In imaginative play, children create characters, settings, and fantastic storylines that rival most Hollywood screenplays. Toontastic is a creative learning tool that enables kids to record and share their imaginative play as stories with friends and family around the world. Our Learning Goals are three-fold:
  • Empower kids to create, learn, and share their stories by bridging the gap between formal writing and imaginative play.
  • Introduce key storytelling principles like Character, Setting, Story Arc, and Emotion to help structure creative writing.
  • Promote cultural literacy and collaboration through content sharing on ToonTube, our Global Storytelling Network.
Toontastic is an open-ended animation tool that makes storytelling and animation as easy as putting on a puppet show. From science reports to digital book trailers, Toontastic can be used across curricula to introduce children to the world of digital content creation. Its only limitation is your imagination :)
Toontastic is a phenomenal app that engages kids to become content creators, not just consumers, in a simple and entertaining way.

- John Shoemaker, Education with Innovation

Common Core Alignment

We're working directly with educators to create Common Core-aligned resources that help teachers empower kids through digital storytelling. Read more about our Common Core alignment, research basis, and learning goals below.
Mission Plan Launchpad Leader Content Ages CC Standards
The Summarizer: Using Toontastic for Literature Circles Diane Darrow Reading Comprehension, Book Reports 5-12 RL.2, RL.5-6, W.3-6, W.9-10, L.1, L.3, L.6
Creating Social Stories Sam Blanco Social Stories, Special Education 5-12 n / a
Staying Safe Online Merve Lapus Digital Citizenship 5-10 SL.K1a-b, SL,K.2-6, SL.2.1a-c, SL.2.3, SL.2.6, L.K-2.6
Digital Booktrailers Erin Lobato Reading Comprehension, Library 11-18 RL9/10.2, RL9/10.5, RL9/10.10, W9/10.3, SL9/10.4, SL9/10.5, L9/10.1
App Design: Prototyping Through Story Lisa Brigulio Technology, Design 9+ 4.G, MP1, W4, W6, W3
Building Community Brain Puerling Social Skills, Community 5-9 W1.2, W1.3
Once Upon A Times Table Jennifer Magiera Math, Times Tables, Problem Solving 5-12 Practice 1, Practice 4, OA.3, OA.4
The Dream Matt Gomez Vocabulary, History, Retelling 5-7 RL.K.2, SL.K.1, SL.K.2, SL.K.6
Imagination Animation! Lillian Vosa & Andrea Flynn Speech Therapy, Special Education All Ages n / a
Literary Elements: Using Toontastic to Tell Stories John Shoemaker & Dallisa Rodriguez-Green Language Arts, Storytelling 5+ RL3.3, RL3.6, RL4.3, RI3.2, RI4.2, W3.3, W4.3-4, W5.3-4, SL3.4-6, SL4.4-5, SL5.4-6, L3.3, L3.6, L4.3, L4.6, L5.3, L5.5-6
Hollywood at Home Kent Steen Home Activity 5-12 n / a
Christmas Around the World Brandon Hazzard Social Studies, Christmas 10-14 RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.3, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.2a, WHST.6-8.2b, WHST.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.8, WHST.6-8.9
Story Summarizing Alma Bissot Language Arts, Story Summarization 9-11 RL4.2-3, RL4.7, RF4.4a, W4.1a, W4.4-6
Digital Storytelling James Gorcesky Media Arts, Digital Storytelling 11-13 W.7.2-4, W.7.6, SL.7.5, L.7.1, L.7.3
Writer's Café: The Universe and Worlds Imagined Viviane Gaudreault & Alex Dunn Language Arts, Storytelling 6-11 n / a
Pre-Writing with Toontastic Kimberly Simpson Language Arts, Writing 5-11 3.W.3, 3.W.6
Toontastic Test Prep Monica Burns Test Prep, Reading Comprehension 8-14 CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.3, CCRA.SL.5
Sharing Investigation Results Leah LaCrosse Science, Presentation 8-13 W.3.7-8
BrainPOP-Inspired Movies Andrew Gardner Media Literacy, Digital Storytelling 8-14 RI3.3-4, RI3.7, W3.2-3
Pilot Study

Our Pilot Study examined Toontastic's effect on Descriptive Language, Character Development, and Emotional Expression - all key skills aligned to K-5 Common Core standards. We worked with a local fourth grade classroom, where students created three cartoons as part of a unit on social-emotional development over the course of a week. Here's what we found:
Descriptive Language
Over the course of the sessions, students used more descriptive language in their cartoons, as well as more character voices, making their stories more dynamic and engaging.
Character Development
With each session, students using Toontastic used more characters per story and the number of repeated characters increased, suggesting stronger, more coherent narratives and improved character development.
Emotional Expression
In later story sessions, students expressed more distinct moods and energy levels throughout their stories, adding greater complexity and depth to character and plot development over time.

Though we can't make broad generalizations from the limited dataset, we're very encouraged by students' growth and are eager to examine a larger set of data in the future. For more information, read the full report "Creative Learning with Toontastic."
Research Basis

Give a young child a couple of toys or a box of crayons she is likely to play for hours, deeply engrossed in an imaginary world. Yet, ask that same child to write out 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 her imagination. Drawing from Constructionism, Social Development Theory, and Robert McKee?s Story Structure work, Toontastic empowers kids to create more impactful, coherent, and ultimately educational stories through by bridging the gap between imaginative play and creative writing.
Constructionism + Social Development Theories
Constructionist software aims to draw out children's implicit understanding of curricula and make it explicit through visual and physical representation so those children may better "debug" and reconstruct their mental models. Toontastic draws out the emotive structure implicit within storytelling by using an explicit template for visually mapping story events and emotions during cartoon construction.

With Toontastic, our goal is to not only inspire a new generation of storytellers, but to use storytelling to bridge cultural understanding amongst children around the world. As Vygotsky and other Social Development theorists suggest, children often learn more from social dialogues among peers than from formal instruction.
Story Structure
USC film professor Robert McKee proposes that a good story is much more than a simple narrative sequence a good story is a carefully structured series of events that sweeps the audience through an undulating swing of emotions. To create a template for storytelling, one must scaffold both story events and emotive structure, which together make up the underlying spine of the story arc.

In Toontastic, children build stories one scene at a time. They start by selecting a scene type (Setup, Conflict, Challenge, Climax, and Resolution), then mix and match characters, settings, and actions to define the story event for that scene. The goal of this exercise is not to create a script per se, but to establish clear and succinct story events around which the emotive structure will turn. The story arc is then drawn by adjusting energy levels for each scene and by choosing appropriate emotional themes, thereby determining that scene's background music.

For more about the Educational Frameworks behind Toontastic, we take a look at Andy's Grad-School Thesis from the Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction Conference 2010 as well as the books on this page.

While creative writing might not begin formally until ages 7 or 8, children's storytelling skills begin developing through creative play as young as ages 2 or 3. Kids communicate naturally through imaginative play, learning about the world around them through creative collaboration with peers and family, often using toys as contextual catalysts for conversation. In designing for Co-Play, our challenge is conceptually simple: empower kids and their families to create and communicate as naturally and fluidly as they would playing with a box of LEGOs. With Toontastic Jr, our learning goals are to:

  • Empower young children as authors, actors, and producers of creative media, not just consumers
  • Develop collaboration and communication skills through shared storytelling with friends and family on StoryShare
  • Introduce storytelling concepts like Beginning, Middle, Ending, and Emotion while developing Oral Literacy through narration
  • Inspire creative storytelling with "Story Starter" videos that spark the imagination

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