“I loved the games the most. Story Cubes was my favorite. It was like learning and playing at the same time.” Bryan, 5th Grade
Writing is hard work. We wanted to help kids build up their writer "muscles" until they could write for a whole hour. But that also meant giving them lots of opportunities to get some enegry out. Games were a great way to do that—while reinforcing writing skills at the same time. We played a lot of different games, but Story Cubes was by far the favorite.
The Dragon Kim Foundation provided several sets of Rory's Story Cubes. Each set included nine 6-sided die with a picture on each side. Here's how it worked: kids gathered in small groups, someone rolled the dice, then they make up a story using the pictures which they could arrange in any order.
Kids would lean in, rearrange dice, offer suggestions, shout and laugh and argue about what should happen next. They were totally engaged. The game taught them that a story is a sequence of events, and that you as the writer need to make sense out of those events—and make the events meaningful for a reader. It's just a dice game, but it's harder than it sounds!
It was especially interesting to see how different groups tended to favor the same genre, or felt compelled to drive their characters to a happy or sad ending. For example, one group of boys were never satisfied until the hero in their story died. Every time.
The kids created dozens of stories using just the Story Cubes and their imaginations. Here's one of our favorites:
THE MAGIC FLUTE, THE WOLF, AND THE CAVEMAN
Once there was a magical flute that had the power to hypnotize anyone who heard its music.
A wolf found the magical flute in the wildnerness and blew it. The sound was beautiful, but as he played the flute, music pixies came out of the holes.
The pixies told the wolf that the magical flute had once lived in the castle but was thrown away. The wolf offered to return the flute to the castle, but the music pixies warned him, "The castle is guarded by knights in armor."
"That's not so bad," the wolf said.
"And if you get by the knights," the music pixies said, "you'll face Medusa."
"Oh," said the wolf.
While they were talking, a caveman walked over, attracted by the music. The wolf told him the story. "Medusa?" the caveman said. "Who's that? I'm not afraid of whoever that is."
So they went to the castle. The caveman defeated the knights and Medusa came out. The caveman didn't look so confident anymore. He was about to say something when Medusa looked him in the eye and he turned to stone.
Medusa went back into the castle. The wolf was so sad, he sat by the caveman and played the flute. An angel heard the music and came down. She was impressed by the caveman's courage and brought him back to life.
The caveman invited the wolf and music pixies to live with him. They crossed the wilderness to his home. He wrote down the whole story so he would never forget.
Most of the kids came from different schools and economic situations in Fullerton. So it was important to connect them to each other as quickly as possible.
To play the Beach Ball Game, we wrote a story-related question on each panel of the ball: What is your favorite book or movie? What's your favorite genre? If you were a character in a story, what's an interesting fact about you? Then we stood in a circle and tossed the beach ball around the classroom. When a kid caught the ball, they had to answer the question on the panel under their right hand. We played this game at the start of each week.
CONNECTING THE STORY WEB
Story Web was another popular game. We all sat in a circle. Then someone was given a ball of yarn. They began a story by introducing a time, place, character or action. Then they rolled the ball of thread across the circle. The next person added to the story. Then, holding onto the string, they rolled the ball to someone else.
Like Story Cubes, Story Web teaches kids about connecting events in a story. But where the cubes, with the images, focus your story, the web is wide open. All you have to work with is what came before you. You can't even control the end of the story!
One day a boy was riding his bike. He saw an alien spaceship flying toward him. He watched it land, then walked to the spaceship to welcome the aliens to earth. But without warning, the aliens abducted him.
They took him to another planet and left him an a town filled with strange creatures. He saw animals with three eyes. He was so scared he tried to run, but tripped and fell. The whole town chased him with forks. He thought they were going to eat him.
He pulled out his phone to call for help but there was no wi-fi. An alien soldier approached. The boy threw his phone, which hit the soldier in his eye. The boy dodged past the soldier and ran back into the spaceship. But there were aliens there too, and they had tridents.
They marched the boy to the palace where he met their Queen. "I command," she said, and he was afraid of what she was going to order him to do. "I command... you to clean the palace!" Chores?
"No way!" the boy said and jumped out a nearby window. It was 100 feet in the air, but gravity was different on this planet and he landed safely on the ground. He ran through a parking lot of spaceships, found an empty one, and pressed buttons until the spaceship took off.
He was safe! The spaceship flew back to earth and landed in a forest. But as he wandered around, he noticed the trees looked different, and realized he wasn't on earth!
He met another group of aliens, but this time they were explorers not conquerers. They guided him out of the big forest, invited him to their spaceship, and flew him home.
|Nara Duffie: The Monster Realm|