Word Wednesday: Story Out of the Box

Story out of the box

This Week’s Word Is “Story.”

I love storytelling games, but pretty much nobody else I know does, so I rarely get to play them. My children, for whatever reason, see telling stories as a chore and it pains me when they roll their eyes at me if I suggest we play one.

Story out of the Box caused exactly the same reaction, at first, but with gentle persistence, they have come to appreciate that stories are fun and storytelling doesn’t have to be a terrifying experience. (Anybody has been on the listening end of one my youngest’s imaginative rambles, will find it hilarious that he “hates stories” but that’s a subject for a whole other post.)

Story out of the Box has been a godsend during lockdown. Homeschooling has been fine when sticking to Math and Joe Wicks, but when it’s come to “English,” lessons have been a struggle for us all. The state of SPaG (Spelling Punctuation and Grammar) teaching in the UK at the moment could be the subject of a whole other rant post. If there’s one thing it seems to be designed to do, it’s kill off any enjoyment children may have for writing. When you’re trying to encourage them to write a story, this is more than problematic.

We had to drop back to the first principles of just discussing story ideas, without the threat of committing pen to paper. This is one of the areas in which Story out of the Box excels.

What is Story out of the Box?

Being a product designed by Laurence King, it’s an elegant package. A vibrant box, with a tactile finish, that is filled with cards in two types. The backs of the cards have attractive naive style art on them. There are “subject” cards and “technique” cards. There are 40 of each type of card. The idea is you pick one of each, and that gives you your story idea with a twist to add an extra writing challenge.

We’ve been doing things a little differently; picking 3 of each, and then choosing the pair we like the most. This process alone starts a conversation about the structure and nature of stories. Which combination will make the best tale?

Why use Story out of the Box?

This product has come into its own during the lockdown, but I can see it will be useful for all sorts of creative endeavors as our children move through their school careers. I’m not sure we’re the sort of family who would play this game for fun, though if I had time, I’d definitely like to play this on my own. The ideas in it could definitely springboard any number of short stories, or at the very least encourage would-be writers to consider alternative ways of approaching their stories.

The age on the box says 6+, which feels a little ambitious, though the good thing about the cards is that they work on numerous levels. You can have a quick chat about how stories might go, you could try to launch into a full-blown improvised tale, or you could make a few notes and sit down to write a story. Which you choose will depend on what you’re trying to achieve.

From a teaching point of view, I think the cards are excellent. They inspire you to think about story construction, something that perhaps is easy to overlook when talking to your children about English/Literacy. I’ve been impressed by the breadth of my children’s imagination when it’s come to generating ideas on the page; coaxing them to write them down into a coherent narrative has been a little more tricky.

Instead, we’ve tried to expand on the ideas they have had, to then generate complete sentences, full of interesting and adjectives and verbs. It’s been a solid way of showing them how you can change how a sentence reads to make it more dramatic or interesting. Using the cards means the process feels less school-like.

The box and cards are excellent quality and I love the drawings. They help spur ideas, without being overwhelming. There are hours and hours of creativity in this box. I would work out how many combinations of cards there are with 40 of each, but this an English lesson; math is this afternoon…

If you have children who love telling stories, they will love this box. You can leave them with it for hours, I imagine. If your children are more reluctant this is still an excellent resource. It will help coax them into having the confidence to express their ideas and let their imaginations run riot.

If you would like to pick up a copy of Story out of the Box you can do so here, in the US and here, in the UK.

If you enjoyed this review, do check out my other Word Wednesday posts, here.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this box in order to write this review. 

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