story ideas · storytelling · writing workshop

Let’s Play: Games in the Workshop

For years now, “gamify” has been buzzing in education. To “gamify” something means to add any kind of game-like element within a lesson or practice in the classroom. This could mean materials that are game-like, actions or activities replicated from a game, or it might mean learning something with a competitive slant. In education, we lean toward this idea for increased engagement. When you haven’t grabbed a kid’s imagination yet, making something feel playful may bring them closer to your objective. 

Engagement was definitely a high priority at the start of the school year. I was used to eager learners in elementary classrooms. These seventh graders had been through a lot in the last couple of years. Trying to regain or build on skills was the last thing on many minds. I turned to game-like elements for some of my lessons and practice. So here are my favorite finds when gamifying my workshop. 

Story Dice

Much like the classic dice game, Story Cubes, this is a digital version called Story Dice. This has been an excellent tool for students who need inspiration to get words going.

To start using this tool, click the link, and you’ll find the dice ready to roll! For more information on using the dice in your classroom, you can scroll down a bit to read from the creator or watch this video.

This game created a low-stakes way of getting kids talking and writing in the workshop.

Emoji Paragraph

Next up is the Emoji Paragraph (my own adaptation of the “Emoji Power Paragraph” created by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo, authors of the Educprotocols Series). When I first began using this, it was a great warm-up to get our writing brains switched on after transitioning from the previous class.

The challenge is to connect different emojis into a cohesive story. To start, copy and paste this link, from Ian Byrd’s blog Byrdseed (note: it only works if you copy/paste the link into a browser tab). This will open up a Random Emoji Generator.

We began by writing through talk and telling a connected story in my classes. Then I started using it as a way to practice revision strategies. In writing, students had to connect each sentence with “and then” between each emoji-generated idea. This helped to just get the ideas down on paper without caring how it all sounded. Then, students would go back and focus on better sentence transition and connecting their ideas more fully. This game-ish tool has helped with writing fluency, revision, and sentence structure.

The Tone Game

I know, for a fact, I did not invent this game. However, I cannot find the source that inspired it either! It has become a favorite game in my classes. Especially my creative writing class of seventh and eighth-graders.

It starts with a lesson on tone and how tone can influence the voice and mood of a scene or story. Together, we examined lists of different tones from some resources I will share in a link below. From there, we used some examples of different situations and then came up with a list of our own.

Below are images of the slides I used with students. You can click on the image to visit the slides and additional links.

How to Play the Game:

First, I prepare popsicle sticks with various tones written for students to randomly choose. We form small groups, and I use a random number generator to determine the situation assigned to our class. With their assigned tone, students begin planning a scene from the situation, creating their own dialogue and characters.

The rest of the class became the audience and watched the group’s interpretation of the situation. Then, the task is to determine what tones were assigned to the actors. This is where the first slide comes in handy, so students remember what tones and attitudes were used in the game.

This game is so engaging and fun. I never forced anyone to perform, but many had fun doing so, and a few did their improv just for me or a smaller audience. This activity has been a great way to warm up for different character lessons and other story elements. When considering dialogue, I’ll pull this game out and encourage students to think about the situation in their own writing and how tone can play a role in their piece, particularly when developing a character.

I hope you have a takeaway or two from this post to create some gamified lessons in your writing workshop. Games have a place in our classrooms. It can be a way to build community and build skills.

7 thoughts on “Let’s Play: Games in the Workshop

  1. These are all awesome examples! Another easy game is a storytelling round robin, where each student provides a sentence (or a word) to advance the story. You continue until the story is “done,” which is arbitrary. Not only does this game invite lots of giggles and imaginative ideas, it requires the students to focus, and to sequence/keep track of the story (auditory sequential processing).


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