Rory’s Story Cubes

Any content. Any grade level. Ready to roll?

If you have not already discovered them, I’ll let you in on one of the best kept secrets in education: Rory’s Story Cubes ($8ish bucks for a set of 9 cubes on Amazon) are quite possibly the single coolest “toy” a teacher can use in any course or content area, with a classroom of students at any age. Even cooler than LEGO? Yup. Even cooler than LEGO — and SO. MUCH. EASIER. to clean up!

Rory’s Story Cubes are nine-sided dice with different illustrations on each side. While there are themed sets like “Actions,” “Voyages,” and “Fantasia,” chances are good that most of the images that adorn the nine dice in each set actually have very little to do with your specific course content. Though they’re designed to offer random images to get your imagination firing as a springboard to inspire original works of storytelling or creative writing, they are likewise perfect for lateral thinking puzzles! Give students different story cube sets to play with, and have them roll these cubes to reveal an image (or a series of images) at random. Now have them explain what they’ve learned from the current unit by creating a series of metaphors in which they successfully incorporate each of the images that they’ve rolled. Because the only thing more powerful than content ownership is content authorship. And when students are allowed to explain a concept in their own words (with a little help from the luck of the dice), amazing things can happen and deep learning starts to unfold before our very eyes.

Example 1: High School English

Emily Dickinson’s life was like a [fire breathing dragon] guarding a [castle tower], because she had [shooting star] incredible poetic talent, but she kept it locked away from the world and lived most of her life as a recluse.

 

Example 2: Elementary School Science

Sharks live in the ocean. Many people think are [angry face] mean, but most sharks do not actually hurt people. Scientists [magnifying glass] who study these animals say the sharks have actually been around since [old man] the time of the dinosaurs.

Deceptively simple with their infinite combinations of storytelling possibilities, Rory’s Story Cubes are a fantastic tool that start by sparking rich non-linear comprehension and demand multifaceted problem solving that challenge super high levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (evaluate and create), and they can work wonders as a timed writing prompt or discussion activity — especially when students are working together to solve these rollable riddles in small groups. Who would have thought a few emojis could be such a fun way to challenge your classrooms to think outside the box? No fancy prep needed — and students love (and DREAD!) the element of chance that the cubes can provide to help them make meaning of course content and see how their story will shake out in words and colorful metaphors that they will have helped to create.

If you’d like an editable copy of the Story Cube scoresheet at the top of this entry, give a click here to download the infinitely reusable Google Slides template.

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with his wife, Laura, a high school music teacher and fellow graduate of The Catholic University of America, and a giant-sized Maine Coon cat named Jack.

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