Story cubes are dice with unique pictures on every side. I’ve been using story cubes in the classroom since before my CELTA, when I was volunteering and I had no idea what to do with early finishers. I would often hand them a few story cubes and ask them to tell each other a story.
Here’s a rather cutesy trailer which shows just that:
Since then, I’ve discovered that lots of EFL teachers use story cubes and there’s actually a lot written about them (I’ll include a few links a the end). I wanted to add an idea of my own which I haven’t seen elsewhere. This is an easy to prepare lesson for a variety of levels. The hand-out can be downloaded here.
I recommend getting the ‘original’ and ‘action’ sets, which include 9 dice each. You can also make your own versions using cards or a dice template which are options I’ll look at in detail in a future blog post.
This lesson plan is the same at each level whether your target language is the past simple, the past continuous and the past simple or the full range of narrative tenses. I introduce my class to story cubes with a quick demonstration: with a smaller class I show them the dice, roll three, and tell a quick story. I then ask the students to tell the story back to me using the narrative tenses correctly. I help them along, with reminders about the story and grammar.
With a larger class you could have your story pre-written, then make a gap-fill with your target language. Tell the story, as written, before giving the students the hand-out then ask them to fill in the gaps with the correct tenses. Include pictures to help students follow the story. For feedback read the story again, pausing to ensure students have the correct answers.
Students work in pairs and each pair is given three story dice and a copy of the hand-out. (there are two versions, purely so that students at higher levels are free to write more). Students roll the dice, draw the pictures in the spaces provided and then work together to write the first part of the story.
Once students have finished all of the stories are passed clock-wise to the next pair. They then read part one of their newly adopted story and discuss how it could continue. Then they roll their three dice and continue writing the story in part two. This is repeated for part three. Monitor and elicit corrections as they write.
It is important not to skip the discussion stages of the activity since this gives students time to think before they roll the dice. It also allows you to check for any difficulties the students have with each others’ ideas and hand-writing.
Once the stories are finished they get passed back to their original pair who read them and decide if they are good and/or logical. At higher levels students should be aiming to have logical progression and a clear beginning, middle and end.
The stories are then put up on the wall and students are asked to walk around the room, reading the stories in pairs. They are asked to discuss the stories and pick out their favourites.
You’ll end up with a stack of writing with the target language to feed into error correction in your next lesson. You could even try one of the two error correction games on the blog: a quiz as a hand-out or Powerpoint presentation and a game adapted from wits and wagers.
As I mentioned earlier there are plenty of ideas out there for using story cubes. You can also make story cards using sets of pictures (for Halloween I made a set of story cards with scary creatures, locations and things which could be used in a similar way to story cubes). You can even get students to make their own story cubes using a basic dice template.
Here are some useful links with more ideas: