Using games to develop Halloween narrative writing

“One Halloween night there lived a vampire who had sharp fangs for can opening…”

That was how one of my students began his narrative story about Halloween.

An interactive game helped inspire elementary school students to write narrative stories about Halloween. The students used a series of dice to help them tell stories that had a beginning, middle, and end. One of the tools used for the exercise are Rory’s Story Cubes, a storytelling game that uses dice and pictures to spark one’s imagination and encourage creativity.

A group of ten students on IEPs were tasked to write narratives that have a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events with details, one of the Common Core Content Standards for the primary grades.

Since I first started working to promote media literacy, I have been passionate about using storytelling and interactive games as a teaching tool to inspire and motivate my students.

This Halloween story is part of my ongoing research to prove that creativity and storytelling play an important role in the classroom and learning environment.

Nearly every student demonstrated much progress and growth. A rubric with the following criteria was used to assess the students’ level of understanding: minimal understanding, partial understanding, adequate understanding, and thorough understanding.

Seventy percent of the students demonstrated that they now have adequate understanding or better. In addition to their improved ability to communicate their thoughts and ideas, they have shown an increased level of motivation and have expressed excitement about their stories.

While, the students were still not yet at grade level, their progress and work demonstrated knowledge and understanding of some of their basic grade level Common Core Standards such as the ability to write a narrative about an imaginary event using details and event sequences.

This particular activity demonstrated that the use of creativity and storytelling helps motivate students and improves their ability to communicate their thoughts as they are given them an opportunity to learn by doing something they can make connections to.

When I first met the student quoted earlier, he demonstrated only a partial understanding of the learning goals established by the Common Core Standards. In addition, he exhibited autistic behavior and was classified as an English Language Learner. He was very passionate about video games and loved to share the stories that he learns from them. I encouraged him to share those stories and to create his own.

Utilizing his passion for video games was an effective way to motivate him and get him to communicate through writing.




Why kindergarteners need storytime

The Oregonian recently published an online op-ed column with the following headline: Kindergarten test results a ‘sobering snapshot’.

Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss wrote an article about the headline entitled, “A very scary headline about kindergarteners”. In her article, she asks two important questions – what could be sobering about these test results and what kind of tests are they giving to kindergarteners?

According to Strauss, in September 2013, every kindergarten student at a public school in Oregon was required to take a readiness exam in September 2013 to see how many letters, numbers, and sounds they knew.

There has been a push to turn kindergarten into the new “first grade”.

Researchers say Kindergarten is the New First Grade.

This focus on testing and accountability is problematic because children need to be given time to learn at their own speed. People, especially children learn in different ways. It is important for children to understand what they are learning and for them to want to learn. If they are not motivated about learning, they will not be able to succeed in school.

Tom Hobson, a preschool teacher and author in Seattle, Washington, calls the Common Core education standards, child abuse.

Hobson stresses an important point on his blog – whatever happened to storytime?

Stories are how people learn, especially young children.

For thousands of years, stories have been the primary method of teaching.

On November 13, 2009, at the Using Drama in Language Learning Workshop at SOAS, University of London, Mario Rinvolucri delivered a keynote presentation that stressed storytelling as the oldest language teaching technique.

Storytelling: The Oldest Language Teaching Technique

Storytime plays an important role in introducing children to books, which can help foster a desire to read. But more importantly, storytelling promotes creativity, a foundation for a successful future.

In previous blogs, I wrote about the important role that creativity plays in education and in the workplace.

I stressed in Tabletop roleplaying games such as D&D can help people prepare for their adventures in life:

Life is an adventure that requires creativity and imagination, both of which are important tools that help people become successful in life.

Storytelling promotes creativity and helps children develop critical thinking skills.

Without storytime, young children will be denied the opportunity to use their imagination to explore new ideas and opportunities.

Tabletop roleplaying games such as D&D can help people prepare for their adventures in life

Earlier this week, Ethan Gilsdorf, the author of the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, wrote about the 14 life lessons he had learned from playing “Dungeons & Dragons”. According to him, the game taught him about purpose, imagination, and having a great adventure.

Life is an adventure that requires creativity and imagination, both of which are important tools that help people become successful in life.

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), as well as many other fantasy tabletop roleplaying games emphasize storytelling and collaboration. Like Gilsdorf explained, diversity plays an important role in games such as D&D because various races such as humans, dwarves, and elves need to learn to work together in order to succeed and survive on their adventures.

Previously, I stressed the importance of creativity in education as well as in the workplace.

I explained how interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games can be used as a teaching tool to promote storytelling and foster creativity and learning.

In addition, I wrote In Creativity in the workplace:

Creativity plays an important role in business or any organization as it helps generate new ideas and examine new opportunities. Creativity and innovation also allow organizations to be competitive and be able to adapt to unexpected changes.

I wrote in Interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games as a teaching tool, about several important lessons that can be learned by playing roleplaying games. I knew a science teacher who organized an after school club to teach his students how to play D&D. He believes that these games provide students with educational benefits and can change their lives. These games can be alternatives to less productive hobbies or activities, such as drugs, gangs, etc. I also wrote about an individual who believes D&D saved his life and kept him out of prison.

Roleplaying can motivate students and encourage them to want to learn. These games can teach them about vocabulary, math, public speaking, and teamwork. They are effective teaching tools because people engage in learning more when they are actively participating.

As I stressed earlier, roleplaying games encourage people to work together and learn from one another. Together, they make these imaginary worlds come to life. In these games, every individual plays an important role and without teamwork, these adventures cannot take place.

D&D and other forms of tabletop roleplaying games are about storytelling, which is an important form of media that teaches critical thinking skills and helps people improve their communications skills.

