Week 2: PuppetPals & Rule Of Thirds

This week, the Prep – Grade 2s looked at using PuppetPals. The Grade 3-6s started their unit on Photography, looking at the Rule of Thirds. I’ll start with PuppetPals and go through the Rule of Thirds at the end of the post.


Given that the curriculum for Media Arts specifies developing stories using characters and settings with images, sounds and texts – it made sense to use a digital tool that younger students can cope with easily and intuitively.

To this end, I introduced the Prep-Grade 2 classes to PuppetPals, an app on the iPad that allows students to create their own puppet shows. There are a few different versions of PuppetPals out there. They are free initially, but you can pay for add-ins as well. I used PuppetPals HD. I have seen my 3 year old daughter play with it, and she can figure it out pretty well, so I knew that these kids would have no problem.

PuppetPals essentially gets kids to choose characters, choose backgrounds (sort of like a stage play) and then make up stories just by moving the characters about on the screen. Kids can move them around, rotate and resize them to their hearts content. There is also the facility to record it and then export the play as a movie.

The free version of PuppetPals comes with a small selection of characters and settings, but you can pay $AU1.49  for character packs that come with a few themed characters and backgrounds (eg: Wild West) or you can pay $AU7.99 for the entire catalog – 18 of them at the time of writing. Obviously features and prices change, so don’t hold me to that. I just paid the $AU7.99. Since all the iPads in my room are connected to the same account, they all loaded up with them. They are not all installed, you still have to go and install them yourself. I allowed the students to pick and choose which packs they wanted to play with. As a result, all my iPads have different packs loaded, but that’s fine.

Character Packs
Character Packs

This week was really about the students learning how to use the app and having fun with it. I watched them create zombie stories, fairytales, wild west adventures. It was great fun to see. I picked out a couple and mirrored the iPad on the TV to share with the class. At this stage, I didn’t want them to record anything. Just to “rehearse” as it were.

The Grade 2s I gave them an extra job to do. As part of the paid “Director’s Pass” that gives you the whole catalog, you can also take a photo of someone – cut them out (so you mask out the background) and then have them in the app as a character themselves. You can also take a photo of a background and use that as well.

Real actors as Characters
Real actors as Characters

Here is a video that goes through the features:

Next week, I intend with these kids to tie in their term 1 inquiry topics to Media Arts by giving them a set topic to do their story on. We’ll see how that goes. But the kids certainly had fun.


I did a photography course several years ago when I bought my first DSLR camera. When it came to composition, the teacher told us that the first rule of photography is the Rule Of Thirds. The second rule is, to go ahead and break the rules as you see fit. I also told my students this, and they had great delight when I told them that this would be the only time a teacher would say they were allowed to break the rules!

What I haven’t been able to obtain as yet is a collection of still and video cameras. I’m hoping a fundraiser later in the year can help pay for them down the road. So for now, we’re using iPads.

Ahead of time, I got all the iPads out and turned on the Grid function on the camera app. This overlays a Rule of Thirds grid on the camera which makes it easier for the kids to use.

With the grade 3-6s, we went through what the Rule of Thirds was, and some examples using both my own photos and ones I found on the net. I then took them out for a “field trip” into the playground and asked them to use the Rule of Thirds to line up their object of interest in the photo. We got some interesting results, and I’ve put some of the highlights down here below.

Before we went out, we talked about framing the image, looking at something from different angles, and trying to create interesting shots. I’m quite pleased with how they came out.

Next week, we’re going to look at portraiture – and just for fun, we’ll be doing them in black and white.

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