Junior Storytellers: School Edition

28 May

Junior Storytellers app iconJunior Storytellers  puts your child in the director’s seat to create simple animated stories with narration, using a variety of settings, characters and props.  It is a great way for children to learn about how to build a story while engaging in creative play.  There are two versions of the app available. I am reviewing the School Edition, which includes all content with the one price.  The free version has limited content, with more story theme packs available with in-app purchase.

The main screen of the app is separated into four main sections: Create Story, My Stories, Awards and Settings.

Create Story

There are two main story sections: Sandbox and Challenge.

Sandbox Mode  – This section has two options:  a learning mode and a create mode.

  • Learn to Play guides children through making a story. It explains how to choose scenes, and to add, pose and change characters and props, and uses items from the Jungle theme only.  It is a great place to start, and might also be helpful for children who might otherwise get a bit overwhelmed with choice.
  • Create A Story gives children full access to the range of settings, characters and props.  Children create a story one page at a time and can create stories of any length they choose.

Challenge Mode –   This mode challenges children to create stories using a specific number of scenes. The first level is a single scene story and is a good place to start. Subsequent levels challenge children to create stories with several scenes. The first Level 1 has a single scene story, Level 3 has stories of 5 scenes, and Level 5  has stories with 9 scenes. The challenge mode starts with a quick video modelling the creation and recording of a story. After you have seen it a few times, it gets a bit tired, but you can tap on the big red cross in the top corner to turn it off. You can also turn the tutorial off using the app settings.

Creating your Stories

No matter the mode you choose to create your story, the steps are the same: Select a setting, select characters and props, record your story (or take a screen shot) then add more scenes or finish your story.

Settings –  The first step of making your story is to select a scene. There are lots of different locations to set your stories, such as the jungle, space, castle, pirate ship, homes and the Australian Outback. Each scene has about three different backgrounds, so stories can “move about.”

IMG_2275Select characters and props – After you pick a setting, it is time to place characters and props.  There are lots of different characters and props to choose from and any character or prop can be used in any scene, but to make it a little easier to match these items to their scenes, the selection menu is colour coded. Pirate items have a blue background, outback items have gold, beach items have yellow, and so on. (Of course, there is nothing to stop active imaginations sending an emu on a Pirate voyage to outer space.) You can drag unwanted items to the bin. Characters are not static: they will change direction as you move them; use two fingers to resize or rotate them; tap limbs to move them and change the character’s pose; tap a character’s head to select an emotion (my favourite feature!)  One great feature is the ability to create your own characters, choosing hair, skin tone, and clothing colours.

Record your story – Once the scene has been set up, children are prompted to record their story. There is a quick countdown and then children narrate their story while dragging the characters and props around the screen, changing character poses and facial expressions.  It is kind of like a virtual puppet theatre.  At the end of the recording, you can either keep or re-record.

Single or Multiple Page stories – You can create a single page story with the steps above, or repeat them for each page of a multiple story.

  • My Stories – All stories are available to read and reread. You can save unfinished stories to complete later, edit existing stories, or share your stories online as
  • Sharing stories online – the app’s settings allow adults to create an account so that stories can be shared online. Adults need to register for free to use this feature.    I suggest using an anonymous user name and double-checking your child’s work to make sure no identification is given away accidentally (e.g. real names and locations in narration) but I can’t see any real security concerns with this.  Stories shared this way can be viewed by family and friends without them needing the app to view it.

This YouTube video shows the app in action.

Other Features

Awards – Children receive virtual trophies for completing stories at the different challenge levels, and for each theme pack they use. My only wish here is that my children could log into the app individually as they love to earn their own trophies.

App Settings – These are limited to turning Voice Prompts and tutorials on or off, and logging into the Junior Storytellers account to upload stories to their server. The one option I wanted to be there, turning the theme music off from the main pages, wasn’t there.

Moving to writing

This app has no writing involved. Apart from giving titles to their apps, there are no places to write and even the instructions are given with recording and animation. That being said, this app is a great way to get children started with writing. It gets them thinking about the writing process: setting up a scene, choosing characters and props, and making up the basics of a story. The different challenge modes help formulate the idea that a story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Once children have created their stories in this app, you can use screen shots of each scene in a book creation app or word processor.

I can also see Junior Storytellers being valuable for us with children with special needs. It could be used to create some social stories, and to model and practice conversations.

Wish List

IMG_2267Just a few more features in the Avatar creation – At present you can change hair colour and style, skin tone, and the shirt and shorts in terms of colour, but my children would love more clothing options, plus a few more facial options, including changing eye colour and shape, and nose shape. At present there are two faces to choose from, but we’d love to have all the different face types used in the app’s characters, as they are inclusive of different ethnicities.  Options for glasses would go down well too and it would be nice to see some mobility aids for characters such as wheelchairs.

Option to control music volume – Currently you can’t switch the music off from the main screens.  As fun as it is (I really do like it), it might not be the ideal thing for a classroom and I’m getting to the stage where I’m going slightly mad when the kids take too long to make their selections.  Turning off the sound from the iPad is not an option as we need this to listen to the stories we have narrated.

Verdict

I love this app. It has everything you need to help children create amazing stories. I can see it being a great favourite with primary-aged children, but also a big winner with children with special needs or learning difficulties. For the reluctant writer, or those with literacy difficulties, Junior Storytellers can help them achieve some success with story making while encouraging their imaginations to take flight.  If you would like to try this app before you buy, they have a free version, with extra theme packs available via in-app purchase. My tip is to try it out then buy the full version that is all-inclusive at a very reasonable price.  You can also see an overview of the app and some stories created with it on the Junior Storytellers website.

Win a Free Copy

If you would like to win a copy of this wonderful app, The Appy Ladies and The Project Factory are running a
a Rafflecopter giveaway
that finishes on June 6th June 2014.

Details

Publisher: The Project Group Au
Website:  Junior Storytellers
Platform: iPad only (requires iOS 6.0 or above)
Price: $4.99
iTunes Link – Junior StoryTellers:  School Edition

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