"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How to Tell a Story

It's How to Tell a Story Week!

This week Jen at Teach Mentor Texts, Aly at KidLit Frenzy, Cynthia at Librarian in Cute Shoes and I are celebrating the fun of storytelling by sharing ways our students have played the game, How to Tell a StoryHow to Tell a Story pairs a book that is a guide to the principles of creative storytelling with 20 six-sided, beautifully illustrated storytelling cubes. It's a blog tour and a giveaway so don't forget to enter below! 

Before I show you how my fourth graders played the game, check out this video to learn more about it:

Here are my students playing the game:

My fourth graders played How to Tell a Story during our library classes. We have 30 minute classes, so the groups had about 20 minutes to play. Given the limited time, I was not able to read a full chapter of the book, which is wry, smart, and engagingly written, and still have time for them to play, so I decided to adapt, which is cool, because that is one of the writing prompts. I wanted to see how the students reacted to the game and what they would do with it. I wasn't worried about engagement because the story blocks are so beautifully and engagingly illustrated. 

Before the classes arrived, I set up five tables with prompts/games/activities from the game book. Given that I have between 22 and 24 students per class, I divided up the blocks from one game between four of the tables, so the students worked with five blocks instead of the full twenty. This worked very well.  The students playing whodunit divided the other game blocks (10 each) and worked in pairs.

Table One: Topper - page 86

Table Two: Combine, Adapt, and Modify - pages 39-41
I had the students use these as first line book hooks. They rolled the cubes, filled in the blanks and then had to write the next sentence in the story.

Table Three: Whodunit - page 106

Table Four: Draw 5 
My own creation - the students rolled the five blocks and then created a picture story incorporating the five images on the blocks.

Table Five: Tell me About It.
My own creation again, this time the students rolled the five blocks and each one then tried to write a short story incorporating the images from the blocks.

I started the lesson by showing the game book and box and borrowing five blocks from a table. I then read a few of the pages, which I had previously marked, that I felt would give the students a sense of the game and get them engaged and excited (pages 7-10, 20, and 39). I explained that the game would be available in the library and that they could read the entire book at that point, but that time would not allow for that today. We practiced using the prompts with the five blocks. I then previewed the five activities/games. The students and I worked together to create game groups, using a combination of student interest, group size, and productivity. We must have done well because the library was filled with a productive buzz all morning. In addition, of the fifteen games groups throughout the morning only one needed redirection.

Here are examples of the students' stories:

Combine/Adapt/Modify Prompt


Draw 5

Topper and Adapt

Tell Me About It
"Once, there was a pirate ship that was looking for treasure. But these pirates were good pirates. Once, they found a secret castle in some mountains, and the pirates found that the entrance was in a secret passage in a library. When they got in the castle, there was a buried treasure! The pirates loved the treasure! But they still had one problem. They didn’t have a ship! One day, the littlest pirate, Joe, was searching the mountains and he found a bay! He was exploring the bay, and he saw a ship! He went on the ship and found more treasure! He went back to the castle to tell his crew. But they were gone! He went back to the ship to think. He was pacing around the ship when he heard a whhhrrrrrrr. He went to find where it was coming from, and he found a plane! Inside, were his crew in chains, and in the cockpit was a evil woman! He jumped in and threw the evil woman out, and him and his crew lived happily ever after."

"Once upon a time there were some mean pirates who stole some treasure.  But they had to keep it a secret, although one pirate wanted the gold to himself. When all the pirates were asleep, the greedy pirate snuck into the treasure room. ‘’Finally!” whispered the pirate. He opened the treasure box and laughed evilly. “It’s all mine!” Just then the door flew open and the greedy pirate saw the other pirates glaring at him in disappointment. “We trusted you Grover!” They said. ‘’You were part of our plan!”  All of a sudden a race car crashed through the boat and there was one of Grover’s best friend, the evil bunny.  Grover did so with all the treasure with him."

Once upon a time there were  pirates  keeping a secret  that they had buried treasure. They needed a place to hide it so they made a plan to go to a library. They found a map they could look at but then they found out the only library they were close to was in the Shivering Mountains. They had no snow gear so they gave up. 

"There was two octopuses who lived on a boat they loved each other so much they, so much they hugged  a lot. They jumped off and went for a swim very offen. they were going on a long journey across the ocean,that is why they were living on a boat.When they got off the boat they went on a train. They were very fine but there was one problom a bull was crossing the street, and the train had to come to a schreeching stop to make sure they didn’t run into the bull.They stoped right before they hit it. Luckily everyone was okay.The bull crossed the track and the train kept going and finished the journey."

"As the octopus were hugging at the train station they heard a big thump. They then saw a big bull and a train on the ground. They then saw there boat about to leave so they started running. They tried to jump on to the boat, but then they realized the boat was never there . It was just there imagination and they then fell into the water. But they then saw a bull chasing them. They decided to swim and swim. After swimming for an hour they found an island."

What did the students think?

How I plan to use this game

The fourth grade teachers were impressed by the game and think it would be a good tool for students who need help getting into their story. I plan to bring it to a class during writing blocks.

I also plan to use it for quick writing prompts when reflecting on books.

This game will be available to students during our Thursday Afternoon Program when they will have an opportunity to choose a chapter/focus on storytelling and improve their skills with guided practice.

What could be better than a game that helps children become better storytellers?  Enter the Giveaway! Winners must have a US mailing address. 
What's your story?


  1. This was so great Jennifer. Thank you for participating in the blog tour.