Thursday, April 07, 2011

Rory's Story Cubes for English class

This review of Rory's Story Cubes covers two products: the physical box, and the iPhone app - click here for our series of apps useful for English teaching and learning.

The idea is simple: nine 6-sided dice with, instead of numbers, icons/images on each face. As the packaging states "9 cubes, 54 images, 10,000,000+ combos, infinite stories." Some of the images are: a magnet, a speech bubble, a flower, a lock, a bee... The instructions are very simple - create a story using all of the images. One of those ideas: why did no-one think of this before?

The age recommendation on the packet of is "6+". But this is in fact a brilliant idea for secondary school classes of any age, too. I've used it recently for classes to think about 'the shape of a story' (a useful short talk by the novelist Kurt Vonnegut is at the bottom of this post: show this first as a way of introducing the concept). Divide your class into three: the first group provides the set-up by choosing the first three cubes and linking them (starting, of course, 'Once upon a time); then the second group takes over with three more cubes covering the middle development, and the final group has to provide the resolution with the last three cubes. [Another tip: in class, use a visualiser/document camera and zoom in to project the cubes large-scale on the screen.]

This is a simple idea for a really effective class, particularly in working out and arguing about the nuts and bolts of a narrative arc. One example: Leaving Cert candidates can learn a lot about Vision and Viewpoint when they get to the final three cubes and decide on the nature of a resolution. They can also be inventive when developing metaphors (A magnet: the character is drawn to something. A bee: a character suffers pain, or a realisation). It's also just great fun.

The app (right) costs a mere €1.59 on the iTunes Store. You shake your phone to roll the 'dice' (the phone makes a pleasingly convincing chunky sound doing this). You can move the dice around on the screen, and particular rolls can be locked.

Highly recommended.

1 comment:

charlesjshields said...

Just a note to let you know about a book blog I’ve started with a different twist: “Writing Kurt Vonnegut.” Every Saturday, I post another excerpt from my notebook as Vonnegut’s biographer— profiles of the people I met, the difficulties encountered, and the surprises, such as finding 1,500 letters he thought he had lost forever. It’s a blog written in episodes about being a literary detective.

Perhaps you’d like to give it a look at

All the best,

Charles J. Shields
And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (Holt, November 2011)