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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Using Twitter – PD in Focus 6

The Twitter logo (Image taken from www.twitter.com)
The Twitter logo (Image: http://www.twitter.com)

I will start with a short story…

It was around four years ago when I first moved here to Switzerland and I was full of dreams for my new life. I had found a job before I came – or so I thought. The crisis arrived in Europe and then Swiss employers decided to stop employing people for a period of time. The school that had promised to take me on informed me they could not anymore. I was suddenly without a job.

One day, when I was feeling sorry for myself, I decided to Google ELT materials and look at things I like to feel better. Ken Wilson’s blog came up and I started to read it. I then  got in touch with him and he told me not only to start my own blog, but to make a Twitter account to connect to more teachers. Up until then, I didn’t have any contact with technology apart from emailing and googling. Twitter? I thought. A social media platform where people share details of their lives…to connect with teachers? I did it, not without hesitation though. I wasn’t sure how it would help me – not at all doubting Ken, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have anything  to say. I started connecting to other teachers and seeing what they posted: useful links, their blog posts and posts of others too, new tools in technology to use in class…I loved it so much!  And I haven’t looked back ever since.

If you are an educator and are not on Twitter, I strongly suggest you do it. It will help you in more ways than can be mentioned. How to do it?

– Look at Barbara Hoskins-Sakamoto‘s Starter PLN List. A PLN is your Personal Learning Network – all those lovely educators, in any country in the world you can imagine.

– Read Sue-Lyon Jones‘ blog post on Twitter for Teachers with a useful video and links.

– Join the weekly miracle of a chat called ELTChat. It is a weekly double chat which started in September 2010, when a group of educators began to use Twitter to discuss various topics related to ELT. It is one of the greatest tools for professional development. Every Wednesday at 12pm and 21.00pm, ELT teachers from everywhere in the world join in on Twitter to discuss topics that have been voted for.

– Here is a video made by a super educator in Australia, Selena Woodward, called Getting Started with Twitter – For Educators. Many thanks to Tina Photakis, another super teacher in Australia, who posted it on Twitter and to Selena for creating it!

We are all there to help you out! Make an account and join literally thousands of educators out there.

I would never have met all these lovely people mentioned and many more, if it weren’t for Twitter.

From Zug to Belgium – A BELTA Webinar

BELTA Belgium
BELTA Belgium

Today was the day of the first webinar for BELTA Belgium, a great new association for English teachers in Belgium and everywhere, in fact! BELTA was founded by James Taylor, Mieke Kenis, Ellen de Preter, Guido van Landeghem and Jurgen Basstanie. You can read more about the foundation of BELTA and also watch the launch event here.

I was asked to do the first webinar for BELTA, which I accepted with great joy and honour. The topic was Professional Development for Now and the Future: A Guide to 2013 and you can watch the slideshow below:

I have also created a PDF file with the most useful links.

BELTA Presentation – Useful Notes

Here is the link with the recording of the webinar, which will also be published on the BELTA blog, Facebook and Twitter.

A huge thank you to BELTA and everyone who was there (including my parents!), in the Adobe Connect room and to my sister, Eugenia, who was there in the same room as I was, cheering us all on (and also helped me find a title to this blog post)!

A screen capture of the webinar (Photo by Roseli Serra)
A screen capture of the webinar (Photo by Roseli Serra)