After my week-long break (I’d blame spring break, but the way my schools are scheduled, I didn’t really have one this year), I’m addressing a game that’s already come up in a number of other posts in this series: The Storybook Game, published by Fundex.
General Overview: The Storybook Game includes 54 cards, each with a word and picture on them. Players take turns using the cards as a prompt for a sentence to add to a story. Unlike many storytelling games, however, this one requires recall. The first player uses one card as a prompt for a sentence to begin the story, then turns it face-down. The next player must then repeat the first player’s sentence, and add a second sentence to the story using the card that player drew. The third player must repeat both sentences in the story before adding a third, and so on. A player who cannot accurately recall the story (I tend to make the minimum requirement of recalling a story segment using the word on the card) is out, and the last player left is the winner. There’s a variant rule set that doesn’t eliminate a player who errs and declares the first player to remember all 54 cards in order to be the winner, but I haven’t found that to be a realistic objective – I’ve never had a group break twenty, and that’s working as a group.
- Item Identification/Description – Playing the game requires players to accurately identify items and know their function and properties in order to use them in the story.
- Attention/Auditory Processing/Short-Term Memory – Recalling the story, even in a relative sense, in order challenges the recall abilities of any student (or even adult, since the best possible result in the game is recalling 54 story items in order – a challenging task for all but the most talented storytellers; the most any student of mine has gotten to is 15).
- Sequencing – Putting together an easily-recalled narrative requires students to think about various ways to sequence items using various kinds of relationships. Given the nature of the prompts, I’ve seen sequences including food chain, elevation, size, fighting ability, and even evolution.
- Increased Utterance Length – Producing sentences that indicate relationships between items or further a sequence provides a concrete context to encourage increased utterance length in students with good comprehension.
- The game is simple: This is a game that can be played out of the box with less than five minutes of setup and rules explanation. Modeling game play is easy.
- The game is inexpensive: This game will set Americans back about five bucks. At Target. That’s a pretty good deal for a game that seems tailor made to speech.
- The students define the game’s parameters: Once the SLP or teacher describes the rules of the game, all the other contexts and rules of the story are in the students’ hands, allowing them to shape the narrative to an extent limited only by their ability to think of novel uses and relationships between prompts.
- Low literacy friendly *and* strengthens literacy: This game’s prompts feature cards with pictures and words, allowing low literacy students to participate with literate students and providing the SLP an opportunity to strengthen and scaffold literacy skills during play.
- Varying degrees of mastery: While it’s likely that students will be able to master the concept of the game, it’s unlikely (rare) that even the most talented student will be able to completely master the game. Remembering two or three items in a row is a goal that lower-functioning children can work toward, and higher-performing students can try to get as close to 54 in a row as they can.
- Addresses a variety of concepts: Joe, Jane, and Jimmy are in the same class. Joe is working on auditory processing. Jane is working on developing expressive vocabulary. Jimmy is working on using proper sentence syntax. How many games allow an SLP to address all three of those goal areas at once – with no modification?
- Redundant Patterns of Redundancy: It’s very easy for students at all functional levels to fall into a pattern of “And then X ate/killed/hit/found Y.” Not only is this incredibly boring, it’s not very useful at generating stories that can be recalled beyond five or six items.
- Player Elimination: In a therapy activity, you want all students to remain involved, and player elimination is the opposite of engagement.
- Attention-focused: Students with ADHD or ADD are going to have a hard time with this game, and it can quickly lead to frustration and shutdown if you’re not careful.
- Low-Level Optimized: The cartoony images and relatively simple concepts and demands may cause this game to be less than interesting for middle school students – even if they’re challenged by the concepts, the theme and prompts may make the game appear to be “for babies”.
- Cooperative Play: Instead of eliminating players, encourage the players to support one another to see how many cards the whole group can remember. Allow each player to attempt the entire story on their own and give each student an “oops” card to be used when the player reciting the story makes a mistake. Each time an “oops” card is played, ask the student who played the card to explain where the error was made, and reveal the appropriate card to determine which player remembered the story correctly (hint: it’s not always the player who played the “oops” card). By making the game a team effort, players are encouraged to remain engaged during other students’ turns, and weaker players don’t spend too much time on the sidelines.
- Visual Narrative: As the students create their sentences, encourage them to picture the scene in their mind and expand on their sentences using other things in the scene. Using this and other memory strategies is especially useful for students whose auditory memory isn’t likely to improve and need adaptive strategies to help them keep track of what’s going on in class or in their community.
- Additional Rules: I usually add rules for my older students; for example, “Every sentence must use a different verb/action”. Adding rules not only adds challenge for students who are getting bored, but it also breaks up the naturally forming patterns in the game.
- Prompts in other activities: Many, many other posts in this series mention using the cards in the Storybook Game as prompts – they’re simple nouns and the cards have both pictures and words. Among activities that can benefit from using these cards as prompts are the Expanding Expression Tool, Apples to Apples, Backseat Drawing, and pretty much any other activity that involves identifying or describing objects.
- Visual/manipulative aids for organization. Using these cards to give students something to move around as they create storyboards or graphic organizers for stories they create on their own is a great way to build familiarity. It also gives students a way to try out various styles of organization or planning with *zero* writing or organization.
- Exploring relationships between objects and scene creation: Frequently, when you ask a student with expressive language or vocabulary issues to describe a scene in a picture, they freeze up because they don’t know where to start. Using cards from the Storybook Game, you can build this skill by working backwards. Start with one card. Ask the student to place it in the scene. Add another card, and ask the student where it is in relation to the first object. Keep doing this, placing cards near each other approximately as the student describes, and then once the scene is created, ask the student to go back and describe the scene in its entirety now that the student has described each individual component. This schema-building technique can be used with a wide variety of tools, but this is one of the most portable and least expensive.
Many of the games in this series aren’t the cheapest or smallest, and that’s because I typically take games I already own and adapt them for speech therapy. The Storybook Game, on the other hand, is a game I specifically bought for speech therapy, which required that it take up minimal space in my game bag, be inexpensive (because I don’t get reimbursed for materials), and be something that I can use in a variety of contexts. No buyer’s remorse here. Even if you just need a set of noun prompts for your students, The Storybook Game is a great tool that doesn’t break the bank.
Has anyone else had experience using this game in therapy? How useful has it been? What other uses and modifications have you used?