Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dicing Up Your Story: New Storytelling Activity

Song Dynasty
Su Hanchen, mid 12th Century
Yesterday I met with my sixth and seventh grade storytelling troupe. They have already selected their stories so we spent some time identifying where they could add gestures as they told their tales.

I began by asking them to tell aloud, separately, and simultaneously. As I walked around the room, listening and watching, I noticed many natural movements coming to life.  One student, Soraya, was completely immersed in the story; her body bent forward, arms outstretched, her face displaying all the hallmarks of an intense conversation as she spoke some of the dialogue. So convincing was her body language I had to look twice to see if she was actually speaking with another student. When I remarked on it later during our discussion, she was surprised by my description. She truly didn’t realize what she was doing; it was a natural extension of stepping into her story.

After everyone finished I asked them to complete the written exercise,
Giant Gestures, then called everyone into a circle. Using a large, foam dice each student took turns tossing it. Whatever number came up they performed that number of gestures from their story, while explaining the part of the story the gesture complemented. Since the numbers went from one to six, and the written exercise only asked for five gestures, if six came up they shared five gestures and one facial expression.

They had a great time and didn’t want to stop. Luke, another student asked, “Do you know the Wonder Ball song?” He suggested we pass the dice as we sang the song, and the student left holding the dice would share a gesture. I liked the idea and added, “Since three is the magic number in fairytales let’s share two gestures and one facial expression.” Once a student was ‘out’ they sat in the middle of the circle urging their friends on.

I can easily imagine this dice being used for other story parts as well. Perhaps you might attach something specific to each number. For example:
#1 = gesture
#2 = two lines of dialogue
#3 = three facial expressions
#4 = four adjectives to describe someone in your story

#5 = use your five senses to describe the setting of your story

#6 = share six (major or minor) events that happen in your story

* These games are free for you to use in your work. However, I  do ask that you respect copyright and offer attribution.
After both games they completed a second written exercise, Story Snapshot. I was delighted to read the highly descriptive and detailed answers they gave for the questions. The combination of telling their stories aloud, completing Giant Gestures first, transitioning to activities that engaged the entire body, and back to one last written exercise, Story Snapshot, worked! The entire process complemented and reinforced their gestures, facial expression, story sequence, imagination, and team spirit, and they had fun in the process!

Next week I will try out a new activity, based on another childhood game. I will let you know how it turns out!
* Both exercises, Giant Gestures and Story Snapshot can be found in my book,
Story by Story: Creating a Student Storytelling Troupe.

Note: Yes, I know that normally the singular for dice is die. However, when I double checked before posting the blog this is what I read: The New Oxford Dictionary of English, Judy Pearsall, Patrick Hanks (1998) states that “In modern standard English, the singular die (rather than dice) is uncommon. Dice is used for both the singular and the plural.”

Karen Chace 2014 ©
This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.


storytellermaureenbarry said...

What a great activity! It is very engaging and involves the student in bringing the story to life for the listener.
Love it!

Karen Chace said...

Hi Maureen,

My apologies for not responding sooner, I just read your comment while reviewing these activities. Thank you so much for taking the time to read the blog post and sharing your kind thoughts. Please do let me know if you use these in your work; I would love to know the outcome!

Warm regards,