Today, rather than writing a post about a single board game, I’m going to write about a tool for creating games and therapy activities: Storyteller Cards by Jason Tagmire. The project is currently raising funds on Kickstarter (for people unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it’s a site where creators of small-scale projects can raise funds for their creative endeavors using a “crowdfunding” model instead of a traditional investment model – patrons pledge funds toward the project in exchange for a reward from the project creator, usually a physical product).
General Overview: From the tool’s Kickstarter page: “Storyteller Cards is a deck of 54 playing cards that each feature 4 unique elements. There is a CHARACTER, holding an ITEM, completing an ACTION, in a LOCATION. Each of these elements can be used to create something new, get you out of a mid-project slump, or just to have some creative fun with family and friends. The cards also feature additional icons in the corners to help you dig a little deeper into storytelling, creating, and gaming. The icons represent a RANK, SUIT, MOOD,SEASON, LETTER, and COLOR.”
The cards themselves come with a Storyteller Manual that contains a number of games that are being revealed as the Kickstarter campaign progresses. Games described so far include Once Upon A Time (not the card game I discussed in an earlier post, but a Mad Libs-style story completion game), the Comic Challenge (a collaborative story-drawing game), To Be Continued (a story-building game in the spirit of the Storybook Game), Possibilities (a free-form card game where the players write the rules as they play), ChromaCards (a strategic crayon coloring game), and Short Stories (a game of my own design in which players use the elements of the cards to tell a story that resolves a storyteller-created conflict). There are still other games yet to be revealed, including Director’s Cut (a game where the players create their own film using 8 cards from the deck). Some of the games work best with notepads that can be purchased with the cards, but they all work with only the deck of cards and the PDF manual that comes with the kit (some printing of worksheets may be required or desired).
- Vocabulary – There are very few games included with this kit that do not involve identifying at least one property of the cards, whether the character, action, setting, item, or something else.
- Problem Solving - Most of the games (especially Short Stories) require the student to provide some sort of solution to a problem.
- Narrative Sequencing – As the name implies, Storyteller Cards are primarily about storytelling, and whether you’re building a story with each card as a piece like in To Be Continued or Director’s Cut or using a single card to build an entire story like in Comic Challenge, building a cohesive narrative is a useful skill.
- Flexible – Because Storyteller Cards were designed as a tool rather than a specific game, an enterprising and creative SLP can find ways to integrate them into most therapy contexts.
- Low Literacy Friendly - Each Storyteller Card has two letters on it, and those letters are in a corner of the card. Having literacy skills is not a requirement for most activities that use Storyteller Cards.
- Fun For All Ages – The activities in the Storyteller Manual are designed for students of all ages and ability levels. The project creator has used Storyteller Cards with his five-year-old daughter, and some of the games in the Storyteller Manual can be made complex enough for high school students.
- Clinician-facing - As a tool rather than a game (although there are games included), Storyteller cards are exactly as useful as the clinician using them can make them. A creative clinician can make Storyteller Cards an indispensible asset, but one who is used to using prescribed activities may have difficulty.
- Distractions – By design, there is a lot going on in each picture and on each card. A student that has difficulty focusing may have a hard time focusing on the card element that the activity is focused on.
Accommodations/Modifications/Alternate Uses: Because Storyteller Cards are a tool rather than a game, describing accommodations, modifications, or alternate uses isn’t really a thing here; the tool is designed to fit a wide variety of activities (especially in the context of language treatment). The Kickstarter campaign does have some add-ons designed to enhance the Storyteller Card experience (notepads to supplement games, interactive pencils, a deck of blank cards for Possibilities, and a print copy of the Storyteller Manual), but with PDFs included in the base pledge level, the add-ons aren’t necessary if you have access to card stock and a printer.
Obviously, I’m a fan of Storyteller Cards, since I contributed to the manual. I think that the toolkit does a lot to improve on and synthesize other games that I’ve talked about in previous posts, like the Storybook Game and Once Upon a Time (and one of the games that may end up in the manual was originally named “Dixit Done Right”). Once this game arrives (estimated ship date is November if the Kickstarter is fully funded), it will be a staple of my traveling therapy kit.
CONTEST! For the first time, I’m offering a contest through this blog. To compete in the contest, you must post in the comments section of this blog post a speech therapy activity using Storyteller Cards. To be eligible, the activity must include its target skill/goal/objective and a brief description of the activity – I’ll try to comment if I need more description. On June 8 (to give non-winners a day to pledge to the Kickstarter campaign), I’ll review all the eligible entries, and the best entry (totally subjective) will get a free copy of Storyteller cards once pledge rewards are fulfilled (estimated delivery November 2013).
Disclosure: The author of this blog post is a contributor to the Storyteller Manual.