Friday, September 30, 2011

Education In Cubes - Not Just Child's Play

The nine dice rolled across the table top and the students clustered to look at the outcome.  Excited voices called out the images that landed face up on the special dice of the game Rory’s Story Cubes .  Laughter and groans ensued as each player recognized their challenge of incorporating the image into a group story. “once upon a time…” the players began to weave a tale. On the next round I added a challenge make it all on one theme or subject. We tried subjects familiar to their curriculum and it provided a much higher level of gamesmanship. On this particular morning I was trying out Rory’s Story Cubes in a high school Agricultural Mechanics class. I began my test with one cooperative student and soon had a large group clustered around.
Looking for ways to add the curriculum to story cube fun I began challenges to the student players. We did a round using vocabulary words. Students in foreign language played a round telling the story in the language they are learning. Theme telling as recommended on the package was incorporated into curricular support choosing a topic from the lesson plan. The next roll the story must incorporate small engine repair for my agricultural mechanics group. Students returned to me later in the day during a free period with the request to play the game, that to me was the best review, the approval of this group of high school students.

 Simplicity of the game allowed quick understanding of the skill required while also challenging the students to new levels. This was very evident through its popularity within the Special Education setting. The game was used in curriculum support again and was a popular reward for work completion.

Teachable moments occurred when working with younger students. These came from some of the iconic images. A roll of the dice producing a Pyramid image allowed us to look quickly at the computer to see pictures from the pyramids at Giza. With this more in depth look and quick lesson on the early culture in Egypt  the students quickly incorporated the new found knowledge into the game.

As a generational counterpoint I played the game with a group of nursing home patients and found it brought out delightful interplay and stimulated memories and conversation. The residents varied backgrounds made for an intellectual story with moments of whimsy. I thought it an excellent game for mental stimulation and recall desired for early stage dementia patients.
American author and humorist Mark Twain played a similar game with his family each evening at his home Nook Farm in Hartford Connecticut.  Once the family assembled in their library room he was to invent a tale incorporating all seven items on the fireplace mantel into a new and different tale than any he had told on previous nights.  Click this link to see the Twain House mantel and story items:

Rory O’Connor and Anita Murphy of Belfast, Ireland have come up with a flexible game that recreates the skills of the Irish storytellers –The Senachai.  The product Rory’s Story Cubes have garnered more than a half dozen toy/game awards. This list includes the 2011 Best Game Award from the Independent Toy Awards – Toy Shop UK. This award was based on independent retailers experience and recommendations. One student suggested playing in an Irish accent after reading my printout from the Rory's Storycube website.

Since the games inception additions have come to the playing field. There are max sized story cubes and a story cube app for iphones.  An expansion set brings a diverse set of verb cubes to provide more story action to the game.  You can follow all the updates from Rory’s Story Cubes on Facebook, Twitter @storycubes  and on you-tube and again on their website  

Other reviews in my blog include
Mike Lockett  

Dementia Patient blog:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

making a commercial break

I'm having fun making my own commercials. I use my Flip camera for video and a regular digital camera for still shots. Looking for something fun and catchy and connecting it into one of my projects is the quest. Going viral is the dream! I don't have viral quality material yet, I think it will be like hitting the lottery - right place, right time and just the right combination. I'm just having a good time coming up with creative ways  to get the word out!

Here is an example:

For  Campus Slammer ; inter-collegiate story slams in Connecticut,

Here is a link to a blog I did that had great stats due mostly to the video I took.

A still shot - a summer special
       My goal this year is for every storytelling venue I produce or take part in to have  a video. Face Book and Twitter, even blogs get a lot more attention with a video attached.             So.....
LIGHTS - CAMERA - ACTION!                                         

Monday, September 5, 2011

Journey of a Thousand Goodbyes

          My father passed away last week. He was a captive of Dementia or Alzheimer's for several years and in passing over that journey has ended and another begun. Herman F. Marshall was born July 19, 1929 in Manchester, New Hampshire. His story is our family memory now and I'm reading the things he wrote to save his memories, now they become part of my memories. There is a notebook collection of the people, places and things that were special and everyday in his life.
                I can't say all the things I feel, or process all the emotions yet. I did spend the duration of Hurricane Irene's heavy rains scanning in these old photo and re-establishing a mental image of my Dad from before the time when age and illness waged war on his body.    
     This may have been a last family photo, Charles Marshall my Dad's father died when Dad was only 18 months old. There was no collection of stories and anecdotes, just a few old photos. I can see from this one how much my Dad adored his older sister Ginny, as he did his whole life!   How my Grandmother managed  raising her two children on her own, well she was strong she had to be.
      My father was a photographer and one thing I could tell from the box of old family photos I brought home from his house was the interest must have started when he was little. Considering the hard times and single parenting they still managed to get a lot of photos of my Dad as a boy. He had never shared some of these, so there are surprises along the way as I scan my way through the box.                        
Summers were spent in Rye and Hampton Beach New Hampshire. Someone had a nice pony, this is one of the photos I had never seen but makes me understand more why he was so excited when we got my first pony.Little could he have guessed how much impact that pony would have on the rest of my life.
Here he is with his sister after 8th grade graduation. Pretty dapper dresser even then! He was always one for a suit and tie when he was going somewhere. When he worked for the newspaper as a photographer he was always in a suit with a white starched shirt. I finally got him to wear a colored shirt when I was a teen. It was very conservative though.
1945 and 16 year old Herman takes on a growth spurt propelling him to his mature height of 6 feet.
WWII and someone had to help build a highway across Alaska's expanse and off he went just 17 and enlisted with his mothers signature. Another adventure that included chasing a moose down the AlCan highway as they worked on it.

After the army it was photo school in Boston and landing the job at the Hartford Courant as staff photographer. He met my mother there and the rest as they say is history!
We added this photo to an album when they celebrated their 50th Anniversary.
Herman and Jessie Marshall
Look at that I've got my cowboy boots on!

Dad is gone but the memories are fresh and alive. I have scanned the photos and posted the blog to share them with family and friends so the story doesn't end there is always another chapter.  On Sept.27, 2011 I will be one of the speakers at Eastern Connecticut University when the Psychology dept. hosts a program on Alzheimer's Awareness. I want to share  some of my father's journey with the students and community. We need a cure and better treatments, we need understanding, we need to save the memories now!  Alzheimer's is the Journey of 1000 Goodbyes as each skill and memory slip past the shroud and disappear. The parting is slow and long as the bright and vivacious, person we know slowly recedes into a mist of confusion. Like any fog it occasionally lifts for a captured moment and memory. I knew my Dad spent many hours with his memories, they played like a long Saturday picture show from his childhood until the credits rolled.