Monday, October 22, 2012

Tell Me a Story...

Those who tell the stories rule the world.
~ Hopi American Indian Proverb

So, I tried something new in my ESL class last week...  You see, about half of my students show up for class 20-30 minutes early and I haven't been able to figure out exactly what to do with them.  They want to start the weekly quiz, but then they finish before class even starts and are impatient when the students who arrive on time are taking the quiz!  ;)

Last summer, on a whim, I picked up these story cubes, thinking that they might be a nice activity for the summer session - after my students had a year of class under their belts.  I was nervous that it would be too difficult for them at first.  

There are 9 cubes, each with different images printed on each side - images such as a question mark, an eye, a sheep, a tree, an airplane, a flashlight, a pyramid, an empty speech bubble, etc.  Basically, you roll the dice and use the images to spark creative story telling.  You can have each student tell his or her own story using just a few of the dice or you can have each student pick one die and use it to add on to the story that the other students have started, etc.  

Well, last week, out of desperation to make those 20-30 minutes valuable for my early birds, I pulled out the story cubes and gave them a try.  

I worked with groups of 2 students at a time.  The first time each student rolled the dice, I asked her to select 1 cube and say something about the image.  The second time, 2 cubes - and, from then on, 3 cubes.  I encouraged the students to try to come up with a story that tied the 3 cubes together.  Some were more successful at that than others...  ;)

To my amazement, it worked really well!  The thing I hadn't realized ahead of time, was how well the activity scales itself to each student's ability.  My weakest students could get out sentences like "The house is nice," for a single cube.  My strongest student combined 3 images (house, light bulb & cell phone) to say, "I call electric company when no lights in my house."  

I was so happy and, needless to say, I plan on using them often from now on!  

So many of our in-class activities are centered around very structured language generation - to practice grammatical structures like comparisons, negatives, questions, etc.  I love adding this one in, which is totally free form!  

Shall we see how well I can express myself with in story-cube-speak?  Here are five examples, using my own images.  Try to figure each one out and then scroll down to read the answers...

Example #1 (Warm Up)

Answer - No sewing makes me sad.

Example #2

Answer - Sewing books are good!

Example #3

Answer - Taking a large group of people to the aquarium stresses me out!

Example #4

Answer - Next month I'm flying to Mexico to visit Ana!

Example #5

Answer - “I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
~ Jean Cocteau

Okay, that last one may have been a bit much...  ;)


  1. That looks like fun for a party!

    1. Hi Gwen! I hadn't thought of that, but I bet you're right! :)

  2. Wow! Thanks for the awesome idea! I've just ordered these here (can't believe I even found them over here)! Can't wait to use them with my students! :D

    1. I hope they work well for your class! Have fun! :)