My two-year old son is overjoyed as he claps his hands in glee when Talking Tom Cat repeats his spoken phrases, “my mama” and “tractor”. While Talking Tom Cat and his friends were created as interactive pets with built in voice repetition, they can be used to engage learners in repetitive tasks that may not be as intriguing if completed in a low-tech manner.
Talking Tom Cat is quite the social butterfly and has many friends (Larry the Bird, Lila the Fairy, Gina the Giraffe, Ben the Dog, Harry the Hedgehog, John the Bacteria, Rex the Dinosaur, Roby Celik the Robot, Santa, and Baby Hippo) but I try to focus on ones that hit the right price point… free. Tom Cat 1 & 2, Gina, Ben, Roby, and John are all free and can be used at multiple grade levels across various content areas. (I did utilize paid Talking Rex as he fit the homophone lesson quite nicely. Gotta love carnivores with the best of intentions.)
Talking Tom Cat will record for 45 seconds. The resulting video can be exported or saved to the device. If a teacher chooses to export to YouTube, he/she will want to set up a class YouTube account and ensure privacy settings are initiated as well as individual student AUP’s are being followed. Students can also email the video from the device as an mp4. If a student needs longer than 45 seconds, consider breaking the activity into parts or acts.
Roby Celik, the talking robot, is also free and allows users to either speak or type text. In testing him, we found that he took about three lines of text before he would stop recitation (probably about 45 seconds).
Roby: “My robotics teacher always tells us to cite our references when doing research.”
Rex: “Even though I had the best of intentions to become a vegetarian, I feel like I lost sight of my goals.”
Tom: “I was very excited when I visited the site for the new creamery. They even gave me a free sample.”
- Student use: Consider using a talking character app to recite a speech, practice foreign language, or create word problems for your peers to solve. Students could also create two videos (one from each perspective of an argument/debate) and have a third group compose a persuasive essay as a follow-up writing assignment.
- Teacher use: Create your own Talking Tom video to provide directions (e.g. lab safety rules, task instructions, login protocol) for a center or a learning station activity (see homophones example above). Teachers could also set up a center with prefixes, suffixes, and root words and have students assemble words, look up definitions, create a sentence that uses the new word in context, and then have a talking character recite the text. Consider using the videos as an introduction to a new topic or unit (as seen in Talking John below). From there, have students answer questions about the statements about bad bacteria, research bad bacteria further and create a KWL, Popplet Lite, a Frayer Model. Students could even compare & contrast good bacteria to bad bacteria, etc…
Bacteria John: “Bacteria are one-celled creatures that get nutrients from the environment to live. They can produce insude the body and cause infections. These are bad bacteria.”
Note: As the apps were created as interactive pets and not necessarily for instructional use, teachers will want to restrict “in-app purchases” to ensure students do not accidentally or intentionally purchase an added feature. This is quick and easy to do in the general menu of your iPad settings. Teachers will also want to test each app as to the appropriateness of the interactive features with the age group they intend to use it with.
Please comment with other ways you have and could use these talking characters in the classroom.