Thursday, August 28, 2014

Story Cubes and the Art of Storytelling

I received no compensation whatsoever for this post. I'm writing it because I want to.

I am a big proponent of teaching children to read stories -  both to themselves and aloud - well, and to be able to make stories up on the fly. The ability to tell stories well is a dying/lost art and I intend to do my part in resuscitating it and then fostering its growth in the world at large.

I know that not every individual is skilled in this lovely art of story telling but I think everyone can reach a certain level of proficiency if they practice. I think it's important to do this for numerous reasons, each which would take a long post to describe and defend.

Some of my reasons are as follows:

  • Truth is very easily communicated through story. If you want to connect with someone to share a truth in a non-threatening way, try a story. They will usually listen longer.
  • In a Facebook/Twitter World where we are supposed to limit ourselves to 2 lines of text - (I have totally given up on doing that, by the way) - we have lost the ability to form cohesive, lengthy thoughts. It is a good habit to practice telling stories because it requires that you string together a variety of thoughts and ideas, while dropping in a smattering of facts and fancies, and still be able to tie things up neatly (and coherently) in the end.
  • In a world where we have ceased to communicate with others face-to-face, learning how to tell a story comes in handy because it helps hold a person's attention and fosters conversation. (Also learning to listen to stories is important for this purpose.)
  • History is passed on through story. We know what happened in the past because someone bothered to record the story of it. If you want future generations to remember you and life as we know it right now, learn to tell a good story. (Which leans in on the concept of living a good story also.)

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
― Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works

It is my desire that all of our children are at least practiced in the art of story telling. I think it will make them better conversationalists and wiser people if they work at this a bit.

One of the tools I decided to try using to foster the art of storytelling, are the Rory Story Cubes. They come in three different varieties (and, I think, are rather reasonably priced):

I opted to start with the Voyages set (in part because it was cheapest and I'm experimenting). They look like this:

We've turned using these cubes into a game. We sit around in a circle and each take turns tossing the dice and making up a story using the pictures on the nine different cubes. We all take turns, including the three year old. (She's actually getting pretty good at this. I've been surprised at how well she weaves the main idea of her story into the big picture.)

“Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”
― Willa Cather

I only pull these cubes out 1-2 times a week and always in the context of having a fun time and playing game so as not to spoil the effect that it is currently having on the children. (Those unsuspecting souls! Ha!) I did try dividing up the cubes and having us all create a tandem story but that met with cries of dismay. Apparently we all like to be the masters of our own stories. All of the time. (Ahem.)

I'd like to eventually pick up another cube set (or two) to add some variety to our story telling but since we're just getting started I think too many choices would overwhelm. Each roll of the dice produces a different combination each time. I liked the look of the Voyages set because it lends itself to more adventure/travel stories and I'm big on building up a spirit of adventure just like I am about telling stories to begin with. I think there is something to the idea of traveling the world, having adventures, and learning to share them with others.

I want my children to know that they need to tell stories - not just for themselves, but for the sake of future generations - and how to go about doing it so that the following will never be the case (I don't know who A.D.Y. Howle is but this quote produces a shudder.):

“Once upon a time, there was a story. But no one to tell it.”
― A.D.Y. Howle


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I scored two sets of these on clearance at Cracker Barrel (of all places) a few weeks ago. I totally agree with you. I'll be working this storytelling into our Fun Fridays! :)

Unknown said...

How neat!!!

BerlinerinPoet said...

This sounds so fun! You should type out a story or two for posting. I know I'm not the only one who would love to read that.

Barbara H. said...

This looks like a great resource. I'll have to keep it in mind for a certain someone in a few years. :-) Though I have often thought of reasons to read, I hadn't really thought of reasons to tell stories, though my kids were encouraged to write them (and all did when they were young). I wish I had done more of that growing up.

Shonya said...

Once again, I am ditto-ing BerlinerinPoet--yes, yes, please DO share a story with us!!

We enjoy story cubes as well, and our poor, unsuspecting children have no idea we are doing school at that moment. (insert conspiratorial chuckle)

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