Shuffle Up! Invite Storytelling in Your Class

A MiddleWeb Blog

Working_Draft-logo-bulbI’m always on the lookout for different ways to engage my sixth graders as storytellers.

Sometimes, this involves technology and digital tools. Sometimes, it’s just a twist on something already known. Whatever I can do to get them writing stories and finding their voices as writers is worth a try in my book.

So I was intrigued to see a reference to something known as Storyteller Cards, which is a project that was financed through a Kickstarter campaign (I did not participate in the Kickstarter for the cards, but I did pay $10 for a deck).

The deck is intriguing. Each card has a character, a setting, an object and an action. There is also an emotion element and a season. And the suits and numbers represented, too, just like regular playing cards. (Click to enlarge.)

SCards-Anatomy-testOn the Storyteller Card website, there is a free downloadable file of various options for playing games and writing stories with the cards, including a “fill in the blank” story starter, an activity for creating a movie script and other variations that the developers crowdsourced out for ideas on using the deck of story cards. (There is also now a second deck available, on the theme of Fantasy).

Using the cards in class

The first time we used the story cards, I did not have a clear idea of how best to use them, so we started small. I gave every student two or three of the cards, and then opened up a discussion about what they saw on the cards.

They were intrigued. We discussed where writers get inspiration for writing stories, and how cards like these might help. I used the card developer’s template for a cloze-style story to ease my young writers into thinking about the cards as sources for inspiration. That led into a longer short story writing prompt.

Then, I opened the floor up to my students: How could we best use a deck of Storyteller Cards for writing activities?

MissUniverseWe had just finished up an entire unit on game design, so there were some suggestions on how to construct a card game that involved telling stories, either as a competitive or a collaborative activity.

Some students suggested using the cards as mentor texts and making their own versions of the story-playing cards with their own characters, items and setting.

Another student mentioned our regular Write Around activities (where one student starts a piece of writing and passes it to someone else) and how that could be adapted by starting a story with one card, and then introducing new characters and actions by being dealt a second card, and so on. There was talk about a charades activity, of acting out the story represented on a card.

I don’t know how often I will pull these cards out and get them into the mix of our daily “writing into the day” activities, but I like how the cards open up a flexibility of imagination for my young storytellers. I’m willing to let them take the cards and the stories where they will go and see where we all end up.

Now, shuffle the deck and pass me a card, will you? I’ve got a story to tell.

kevin 2 storyteller cards pic

Kevin Hodgson

Kevin Hodgson is a sixth grade teacher in Southampton MA and outreach coordinator for the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. An aspiring writer and former newspaper journalist, Kevin believes that all students are writers and that writing is one of the most fundamental means of understanding the world. His views around literacy include interaction within the digital world, meeting students on common ground, and helping them make the shift from passive consumers to active creators and collaborators. He is a co-editor of Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change and Assessment in the 21st Century and blogs regularly at Kevin’s Meandering Mind. He can also be found on Twitter as @dogtrax.

2 Responses

  1. Fran Chadwick says:

    Great idea on ways to use these cards, Kevin! I’m thinking of creating (although novice), some of my own and use the storytelling to develop understanding of vocabulary through practice via storytelling. Thanks!

  2. dogtrax says:

    Making your own is always a good idea …

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