Get your students writing with 6 fun writing games that use only a six-sided die
One important part of a lesson plan is the “back-pocket activity”—that short activity to keep your students writing when there’s a few extra minutes left of class. In this post, I’m going to share six writing games that use only a six-sided die, which means you can toss them a die and get them writing with only seconds of instruction—giving them more time to play (and write) in the last minutes of class.
I’ve listed these 6 writing games using a six-sided die from easiest to explain and shortest to play to hardest and longest.
I’ve also included commentary on different skills these games reinforce.
1. Sentence Telescoper
Description: In this individual game, students roll the die to determine how many words they get to use in each sentence. It’s great for a quick challenge or for teaching them how to properly use sentence fragments or onomatopoeias to create interesting stories.
Directions: Roll a six-sided die. That’s how many words you can use in a sentence. Roll again after every sentence. Each sentence must continue your story.
Skills: Sentence variety, using sentence fragments, lateral thinking, creative problem solving, creative storytelling.
- Put students in groups. Each player rolls the die and shares his/her sentence with the group. Play passes to the left. Each player continues the story using only the number of words rolled on the six-sided die.
- Play in partners. When rolling a 2–6, players must make a complete, actual sentences. Re-roll all ones. While one player shares the sentence, the other checks that the sentence matches the rules.
2. Random Story Transitions
Description: This storytelling game that guides the story through interesting transitions randomly rolled on the die. This may be played individually, but it is better in a group.
Directions: Players take turns rolling a six-sided die. Match the number rolled to a transition from the list below. Continue the story by sharing a sentence that starts with the transition rolled. Play passes to the left.
- All of a sudden . . .
- Fortunately, . . .
- This led [the main character] to . . .
- Meanwhile . . .
- Little did [the main character] know . . .
- Later . . .
Skills: Storytelling, parts of a story, transition words.
- Give the students a main character for the story and decide on that character’s goal (example: a knight trying to defeat a dragon). As they tell the story, they are trying to reach that goal.
3. Dueling Narrators
Description: This storytelling game is for two partners. Partner one plays the good narrator who wants to make the story a comedy (meaning a story with a happy ending, not necessarily funny). Partner two plays the bad narrator who wants to make the story into a tragedy. Players take turns writing a paragraph of 2–5 sentences, rolling a die to determine their subject matter.
Directions: Take turns writing a story with your partner. Each player rolls the die and matches the number rolled to a subject on the list below. Write 2–5 sentences on this subject but there is a twist: player one wants the character to succeed, but player two wants the character to fail. Players continue to take turns until the time is up or until the character succeeds or fails.
- The character meets someone/something.
- The character changes locations.
- An event happens to the character.
- The character gets a new item/tool/object.
- The character undergoes a major change.
- Plot twist!
Skills: comedy vs. tragedy, parts of a story, storytelling
4. Story-writing Workout
Description: This active, crazy game works best with restless classes. Students write a writing prompt, while the teacher rolls a six-sided die every minute, shaking things up a little and getting the students moving.
Directions: Give the students a writing prompt, but tell them you will stop them every minute. They must stop on the exact letter they are writing without finishing it. Then roll the die and compare it to the chart below.
- Switch papers with someone and continue where they left off.
- Write with your off-hand.
- Turn the paper upside down.
- Stand up and spin in a circle three times.
- Sit on the floor and continue writing.
- Stand on one foot and write.
Switch out activities when they get bored (or dizzy). You could also ask them for suggestions for activities or use some of these suggestions:
- Armwrestle another student while writing. The loser spins in a circle 3 times.
- Write in Pig Latin.
- Write backwards.
- Switch seats with someone in the classroom.
- Crumple up your paper, throw it at someone. Everyone uncrumples a story near them and continues writing.
- Do 6 jumping jacks.
- Mix three of the options together (example: Spin in a circle three times. Crumple your paper and throw it at someone. Then write backwards.)
- Fold your paper into a paper airplane and try to hit the target specified by the teacher.
Skills: I’ll admit it: this one is just for fun, but I usually follow this one up with a period of quiet writing to let students calm down again. This is just a fun way to get them writing and moving. They will also have a blast reading the resulting stories aloud to each other when the activity is over (you can do this in partners or small groups).
5. Random Sentence Variety Dirby
Description: This game requires a working knowledge of several kinds of sentences. I use this game after I teach my students different sentence variety techniques. It’s a fun way to get them using what they learn in an unexpected way.
Directions: Students write a story by writing one sentence at a time. The teacher rolls the die after everyone is done with each sentence. Compare the die roll to the sentence variety chart below. Students write a sentence that matches the kind rolled.
Sentence Variety Chart:
- Passive Voice
Skills: Sentence-combining, sentence variety, passive voice, comma splices, run-on sentences, sentence fragments, sentence construction
- Play in partners and critique each other’s sentences.
- Play as a class. Each student shares one sentence, continuing the story.
6. Story Arc Mash-up
Description: This game is a fun way to get your students using variety in their stories. They will introduce new conflict, describe detailed, settings, use dialogue, etc.
Directions: Students write a story. After everyone finishes a paragraph, the teacher rolls a die and matches the number rolled to the story chart below.
- Dialogue Scene—Write a scene where two or more characters are talking.
- New Problem—Present a new obstacle the character has to overcome. The make some progress toward solving it.
- Character Development—Introduce a new aspect of your character through description, thoughts, actions, or dialogue.
- Action Scene—Car chase, foot chase, fight scene, dramatic emotional confrontation—use this scene to push the character(s) to their physical and emotional limits and move the story forward.
- Setting Description—Provide extra-detailed description of a setting (new or old). Use this to push the story forward in some way.
- Your choice—Choose any of the other five options.
Skills: parts of a story, story arc, setting description, dialogue, conflict, character development
How to use these games in your classroom
Students will often not notice that these are all games using the same core mechanic: a six-sided die. They will be too caught up in what is going on around them or what is happening in their story. This makes it easy for you to use one of these games every day or once a week to get your students writing—the fun way.
These games make for great back-pocket activities or warm-up games.
You can also incorporate these games into your lesson plans to help students practice some of the skills you are teaching that unit. That’s one of the reasons I’ve provided you with a skills category for each game.
More writing games and resources
Want more writing games to improve your students’ writing and help them get grammar—the fun way? Here’s a helpful list of writing games and resources you might enjoy:
- Jenga Writing Game
- 5 fun ways to get your kids writing this summer
- How to use playing as learning
- The one lesson planning strategy I use to crank out lessons like a boss!
- The Random Story Machine
- The What-if . . . ? Game
- Dungeon Scribes
- The Writer’s Sketchbook
- Using Stick Figures to help you show instead of tell