I bought these story cubes a few months ago, and I’ve tried them out a few times this term. They are basically dice with pictures on them, so it’s really up to you how you use them. You can find a few ideas on the story cubes site, which include some demonstrations.
These are a pretty good tool to have in the classroom, and it wouldn’t be too hard to make your own (they can be a bit costly if you want a few sets). I find with my EFL classes that there’s rarely time for storytelling lessons, which is a shame as these cubes would be a great resource. However, I’ve tried to integrate these into lessons, with varied success. As you’d expect, the cubes mainly help students generate ideas for certain tasks. They’ve worked best with my teens.
Note: If you know about the specific sets of cubes then I’ve got ‘voyages’, ‘actions’ and the standard set.
A few weeks ago we did a review of using articles (a fairly common error for Thai learners) which was based on Jim Scrivener’s activities in Teaching English Grammar. The basis of this was creating a short story (about 5-8 lines). Student’s had to use articles correctly for new/known information. They then cut their story up line by line and gave this to another group to put in the correct order. The cubes helped with ideas and made the stories fun for other students to read. This also meant lots of emergent language.
Sometimes I do simple grammar review games using cards and dice. I mix up the rules a bit, but the cards normally have verbs on them, the number on the dice represents subjective case (I, you, etc) or verb tense, and students generate sentences based on what card they choose/number they roll. The story cubes add another dimension to this. Sure, it’s just the verbs on a dice (like my action cubes set), but they seem to add a bit of interest/intrigue and again, a bit of new language comes out of it.
Getting into English mode
I would have titled that ‘warmers’ if I hadn’t just read the latest blog post by Chia Suan Chong on ETpro. In fact, I’m still going to call this a warmer as I disagree with Chia to an extent. A lead-in that sets the context for a lesson is pretty important, so I leave it until about 10 minutes into class when all my latecomers have arrived. In those ten minutes I either do a review or… a warmer.
I’ve used these at the start of class as a storytelling tool to get students focused and ‘switching to English mode’. They roll a set of dice and move from one picture to another, adding it into their stories. They work in groups so it gets them collaborating, they ask me (or other students) questions when they don’t know how to explain things so it gets them interacting, and they have a bit of fun so it relaxes them.
I have these really strong students in one of my primary level classes. They study at a government school with an English programme, so their general ability is way beyond the other students. I’ve used the cubes for ‘stretching tasks’ with them, and they seem to like them. We did a film topic recently, and while other students were getting to grips with vocabulary for different film genres, my strongest students were using the cubes to devise the plot for their own movie (then the script for scene one… yes, they’re a bit too good!).
It’s hard to say, as the cubes are a supplementary resource and I never really know when they’ll be relevant. I’m always on the lookout though! I haven’t used them with my adult classes, so I might try that out.
Recently I’ve been using a few activities from Grammar by Scott Thornbury. I’ve come across this book pretty late, but I’ve elevated it to my number two spot for grammar activities! There are a few activities I’ve seen in there that the cubes could supplement, e.g. ‘Grammar Poems’ and maybe ‘Grammaring a Sentence/Text’ (these mean nothing if you don’t have the book – I recommend getting it though!).
Do you use story cubes? Please share any cube activities you’ve tried! Cheers 🙂