A few years ago I wrote about using Rory’s Story Cubes for creative storytelling.
Recently I revisited the app, found some interesting updates, and created a spin-off activity to help my ESL students practice developing their understanding of verb tenses. By the end of the semester, they will have been studying verb tenses for 5 months, and hopefully they will realize that most people don’t use the Future Perfect Progressive.
Over the last few years, I’ve checked in on the app from time to time and noticed the small additions that were coming in. Now the app has 15 sets of die with a wide range of themes, and it allows you to roll anywhere from 1-9 die in your choice of a single set, or mixing as many die together as you like.
The currently available themes range are
- Enchanted (fairytale)
- Intergalactic (space)
- Fright (horror)
- Score (sports)
- Prehistoria (dinosaurs / cavemen)
- Mythic (Greek/Roman gods)
- Powers (Superpowers)
- Rescue (Disaster)
These themes allow you to customize the cubes to match your course content, or just go with whatever comes up. At $0.99 per pack, it might get a little pricey, but it would still be cheaper to buy them all than it would be to go out and buy 2 packs of the physical cubes.
Tying the cubes in with Grammar
Verb tenses can be a long-term struggle for ESL students, even those who have spent years learning and studying in an English only environment.
I created the following activity to help students practice.
I made 6 stations around the room. Each station was themed with 1 of the six most common verb tenses:
- Simple Present
- Simple Past
- Present Progressive
- Past Progressive
- Present Perfect
In groups of roughly 4 (my classes have about 25 students), students gathered around the stations (if possible, mix up your native languages).
I chose 3 sets of die (original, actions, and voyages) and connected the Story Cubes app on my iPad to the projector. I set the default number of cubes to “4” so that the students wouldn’t get overwhelmed. Then I rolled the die and let the students do the work.
The group at each station would work together to come up with one or two sentences to try to link what they saw on the cubes together with the tense at the station they were at. Once they all agreed, they would write the sentence or sentences down at the station.
The image above might prompt students at the Simple Past station to write something like “When the hero got to the gate, the moonlight shined on the magical keyhole. The hero opened the lock and a treasure dropped from the sky.”
Once the students had enough time, I would call on them to rotate to the next station. I would roll the die again, and the students would be off creating new sentences in the new tense.
Depending on how much time you have, you may choose to have students make the full cycle and try their hand at every tense. You may also choose to break this up as I did; my students created sentences for 3 of the stations, and edited for the others.
In the same groups, I had students select a station that they hadn’t worked at, and they discussed the sentences that were written there. Together they sorted out whether the tenses had been used properly or not, and how to fix it if necessary.
Finally, I had my students share their critique on Flipgrid, allowing the whole class to go back later and see if they agreed.
Rory’s Story Cubes continue to be a great way to connect your students’ creativity and personal interests to lessons in ways that get them thinking outside the box.
It’s easy to see how this could be linked to other grammar points like proper use of prepostions, word form, clauses, and more.
If you want your own real cubes, I still think they’re a worthy purchase:
Or, of course, download it to your device:
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