A few months ago, I decided to invest in some Story Cubes and have been trying them out with some of my classes. If you are unfamiliar with Story Cubes, they are a collection of nine dice with images printed on each side of the dice. They are stored in a convenient box which is super portable, with them being small enough to just place in your pocket. Anyhow, when using the Story Cubes in class, the students responded positively and created some very engaging and funny stories. If you want to find out a bit more information about these Story Cubes, you can check Rory’s website.
In this article, we look at ten teaching ideas for using Story Cubes in the classroom.
1. Play As Directed
The Story Cubes can be used as they were originally created for. You get each student to roll the cubes and then they must link all the pictures together through the use of a spontaneous story. I have also included the rules of using the cubes below to help.
When playing with family and friends take turns as the storyteller. The storyteller rolls all 9 cubes. Begin with ‘Once Upon a Time’ and tell a story that links together all 9 face-up images. Start with the first image to grab your attention. Use three cubes for the beginning, three for the middle and three for the end of the story. There is one rule: there are no wrong answers.
If you are still a little unsure, here is a video of Rory using the Story Cubes.
2. Use One Cube
Rather than using all 9 cubes, you could place all cubes into a bag and get one student to the front of the class. They choose one cube at random and then must tell a story to the class using all six images on one cube.
This idea is best suited for stronger learners of Intermediate or above. Respond to language and vocabulary where necessary and board it up and review at the end of the story. Don’t forget to tell students to write the vocabulary from the whiteboard into their notebooks. Students could then vote on the best story.
3. Review Grammar Forms
If you have been focusing on grammar, you could use the cubes to help creatively review the key grammar from the lesson.
For example, if you have been teaching students the Past Continuous form, then you could use the cubes. Get students to choose two dice, roll them and get one student or a small group to create their own personalised examples using the key language and form. Additionally, you could collect the sentences on a piece of paper and then look at the language all together as a class and correct where necessary.
4. Presentation Topic
You could use the cubes to prompt a presentation about a particular topic. A student selects one cube, rolls and then must prepare a presentation on it.
Give students five to ten minutes to prepare and then they must talk to the class about it. If one student wishes to ask a question to the presenter, then they can at the end.
5. Rolling Story
Get students to sit in a circle facing each other with a table in the middle and you start with “Once Upon a Time there was a …” and you roll one dice and then complete the sentence. Another student picks a different cube and then continues the story.
Go round the class until all cubes have been chosen and rolled. Get students to go back to their groups and then they must write the story, from memory, and then check vocabulary and difficult grammar as a class. Monitor and provide support where necessary.
6. Story Prompts
This is similar to idea number five but is silent rather than vocal. The teacher rolls the first dice and describes a character from the picture. Try to be as creative as possible and students listen and then write down information about their character from what the teacher has dictated.
The teacher selects another student to come and select a cube and roll it. That student shows this to all students. The student then completes the information from the prompt using the image from the dice. Continue the activity until all dice have been rolled and students have completed their task. Students then tell the story to their group using their notes to help them. Students could then vote on the best story in the class.
You can download the Story Prompts File here and use it in class.
7. Action Bingo
This lesson is aimed for the Story Cubes: Actions to review verbs. You could either get students to write down the verbs in random order on a grid of 54 squares which you call out or if you think writing down all the verbs will take too long, you could prepare your own bingo worksheets and hand them out randomly. You just need to decide what the verbs are for each image on the cube. Anyhow, students have to cross out or tick off the verb which is rolled on a dice. You continue until a learner has crossed off or ticked out the verbs, just like traditional Bingo.
There are 54 different images on the nine cubes, but you could select six out of the nine cubes and then create a six by six Bingo Grid so that students could either win by getting all horizontal verbs or vertical verbs complete. However you decide to deliver the Bingo activity, the first student to get all set action images ticked off vertical is the winner. You can download and use a template Bingo worksheet for your class here. Busy Teacher also have a worksheet that you can refer to review the verbs.
8. Elementary Guided Stories
Story cubes are best suited for students are placed at a level of Intermediate or above. However, Elementary students can still benefit from creating stories if there is a lot of modelling and support provided.
You can use the following Guided Story Template to help students create their own personalised story. There are three key areas: the introduction of the characters, the decision to go on a journey to achieve something and then returning back home to live happily ever after. It is basic but it would give lower level learners more motivation to create their own stories with the support of a model. As a follow up, you could get students to create their own comic to go with their story. And, don’t forget to get students into small groups to complete the task.
9. Mixed Cubes
There are essentially four sets of Story Cubes: Classic, Voyages, Fantasia and Actions (they are around £9.99 per set so you are looking for all four at just under £40.00). You could use a combination of two, three or four sets together.
You get students to roll all the cubes and then they have to choose nine at random, connecting and then making a story. Instead, you could use a small bag or box containing all the cubes, students pick out a total of nine and then roll them all at the same time. They must then create a story use all the dice that they have rolled in their small groups.
10. Tall Stories
A different approach to story telling is to use all the cubes from all the series and start putting one on top of the other. Students roll all the cubes or pick one out of a bag/box and continue the story putting more and more cubes on top of each other. The story ends once all the cubes collapse, then the next student continues with the same rules above.
This will generate a competitive element for the students and is possibly more suited for teenagers or young adults. Remember to monitor the stories and provide necessary feedback and scaffold language where required.
Edit: Here are some of the material which could be used in class.
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Have you used Rory’s Story Cubes before in class? What particular activities do you incorporate when using the cubes?
You can also buy the cubes as an iPhone or iPad app. Very useful!