turned to the Apps store. I dabbled with stop motion, but found it very time consuming and was unconvinced that my pupils were learning a great deal.Luckily, I found Toontastic, an amazing animation App that has since become one of my most used Apps for educational use. Toontastic allows pupils to select characters and settings to animate. They then add their own voice recordings and choose music to add. The format of the app means that pupils are guided through the correct stages of writing a story, following the story arc. Here is how I have integrated Toontastic into my teaching practice.


I have used the App in a number of ways for literacy work.Pupils have created their own animated versions of traditional tales and fairytales. The app has a great bank of ready-made settings and characters suitable for this, or pupils can draw their own or import images from the camera roll. For reluctant writers, this is a great way of engaging them in telling a story.  The tactile process of creating the animation on a tablet keeps pupils engaged and I have found that reluctant writers are more motivated to write up their story if they have created the animated version first.

It is easy to fall into the trap of viewing the use of the tablet and apps in the classroom as the ‘add on fun bit’ at the end of the lesson once the ‘proper’ work has been completed; and we tend to think that we must get children to write the story first.However, I have often found that creating the animation first works equally well, if not better. A child instinctively wants to ‘do’ or ‘say’ their story, so why not let them do this first and then write it up?

By using this App I have integrated Pie Corbett’s Talk4Writing principles into my literacy work, allowing pupils to imitate the language they need for a particular topic orally before reading and analysing and then writing their own version. With the increased use of EdTech tools in schools, we should ensure that we utilise these applications to enable us to apply such educational principles. Alternatively, you can ask pupils to plan and write the story first before moving on to Toontastic to bring it to life.

Another way I have used it is to work with a pupil’s pre written story and then ask them to ‘fit’ their story into the story arc structure—the printable storyboards provided on the website are useful for this. Working like this can help improve a pupil’s written structure as they realize that their writing needs amending to fit into the correct part of the story arc. I tend to change the way I use the App according to the individual pupil and the writing objective.

Analysing the ‘mise en scene’ (what is in the scene) is a key part of media and film studies and was a fundamental part of the courses I taught to Post-16 students.I have also found it useful to apply these analysis skills to literacy work with primary and younger secondary pupils when creating animations.Asking pupils to analyse the movement, speech, costume, lighting and sound within the animation is a great way to develop their skills of inference and deduction (skills which can then be transferred to analysis of written texts).

I have used Toontastic to create animations of a character simply walking into a setting and saying something. Each time they are dressed differently, their speech intonation is different and the music is different. I then ask pupils to analyse the mise-en-scene and discuss how different meanings can be created through these changes. From here, I provide a short written extract from a text where meaning is inferred rather than explicit, and ask the pupil to create an animation from it. Their choice of setting, costume, speech and music allows me to assess their interpretation of the text.

Click the icon below to view Toontastic in the Apple App Store:

 Click here to read the full version of this article in the May 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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