Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Roll a Write - an alternative to the free write/bingo write

I readily admit, I stalk Pinterest and elementary school sites for fun ideas. Last week I was on Pinterest during lunch and came across this nifty idea that is used in elementary art classes to help kids draw and learn about landscapes. I decided it would make a great timed write activity. It requires little prep and takes the entire period.

Quick Info

  • What is it called? Roll a Write
  • What supplies are needed? the student document and as many dice as you have groups or students. 
  • How long does it take? 6 rounds of 3-5 minutes + remaining time in class for edits and adds
  • What levels could do this? I could see a level I class doing this in the late spring with much lexical help or in small groups. I did this with a level II class in late spring. 


I prepped this activity in about 15 minutes. I am linking to the version I created here. If you'd like to use my form, please make a copy of it, rather than edit this particular piece. I chose words that students knew or we were focusing on working with for our current unit. I also made sure to put in some words that the kids had expressed a love or passion for (unicorn, death, octopus, et.)

That's it. The prep was quick and if you use the form with the dice already put on it, it will be even quicker! 


The process requires a little explanation for the kids, but I found that they were quick to catch on. 
  1. pass out papers and dice. Read over the instructions with the kids. 
  2. Explain that students will roll and then write for 6 rounds. Each round will give them an element to their story. While the general element is dictated by the roll, they can interpret it any way they want. 
  3. Students roll the first die, circle their choice, and write for 3-5 minutes. 
  4. Students roll the second die, circle their choice, and write for 3-5 minutes. 
  5. Students roll the third die, circle their choice, and write for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Students roll the fourth die, circle their choice, and write for 3-5 minutes.
  7. Students roll the fifth die, circle their choice, and write for 3-5 minutes.
  8. Students roll the sixth die, circle their choice, and write for 3-5 minutes.
  10. Students get whatever time remains in class to make changes, add on to their story, and connect the pieces. Some students may focus on grammar corrections (if they are ready!), others may want to add more detail. Some may simply re-write in neater handwriting. Wherever they are in the process is fine.
  11. Have students put this in their timed write folders/notebooks. 

Tips and Tricks

A few things stood out to me as being helpful in this activity:
  • I have enough dice for each student. I bought a bag of 60 dice. Each student had his or her own dice. I prefer it this way. This could easily work if you only have enough for each group, just adjust the writing time. Similarly, if you have no dice, kids can google "roll the dice" and google will roll a die for them. Apple phones also have this feature I believe, or they have an app kids can get.
  • Keep the dice rolls quick. If students get caught up in the dice, they won't have time to write!
  • A brain break is NEEDED for this activity. Asking students to write for this long, even with dice rolling breaks, is hard work. Here is a list of brain breaks I like to refer to.
  • Keep the atmosphere light! While I won't answer any "how do you say" questions, I will answer "what does it mean" questions for kids who don't know the words on the paper. Even though they are writing, this kind of support helps lower the affective filter and keep it fun!
  • Edit the categories as you will. I like having multiple problems in a story because it gives it twists and turns and keeps it compelling for students.
  • When students get stuck: tell them to go back to the description: focus on the detail, who, what, where, why. What things are in a place? What body parts do a person/monster/animal have? What animals/objects are in a forest?
I'd love to hear what stories come of this if you do it, or what categories you add/change! It's a great activity for a day when you need a little quiet, or you want to give the kids a chance to be creative in their writing. I plan to do this again, but in groups.