Story Cubes – Different ways to play


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Story Cubes are awesome for teaching English. Great conversation starters. But opening the box and looking at your student and telling them, Tell Me a STORY is a bit overwhelming.

I haven’t had a student that felt comfortable which such a big task. So here are some alternative ways to play with the cubes.

Pick 2

Roll any two dice and have the student say Which one is better and why?

Roll any two dice and say how they are same or different?

Roll All of Them

Reverse Scattegories – pick a letter and find words that start with the letter that match the cube. Can be the name of the thing, or an adjective that describes it.

20 Questions – using all the cubes on the table, pick one and let your partner guess what you have picked by asking 20 yes or no questions.

Put them in order – put all the dice in order of size, beauty, weight, and danger and ask why along the way.

What ways have you found to play with Story Cubes?




Conditional – 2nd form



Cambridge English defines the 2nd conditional as:

Imagined conditions: the second conditional

We use the second conditional to talk about the possible result of an imagined situation in the present or future. We say what the conditions must be for the present or future situation to be different. We use a past form in the conditional clause to indicate a distance from reality, rather than indicating past time. We often use past forms in this way in English.


If you can read and understand that and build a sentence from that, congratulations. I cannot. Like all my grammar, I teach using real world uses instead of memorizing grammar rules. For this construction, we unlock our imaginations. I setup the sentence and let my student finish it off. They might need help with some words. We write each thing down and repeat.

If I weren’t here, I would be …
… on a spaceship.
… playing with my friends.
… on an island.

If I weren’t me, I would be …
… a space captain.
… a famous basketball player.
… a pirate.

If I lived in a different time, I would live …
… in the middle ages and be a knight.
… in the future and drive a flying car.
… in America and be a cowboy.

If I was rich, I would buy …
… a collection of cars.
… every LEGO set, ever.
… a giant swimming pool.

Don’t Say Yes or No – Game


I have played a lot of games in my life. It’s been a vital part of my work and play for a very long time. There are few games that have had the replay-ablility like this game. The concept of the game is simple. You read questions off a card in the hopes of making your opponent say YES or NO. If they say one these forbidden words you hit the bell and laugh at them.

Example Card:

  1. Can I start now?
  2. Did you say Yes?
  3. Do you like apples?
  4. Do you like any other fruit?
  5. Name a red fruit.
  6. Do they serve strawberries at Wimbleton?
  7. With cream?
  8. Do YOU like cream?
  9. On strawberries?
  10. You just said yes, didn’t you?

I played this game with one of my students for years. There aren’t that many cards in the box and we memorized them all, and we lost the bell a long time ago. But we kept playing. We made up our own questions, trickier than the ones above. We’d do anything to trip each other up.  The trick, by the way, is to answer a question with another question. To this day, she still won’t answer me directly because she rightfully assumes we are still playing.

This is a great ESL game / conversation for intermediate levels or higher. It takes a wide vocabulary to circumvent the words Yes and No.

Key phrases

There are three key phrases I teach all my beginning students, regardless of age.

I don’t know!


Number 1 on my list. I want my students to speak English as much as they can. I would rather them say I don’t know over and over again, then for them to answer me in their native language. I teach them in the very first lesson how to throw up a shrug, stick on the bottom lip and mumble IdunnOh. I want to teach them it’s OK to make mistakes and it’s OK to not know. That’s why we have lessons.

What’s this? It’s a…



The most basic sentence structure is noun + verb. I like my students to ask questions, to explore the language in their own way. This is true of children or adult of any age. Like I don’t know I want them to use English as often as I can. Teaching this phrase early on allows them to stay in English even when they don’t know what something is called. I teach this phrase through ad-nauseam, like most of my phrases. I also use the exact same intonation every time.  I also do not worry about plurals or singulars (What’s this?  vs. What are these?). Even toddlers learn to mimic this question.

After they have learned this, then I add the correct demonstrative adjectives (this, that, these, those).

What are you doing? I’m —ing.


We need some verbs to go with our nouns. The most commonly used verb tense, although not the easiest, is Present Continuous. This is what we use to say what we are doing right now. Action verbs are the most relatable, easiest to show, and the most fun to do.

Once we’ve learned this form, we can begin to build our vocabulary with different verbs.

That’s it!

Now we know how to make a basic noun + verb sentence and I don’t know how to fill in the gaps. We build from there.

Muzzy – Love

Who doesn’t want to know how to say I love you in another language. I like sending my students home knowing how to tell their moms and dads, I LOVE YOU!

This is a great lesson for a conversation. I ask the student about all the things they love. Whether it’s a person, an action, or a thing.


As always, if I need more practice, we can use Donna Young’s handwriting paper.

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