Storytelling and Language Learning with Picture Dice

One of the things I love about being connected on social media is that I get new ideas for my teaching practically every day. It must have been three or four years ago, when I was on Twitter and I saw an educator (apologies for not remembering who it was!) posting about using story cubes in class and then a lot of teachers got into the Twitter discussion, talking about how there were using them in class, others said they were also discovering them then and there like me…I found it a brilliant idea and they work a treat, not only with Young Learners, but also with my teenage students – I have also used them with adults and they loved them!

I also mentioned them in one of the workshops I did about three weeks ago, invited by the amazing Larissa Teachers Association in Greece! The teachers there have inspired me to write this post.

On to the picture dice, or story cubes now…

They can be used as a filler at the end of the lesson, for them to unwind and still learn, as a warmer for the beginning for the class – even though they might get really excited and not want to continue with other things – including the adult students!

One of our children telling us a story! (@LorasNetwork)
One of our children telling us a story! (@LorasNetwork)

This is not an advertisement for the specific product, but I also got this idea from a teacher on Twitter. There are actually ready-made story cubes, called Rory’s Story Cubes and they come in various topics. Actions, Voyages, Original, and many more. They are actually quite affordable and their material guarantees that nothing will happen to them.

How we use them:

  • The student holds them all together and shakes them, and then throws them on the table or floor as they would with normal dice. Then, they have to spend a few minutes thinking about the order in which they want to connect the nine cubes, in order to tell a story.
  • Sometimes, if we have time, we mix up two or three boxes and they can make an even longer and funnier story!
  • Two or three students can work at a time, preparing what they want to say and then, when the time comes for them to tell their story the collaboration and improvisation that comes up is spectacular!
  • One student throws the dice and starts telling the story, while the other(s) have their backs turned to the storyteller and they try to guess which picture the storyteller is talking about!
  • Students practise so many things with this game. Their grammar, and mainly their tenses and also vocabulary. They learn new items of vocabulary and they use them again and again in their next games, and they do it in a fun way too!

If you prefer not to buy, and create your own, or even better create your own along with the students, I have found a Paper-Cube-Template, online, which you can print on thick paper or cardboard so that it is even sturdier to use and lasts longer.

We can then:

  • Draw or cut and paste pictures on them with the students so they can create their own character and stories.
  • Add splashes of colour on each side of the die, so they can learn the colours, if they are beginners – we can do the same with numbers, or words, anything!

There is an educator in Istanbul, Evridiki Dakos, who did something last year that was terrific! She created her own huge dice using cardboard boxes, and then laminated them with clear tape so they would be more durable and the pictures could stay in excellent condition. Here is a collage of her work and you can find more super ideas from Evridiki on her blog, ELT Teacher Development.

Evridiki's amazing creations!
Evridiki’s amazing creations!
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27 thoughts on “Storytelling and Language Learning with Picture Dice

  1. yes, yes, yes!!! I bought the story cubes last year when traveling to London and then (sad sigh) forgot all about them … thanks Vicky for reminding me I have some magic tools waiting to be used 🙂

    Cheers!

  2. Oh, I love this idea! This would be so useful in classes where kids have never previously been encouraged to be creative in their writing. And in low resource schools we could create our own themes, draw the pictures and make our own cubes. Fabulous!

  3. Was it in Graham Stanley’s session that you first saw the dice being used? I’d seen it before in a live workshop but Graham shared this neat idea of passing the dice around and letting Ss take pictures of them with their phones. So, you end up with lots of different permutations and stories – and no one hogs the dice.

  4. Δεν διαβάζω. Όχι τώρα τουλάχιστον. Αρνούμαι να κάνω οτιδήποτε, πόσο μάλλον να διαβάσω Αγγλικά. Είδα όμως τα story cubes και χάρηκα! Έχω “τα πράσινα” και “τα μπλε”. Έχουν κάνει ΘΡΑΥΣΗ με παιδιά Δ’ και Ε’ τάξεων. Θεωρώ πως θα κάνουν θραύση και με μικρότερα, αλλά φέτος… με τα μωρά πάλι… δεν τα ‘χω δοκιμάσει ακόμα.

    Ελπίζω να ‘σαι καλά και να ομορφοπερνάς. Εδώ κρύο. Μέσα κι έξω. Κυρίως μέσα…

    Φιλιά
    Μαριλία

    1. Μαριλία μου!

      Πόσο χαίρομαι που ξανασυναντιόμαστε,έστω και διαδικτυακά! Χαίρομαι τόσο όταν βλέπω τα παιδιά καταενθουσιασμένα με τους κύβους και χαίρομαι που τους έχεις κι εσύ!

      Φιλάκια πολλά,
      Βίκυ

  5. I have three sets of story cubes that I bought last time I was home, but I have been thinking – most of my students have vocabulary lists (for better or worse) that they have to learn with every unit. And they could draw their interpretation of six of the words on the template you shared and use those to tell stories. It would be a great way of working with vocabulary and putting it into some kind of context. Thanks for all the other ideas. My high schoolers loved story cubes and now I’m brave enough to try them with lower levels as well.

    1. That’s a great idea, Anne – both to help them study what they have to and vocabulary they can really use and keep with them!

      Thank you for sharing your teaching ideas!

  6. This is a great tool! Story cubes like this will help children learn better and improve their language retention. There are so many funny things that you can do with the cube and they won’t be silly at all because they can do so much for grammar and vocabulary. Hope that all the kids will continue to learn more and more with this. Thanks for sharing!

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