These games encourage creativity and give people a chance to learn by doing something fun. They give people a chance to see how they can create meaning in what they are learning.

Creativity and critical thinking are important skills that help people become successful on their adventures in life.

Importance of creativity in education

“Creativity is the New Literacy”. That is what Chase Jarvis, a world-renowned photographer told the crowd at GeekWire Summit 2013.

Jarvis stressed that as a culture we need to value creativity. He also said that creativity could solve all of humanity’s fundamental problems.

It is crucial for us to have an education system that fosters creativity.

Creativity is not limited to just actors, artists, musicians, etc. It even plays an important role in business.

Like Jarvis said, “Whether you are building a business or an iPhone app, creativity is the thing that drives what we do.”

Creativity is the mental and social process used to generate ideas and concepts. In other words, creativity is about innovation.

Companies such as Google and Pixar are known for creativity and innovation and for their unique workplaces (Nhan, 2012).

Creativity sometimes is not recognized or even possible without support from others (Csikszentimihalyi, 1996).

This is another reason why educators need to encourage creativity.

Sir Ken Robinson has spoken twice at TED about how schools kill creativity. He explained that there are three major reasons:

First, they promote standardization and a narrow view of intelligence when human talents are diverse and personal. Second, they promote compliance when cultural progress and achievement depend on the cultivation of imagination and creativity. Third, they are linear and rigid when the course of each human life, including yours, is organic and largely unpredictable.

Many school districts across the country have been adopting the Common Core education standards, which is President Obama’s replacement for No Child Left Behind. The Common Core provides new national standards for core subjects such as reading, writing, and math.

Ashley Lauren Samsa believes that in many ways, the Common Core is a great thing for both teachers and students. She explains that with the focus no long being on content, educators can teach whatever they want in their classroom as long as students are taught to read, write, and think critically. However, she is concerned that with Common Core’s emphasis on nonfiction texts, technology, and career skills, teachers might forget about creativity.

The advocates of the Common Core standards say that we need Common Core otherwise students will not be prepared for college or a career

According to Diane Ravitch, there is no evidence that these standards will prepare students for careers because there is nothing in them that has any relationship to careers.

Ravitch stresses that schools across the nation are suffering from budget cuts. This means less time and resources for subjects like arts, physical education, and other subjects, which are crucial for a real education.

These programs are essential to promoting creativity.

As I stressed earlier, creativity is about innovation and plays an important role in business.

In a previous blog, I talked about how interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games can be used as a teaching tool to promote storytelling and foster creativity and learning. I mentioned how a school in Demark used roleplaying as a teaching method for all academic subjects.

I wrote in Interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games as a teaching tool:

Roleplaying and storytelling can be used to motivate students and encourage them to want to learn. These games are effective because students engage in learning more when they are actively participating and it is important to work with their interests.

The constructivist learning theory is the best way to encourage creativity in the classroom. According to Gabler and Schroeder (2002), the theory is about providing students with ways to connect what they learn in the classroom to the real world; it focuses on how students can create meaning in what they are learning.

Every student has a different style of learning but an effective strategy to motivate all students is to focus on how students can create meaning in what they are learning. By incorporating the constructivist learning theory into the curriculum, educators can help students learn beyond the classroom experience and encourage creativity.

In Journalism is not dead, importance of storytelling, I discuss the importance of media literacy and how a journalism education teaches people how to become better storytellers. I stressed that we need to emphasize the importance of journalism and photography as forms of storytelling.

Teachers need to make sure that their classrooms emphasize creativity and critical thinking skills.



Csikszentimihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Gabler, I.C. and Schroeder, M. (2002). Constructivist Methods for the Secondary Classroom. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Manders, D. (2013, September 16). “Creativity is the New Literacy” – Chase Jarvis Stirs up the Crowd at GeekWire Summit 2013. Flip the Media. Retrieved from

Nhan, D. (2012, March 6). How a creative work environment encourages more risk – and more rewards. SmartBlogs. Retrieved from

Ravitch, D. (2013, August 24). The Biggest Fallacy of Common Core Standards: No Evidence [Blog] Retrieved from

Robinson, K. (2012, December 7). Do Schools Kill Creativity. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Samsa, A.L. (2013, September 3). I Welcome Common Core education standards, but let’s not forget creativity. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Journalism is not dead, importance of storytelling

A recent study conducted by shows journalism as one of the worst  return of investment for a bachelors degree. According to, it will take 31.83 years for journalists to repay their student loans.

Ken Layne suggests that sailing would be a better career than journalism.

Journalism, however, is not dead.

Newspapers might be declining but storytelling continues to play an important role in our daily lives.

Nic Coury explains on Sports Shooter, an online resource for photographers and photojournalists, that he was a journalism major and loved it. According to Coury, who works as both a reporter and photographer for the Monterey County Weekly newspaper, even with the decline of newspapers there will still be crime, politics and sports that needs to be covered.

I was also a journalism major and to this day, I believe that it was a valuable investment.

The skills I learned through my journalism courses taught me how to become a better storyteller, a better communicator.

Earlier this week, I stressed that photography and journalism are different forms of storytelling and that we need them both.

There are also other important forms of storytelling, which will be discussed in future blogs.

Storytelling is an important form of media that teaches people how to think critically and to improve their communication skills.

This brings us back to the importance of media literacy.

Media literacy is about teaching people critical thinking skills and helping them understand the complex messages presented by the media. However more importantly, it is about teaching communication skills.

A journalism education teaches students how to become better storytellers, a skill that is useful in every field.

We need to emphasize the importance of journalism and photography as forms of storytelling.

In previous blogs, I stress how students used photography for storytelling, as a means to express themselves and to learn about others. I also explain how photographs can make a difference.

Stories can make a difference.