Free Games

3 Free Storytelling Games

by Anna Van Slee

Imbuing games with educational value while keeping them entertaining is no easy task. Fortunately, there is storytelling, e.g. movies, cartoons, books, webisodes, ebooks, web sites, apps, etc. Most of the entertainment that kids imbibe comes in the form of storytelling.

Kids are extremely savvy: They can smell a "lesson" a mile away. But storytelling skills are among the easiest to game-ify because they are, essentially, the mediums via which much pure diversion is imparted to children and young adults.

The following three storytelling games require minimum set-up and allow students to exercise their creative storytelling, while simultaneously building spelling, grammar and vocabulary skills.


The Game: Pin the Tail on the Tale

You'll Need

- A long roll of paper
- Pencils, crayons or markers

How to Play

Each student should have their own piece of paper, long enough for everyone in the class to draw a word and symbol on it, and then to fold it over so that the next student cannot see what the previous student has written and drawn. Each student will begin by writing an adjective on the far left of their paper, and a small drawing beneath that to illustrate the adjective. (For example, "fast" might be represented by a rabbit.) Then, they will fold over the paper and pass it along to the next student, who will write a noun and illustrate it. Student will continue writing, drawing, folding and passing according to this pattern - adjective, noun, adverb, verb - until the paper returns to its original owner. The end result is a fun, nonsensical story, unique to each student.

Play Time

You can time how long each interval (i.e. time to write a word and draw a small illustration) lasts, thus regulating the playtime, based on the number of students in the class. For example, if you have 30 students and you give them one minute apiece and write and draw, the game will last 30 minutes. This time interval can be shortened to add additional challenge, or lengthened to give students more time to produce advanced words.

Skills

Spelling and grammar

For Different Level Students

You can vary the part of speech pattern to make it more or less difficult. For less advanced students, have them focus on subject-verb-object; for more advanced students, add in more complex parts of speech, such as pronouns and prepositional phrases, etc.

Homework

Obviously the word sequence will be somewhat nonsensical (that is the fun!), but for homework, you could have the student edit their story so that it makes sense. Alternately, you could also take their favorite phrase from the sequence and write a short story based on it.

Additional Education

Pin the Tail on the Tale is based on a game called "Exquisite Corpse" invented by the European Surrealists in the 1920s. The game was originally played by collaborators who worked on one continuous drawing (each subsequent collaborator would only see a portion of the preceding drawing, based on the fold-over). This game could be adapted for art class, both as a project and an opportunity to discuss the Surrealist movement.  


The Game: Hulk Vs. Shakespeare

You'll Need

- Pen and paper
- Thesauruses (one per team)

How to Play

Divide students into teams of two. Each team will write a short comic strip about the Marvel character the "Hulk." The Hulk speaks using as few words as possible, and refers to himself in crude third-person. For example: "Hulk want to be warm. Hulk start fire." When each team has finished, issue them a thesaurus and start the clock. The Hulk has now transformed into William Shakespeare, and they must race against the timer to replace as many of the words in their story with more complex synonyms as possible, adjusting the grammar of the sentences to accommodate as they do. One student will look up words; the other will write and edit their copy. So, using the previous example, those sentences could become: "Shakespeare desired to be comfortably snug. So, he ignited a conflagration." When the timer is up, the student team that successfully incorporated the most advanced synonyms wins. (One point per word.) Reading both comics out loud, one after the other, is an entertaining exercise for the whole class.

Play Time

You can regulate how long the game lasts by adjusting two factors: how long the original story is, and how long the timed synonym-replacement race lasts.

Skills

Spelling, grammar, and writing and editing

For Different Level Students

For less advanced students, remove the pressure of a timed competition. Have them write a comic about the Hulk during one class, and then replace the Hulk with Shakespeare in another class. For more advanced students, awarding extra points for more advanced words (i.e. rhyming words that don’t utilize the same letters, such as “black” and “Cadillac”) provides an incentive for students to use more complex vocabulary.

Homework

Have your students polish up the comic after-hours, then publish all the comics together as a full issue of Hulk vs. Shakespeare.

Additional Education

The Hulk and Shakespeare are popular culture figures with unique, distinct ways of speaking. What other figures could they be replaced with? Many popular characters have unique "voices" that can be leveraged to teach about grammar - from Batman, to Tom Sawyer to Dr. Seuss.


The Game: Rhyme Time

You'll Need

- Pen and paper

How to Play

Select a one-syllable word. All the students must write as long of a story as they can using words that rhyme with the original. A rhyming word of that original word must be used in at least every other line. Time the students and see who came up with the most words by the end of the time period.

Play Time

As long or short as you set the time interval.

Skills

Spelling, grammar and vocabulary

For Different Level Students

For advanced students, try to do several short Rhyme Time stories within one class period. For less advanced students, put them in teams to extend their brainstorming capabilities and relieve the pressure of competition on the individual.

Homework

Have students illustrate their story, or put it to music.

Additional Education

Rhyming is a basic component of hip hop and rap music. Have students bring in (or select pre-screened examples) of safe-for-school hip hop and rap. Have the students listen to it while reading the lyrics.


Anna van Slee is cofounder of otherdoor entertainment, a unique multi-platform, multi-disciplinary toy and game invention studio. She directs the playCHIC Fashion Show, which is part of the Chicago Toy & Game Fair. And chocolate-covered pretzels are her favorite food.

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