Tech for Teach

Story Dice: Easy and Endless Speaking and Writing Prompts for the EFL Classroom

At the 2015 JALT conference in Shizuoka last year, I attended a presentation that highlighted a variety of online and digital resources for EFL teachers. As a huge fan of teaching tools that are easy and effective to use, Thinkamingo’s Story Dice application for iPhone and Android ($1.99) caught my attention right away. I bought and downloaded the app during the presentation and quickly saw its potential for creating interesting and challenging prompts for speaking and writing in my classes. In fact, I shared it with the attendees of my later presentation in the few minutes before it started, resulting in a short but lively discussion about its possible uses.

Since then I have been exploring how to use the Story Dice app in my classes at Tokai University. In this article, I will give a brief overview of the app and some suggestions for use.

As can be seen from the image above, the white dice with black images appear on a brown, wood grain surface. With a touch of the screen, a new set of dice appear on the screen, accompanied by the sound of rolling dice. One nice touch is that the sound actually corresponds to the number of dice on the screen.

You can easily change the number of dice on the screen from one to ten, and with a selection of over 200 images, the combinations are almost endless.

For the iPhone app, touching the button in the upper right corner labeled “MORE” accesses the settings to change the number of dice that appear on the screen, turn off the sound, or deactivate the “Shake to roll” feature.

For the Android app, swipe left or right to do the same.

The following are some EFL writing and speaking activities that I have successfully conducted in my classes using the Story Dice app:

One die

  • Students create sentences that uses the image.
  • Students create sentences using the image, then share with partner.
  • In groups, each student creates a sentence to share. Group votes on best sentence. Winner writes sentence on blackboard

Two dice

  • Students create sentences that includes or connects two images.
  • Students explain what the two images have in common or how they are different.

Four dice

  • Students divide four images into two groups of two and explain their reasons for their groupings.

10 dice

  • Students create a story that uses all of the images. If the teacher uses a screenshot of 10 dice, an appropriate story can be written beforehand to use after students write their own stories. The teacher’s story can be projected onto a screen or dictated to the students to be written down.
  • Students write the first line of a story using one image.  Their papers are then passed to the next student who continues the story using a different image.  The process is continued for all 10 images. The papers are then returned to their original students, who read the stories to themselves, their partners, or in groups. Groups can vote on the best story.

If you have used the Story Dice app before and have some good ideas, or you can see other ways to use it in your EFL classes, please feel free to comment and share below!

Practical Teaching Ideas

Pilot Course Entry #2: The Syllabus

A syllabus is a more specific plan than a curriculum, one that lays out what each class session might entail. Because it is published, though, for students, administration, and for the Ministry, being too specific can lead one to hamstring oneself. Indicating only the topic of each week’s lesson allows me to change content depending on the quality of students. Since this is a required third-year class with tracked English majors, the level, for Japan, will be relatively high, with an average TOEIC score about 550, perhaps even 600.

By adapting Moodle for smart phones (goal 1), I will be able to keep all of the class materials organized in one place. The idea, though, is for students to use English Central software outside the class for content input, and use class time for small group interaction. Autonomy (goal 2) is developed by putting students in charge of the activities they develop. Evaluation in class will be based on peer review. Next post will be about managing peer review. The characters along with the number “45” each week indicate the homework.

Society Today 1 Group 2 (Spring 2015) ST1G2M2

There are five main topics to stimulate use of English in all four skills; Education, Technology, Gender, Ecology, and Current Events. We read short passages and watch short videos online, do vocabulary and pronunciation activities for homework. These activities are linked to in-class comprehension and discussion activities that build on the topics. Students will prepare and create activities to lead a small group session for 15 minutes at least once during the semester.

Theme: Develop skills to communicate intelligently about society.

  • Week 1: Introduction. Level check. Grouping. Topic choices [準備45分] Get your laptop ready with wi-fi at school.
  • Week 2: Sample Activities. [準備45分] Write profile for Moodle.
  • Week 3: Education 1 [準備45分] Online comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Week 4: Education 2 [準備45分] Online comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Week 5: Current Events [準備45分] Online comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Week 6: Technology 1 [準備45分] Online comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Week 7: Technology 2 [準備45分] Online comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Week 8: Current Events [準備45分] Online comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Week 9: Gakuryou [準備45分] none.
  • Week 10: Ecology [準備45分] Online comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Week 11: Current Events [準備45分] Online comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Week 12: Gender 1  [準備45分] Online comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Week 13: Gender 2 [準備45分] Online comprehension, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Week 14: Current Events [準備45分] Choose 1 of 6 Activities.
  • Week 15: Evaluation, Feedback, Remedial Work

Materials: (available online, license through bookseller)

Grades: Classroom Participation: 60%. Online 40%.

常勤教員 月水木土 英語コミュニケーション学科教授室(大学3号館2階)

Practical Teaching Ideas

Pilot Course Entry #1: Setting the stage

shield-229112_640The story arc of a course, especially when it involves technology, can be unpredictable. We hope it isn’t. We want events to follow plans; a smooth predictable arc, but there are always blips. Variables introduced with each new student, or different technologies and devices, lead to building a plan that can accommodate a little chaos. So when some friends asked about how the story arc of my courses go, it took me a while to respond.

After another hour of discussion, we were still debating over how teachers, classrooms, students and technology can all be accounted for in the planning process. After all, each new variable introduces new and different opportunities, challenges, and the possibility of a crash and burn. It was at this point of the debate when I was finally put on the spot. It came out as, “Why don’t you do a pilot of your new course, and show us how you integrate technology into your classroom.” It may as well have been, “Put up or shut up.”

So, there we were. The challenge was set, and my colleagues proceeded to choose the course for me. The initial decision was to work with a class of incoming Freshmen, as it was agreed that it was the closest to a ‘clean slate’ than the upperclassmen. Additionally, as this is a required course students are assigned to classes by ability, so the variable of student ability is greatly reduced. Then they changed their mind. The challenge will be the third year class.
Continue reading “Pilot Course Entry #1: Setting the stage”