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Story Squares: A Project with Possibilities

Posted on Friday, January 20, 2012 in Art, Writing

The day of the birthday party arrived and two anxious girls asked me, “Did you find the woooden blocks so we can make our gift?”

“No I didn’t, but I have another idea.”

Disappointed that they couldn’t duplicate the story blocks that we’d made last year for our writing prompts, they took a little while to warm to my idea.

But eventually it caught on and they headed off to the party with a unique gift.

A few days later they followed it up with a similar, but customized, gift for their Dad.

We decided to call the gift Story Squares:

Using my paper cutter, I cut 1.5 inch squares from one full sheet of watercolor paper.

With a sharpie they drew characters, props, and places.

Then they watercolored the pictures.

With the fine point sharpie, they added a one or two word description on their picture in small print.  (If you have young ones helping you with the project, you can do the labeling to help clarify the picture for others.)

After decorating a recycled box with a title,
we put these these directions inside:

Story Game: The first participant takes a square (without looking to see what it is). He/she begins the story, including the character, prop, or setting from their square in the story. The story continues through the circle of players, each participant using the picture they draw to carry the story along. Used squares remain in a pile and participants take fresh squares to continue another round.

Story Prompts for Writing: Draw three or more cards and begin writing a story, don’t stop for correct grammar or to get the right word, just write!

At the birthday party, the newly turned 12 year old opened the Story Squares first.  Then she opened all of her other gifts and when she was finally done she picked up the Story Squares and said, “Can we try these?”.

So we had the chance to see our idea played out with a very large circle of girls. This kept them entertained for about thirty minutes, with several rounds as they mixed the cards and began again.  One aspect that makes this fun is to have elements and characters that wouldn’t normally be found in a story together. There were some very funny moments when snow men popped up in castles or trolls ended up on a viking ship.The only rule I would add for next time is to include at least four to five sentences per turn in order to challenge your players past a dry and less imaginative, “And then the knight came”.


For their Dad’s birthday we brought our squares to our favorite pancake house and dove into stories of Yoda, Vikings, and Wizards (I said it was customized for their Dad right!)


Today the girls used the story squares for their friday freewrite and I’ll share a bit of that with you next time.

My ideas are brewing with variations on the Story Squares:

  • Substitute a line of dialogue  instead of  a picture for some of the squares.
  • Play the story game “Fortunately, Unfortunately” with the squares.  An example: The first person draws a princess and says, “Fortunately, the princess was the most beautiful girl in the kingdom”.  The next person draws an invisibility cloak, “Unfortunately, an evil wizard was secretly following her that day.” And the story continues by alternating “Fortunately” and “Unfortunately” on each turn.
  • Mark the backs of the cards with P, C, and S (plot, setting and character) or color-code them and store them in separate groups for writing prompts.
  • Creating theme sets such as “historical”, “fairy tale”, “favorite book characters”, based on school projects to extend our learning and narration.
  • Mod Podge the squares to give then durability and a finished look.

Whether you make these for a gift or make them for your own family, I’d love to hear about it.

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