Story Cards

Story cards and story dice can be great ways to semi-spontaneously develop stories or parts of stories. You can use them as story prompts just to get things started, or use them to move a story along bit by bit. They can be used when students write nice long stories, or they can be used in 5-minute activities. If you don’t already have story dice, I highly recommend getting some.

For this project, your students will make their own prompt tools. Instead of dice, they’ll make card.

Cut Out Some Cards

First, students will need something to write on. Cut some rectangles from colored paper. Use 4 different colors, one for each of the different categories described below. The standard size of playing cards is 2.5”x3.5”, but you can adjust the size if you choose (but try to be consistent). You decide how many cards to do (I recommend about a dozen of each color in a set). Hand out a set of cards (where a set has all of the colors and one set is identical to the next) to each student or group of students.

As an alternative, you can have your students type up their cards, in which case you wouldn’t cut the cards until after they’ve printed. But for the rest of this article we’ll presume the card will be hand-written.

Make Character Cards

The story should be populated with characters, of course. Give your students the following ideas, then give them time to write several specifics for each. (Maybe give these prompts one at a time so they can think of multiple specifics for each instead of narrowing their focus). Students are free to add adjectives along with each noun.

    • What are some interesting professions?

    • What kinds of people do you admire?

    • What kinds of people scare you?

    • Which animals do you wish could talk?

    • What are your favorite mythical creatures?

By the way, I recommend that students limit the proper nouns they use. When they do use proper nouns, it should be someone that everyone in the class is familiar with, perhaps a famous person. For an unknown person, don’t give them a name (“a fat astronaut” is better than “George”); names can come when it’s time to tell stories.

Make Action Cards

Next, let’s write down some verbs. Give your students the following ideas, then give them time to write several specifics for each. Students are free to add adverbs.

    • What actions look really cool?

    • What actions are very difficult?

    • What actions make you laugh?

    • What actions solve problems?

    • What actions cause more problems?

Make Setting Cards

The story needs times and places to happen. Give your students the following ideas, then give them time to write several specifics for each. The times and places can be relative (e.g.: ‘the next day’, ‘the other side of the room’) or definitive (e.g.: ‘a bright summer day’, ‘a haunted mansion’).

    • Where do you spend most of your time?

    • Where is a place you’ve always wanted to visit?

    • What’s a place that’s impossible or almost impossible to get to?

    • Where do you feel safe?

    • Where do the craziest events take place?

    • Name four different time expressions.

    • When is the most boring time of the day?

    • What year would you like to visit?

Students should write their answers as nouns and not include prepositions (as the prepositions will depend on the context; the storytellers will decide the right prepositions in the middle of the story).

Make Item Cards

What do the characters interact with? Give your students the following ideas, then give them time to write several specifics for each. Students are free to add adjectives along with each noun.

    • Name four everyday objects.

    • What is something really expensive?

    • What is something very rare?

    • What is something you play with (perhaps an instrument, a game, or sports equipment)?

    • What is something dangerous?

Shuffle the Cards

Shuffle the cards together. You may choose to keep each set separate or to combine them all. You could have your students share what they wrote to compare and contrast with other students, or you can keep the cards a surprise until they are played.

Bind up the cards with a rubber band or set them in small box until you’re ready to make some stories!

When you later play the cards, follow instructions similar to these: [story dice instructions]

Get more with Insider Access


Advanced Features in Student Projects

search and filter

planning info


Extra Video Content

more How-to-Teach grammar videos*

with intros, instructions, and summaries

*compared to free resources


Exclusive Supplemental Resources


posters & handouts

bonus notes


A Month of Writing

November is National Novel Writing Month, but your students don’t have to write a whole novel to challenge themselves and practice creative English.  Encourage them to write 5,000 words instead.  A short story in a month is still something to celebrate!

Read More »


Students create an outline of a story they know well. But instead of just words accompanied by bullet points, they’ll have more of a visual component to it and show the flow of progression.

Read More »

Story Prompts: First Sentences

Whether you’re doing a fun exercise of flash fiction or you’re practicing a particular language topic, sometimes your students need a little push to get started.  Here are ten first sentences of potential stories.

Read More »

Crime & Justice

Re-enact a criminal case: craft the situation around a fictional robbery, conduct an investigation, and put on a mock trial. This project works best with multiple classes.

Read More »

Put On a Play

Students can learn a lot by putting on a play – not just reciting lines, but making a big production of it, involved in plenty of different aspects of the show.

Read More »

Show, Don’t Tell

A common adage among writers is “show, don’t tell”.  Writing in this way prompts students to think of different ways to express the same thing.  Students will have to use expressions and imagery – like native speakers do in most situations – instead of being straightforward.

Read More »

Share This Post