with Kim Rodgers
"That's good. That's bad."
We took a break from our study of ancient civilizations to spend some time writing stories together. We played a game called “That’s good. That’s bad.” from a book called Games for Writing. I read the beginning of a story:
“I went to the zoo yesterday. That’s good. I forgot to bring any money and couldn’t get in. That’s bad. I found a dollar bill on the sidewalk and used it for the admission fee. That’s good. I wanted to see the monkeys, but the monkey house was closed. That’s bad. The guard let me in anyway. That’s good. The biggest monkey threw a banana at me. That’s bad. I caught it in my right hand. That’s good. The banana was mushy and it got all over my hand. That’s bad.”
Together as a class we continued the story by playing the game. Each child rolled a die and added to the story based on what they rolled:
If they rolled a 1 they had to add one sentence to the story that steered it in a positive direction. If they rolled a 2 they steered it in a negative direction. If they rolled a 3 they had to add one of each. The kids laughed a lot and enjoyed seeing where our story went, each adding an interesting piece of information as we went along. Here’s how our story continued...
“There were no sinks. That’s bad. I tripped over a log and fell in a pond. That’s bad. I found a rowboat. That’s good. I went to the showers to clean off. That’s good. But when I got there they were closed. That’s bad. There was another shower that was open. That’s good. I went to the bathroom, but the seat was too big so I fell in. That’s bad. The bathroom door was locked so I couldn’t get out. That’s bad. All the other bathrooms were open because there was a skeleton in mine. That’s bad. I tried to get out the window, but the policemen thought I was a robber and took me to jail. That’s bad. They kept me there for 8 years. That’s bad. I went to a nearby park. That’s good.”
As you can see, the kids all have different writing personalities so the story took many different turns. We also had many “That’s bad.” numbers turn up. This character was having a very bad day! From here the kids each took time to write up to three sentences on their own to bring an ending to our story. We came back together again and shared the endings with each other. The students then paired up and did this same activity with a partner with a different beginning to start them off. They were so excited rolling the die, writing their addition to the story, and passing the paper back and forth. We will share our final stories with each other at the beginning of class next week. One of the goals of this activity is to have the students feel comfortable coming up with a story, writing it down without worrying about spelling (if they are ready for that), and sharing it with others. When playing a game like this it takes away some of the risk of story creating and sharing. They have fun enjoying the process with no pressure to uphold some sort of standard. Try playing the game at home as a family this week!