Monday, September 3, 2012

The Story of a Lifetime

Rory's Story Cubes

I've been pretty excited to write this post for a while now. You see, I've been working in an Education company for about a year and a half hoping to pick up a few tricks to better help my fellow Sinofiles on our never ending quest for language purity. Trying to combine it with an element of fun or frivolity would have been even more exciting; this learning tool  not only combines the two but pretty much takes to another level.

So when you see Rory's Story Cubes don't write them off immediately. Just wait 'till you see them in action. When I debuted these at a recent Chinese Corner meeting it, caused a real stir!

HOW IT WORKS


Fun, easy, and simple.
The idea is simple: no words! Just 9 die, and 6 faces each with a different picture on them. The simplest way to play them is to roll one at a time, using the picture with each roll to develop a scenario into a ridiculous story. Using the pictures as prompts, you are encouraged to break out of you comfort zone, straying away from the tradition and using imaginative ways to work around words you don't know. 

WHY IT'S EFFECTIVE


Imagine you are in China, and find yourself in a situation where you have no idea to express yourself: the Doctors, an electronics store, or lost in a park. These games help you practice the tools you'll need to 'beat around the bush' as it were to really express yourself. Don't be limited by literal interpretations of the pictures either, with a bit of liberal thinking and with a touch of the absurd you'll be surprised what you will learn!

Rolling the dice on the iPhone app
Although it does help with creative thinking, and encourage an expanding of new vocab, you can still use it to help with targeted learning. I remember I used to make up absurd responses in class, tired of always answering with facts of my life: where I grew up, my interests etc. I wasn't learning anything new! If I ever met anyone who wasn't exactly like me I wouldn't know what they were talking about because there weren't using words I learnt. Here you can stumble across new words and scenarios.

Lastly, ever been stumped to write out example sentences? Thinking of a scenario to fit a given word or phrase can be hard on-the-spot. Choose a list of new words or sentence structures, and using just 2 or 3 die, you can make your sentences a little more varied, and guide future learning avenues- especially if it's self guided study outside of class structures.

USABILITY


Rearrange or move the dice
Basically you could fall over and still learn something from these things. It makes for a more interesting study session and is a great way to bring together study mates or new friends. The website offers a variety of game rules, but by simply using alternate number for die, or buying the expansion packs (Actions, and Voyages) you can keep it fresh for a long time.
Unsurprisingly there is also an iPhone app (screen shots pictured) that really takes the tool to a new level of versatility. At a cost of around $15-20 for the real thing, $1.99 for an app is very attractive. It mimics the functionality of the dice, and allow you to move and arrange them after a roll, take neat screen shots using the app, or 'lock' die in place after a roll.

Hints and Help

For those of you who are interested I have made a PDF template of flash cards you can make of the different pictures and some suggested English and Chinese words to lead your story. Use these for the first few times, or when in a group with people of different language levels. Have fun and enjoy learning!

Simple Tips:
Read the games rules suggested on the website;
Try to be creative in interpreting the meaning of a picture;
Start you story with a scenario (a day at uni);
OR an open sentence like 'While reading in the library...'
Try to have a Who/ What/ When/ Where/ Why list, and try to tick a few off

I'll finish with a great example, using the picture featured in this article, read, enjoy, be inspired:


有一天我一起床就感到难过,所以我请假了。
吃早饭后去公园休息,观赏公园里的风景。雨后初晴的天空中出现了一道彩虹。
但天气好冷一点,所以我回家了把椅子拉到炉火旁。
到了傍晚,觉得该开灯泡。但是我觉得荧光灯泡和蜜蜂的声音听一样。
找到一个手电筒,自言自语说‘要是向日葵也能够发出光,都会把我生活的情况变成为佳。
我真的怕黑,但也真的怕虫子。不公平!


(Maybe the logic doesn't make sense, but hey! This is about making learning fun!)

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