The purpose of Kids' Stories is to reinforce story/object/event sequencing - the idea of beginning/middle/end (b/m/e). The are several instructional objectives that fall under this purpose:
We have also identified a few additional objectives for some of our variations for the game (especially to be used for enrichment or authentic assessment purposes). They are as follows:
Kids' Stories falls under two areas of the current state framework: math readiness and language arts. In the Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (1999), it states that "critical for beginning mathematical development are attributes, such as color, shape, and size; abstract concepts, such as some, all, and none; and ordinal concepts, such as before, after, yesterday, and tomorrow " (p. 124). Under the First Grade list of math objectives, one includes: "Tell time to the nearest half hour and relate time to events (e.g., before/after, shorter/longer)" (p. 38).
Along with having important influences on mathematical reasoning and problem-solving, understanding sequential order is also key within the language arts content area. Not only is this skill valuable in decoding words in reading (left to right order) but it is also crucial under the areas of writing and oral communication. Using the listening and speaking strategies of kindergarten outlined in the English&endash;Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (1998), the idea of describing and relating experiences in a logical and sequential order is mentioned (p. 13). In first grade, students are also expected to be able to identify "the story's beginning, middle, and ending" (p. 15). In second grade, the need for these skills is taken to the next level under writing, where students are expected to: " move through a logical sequence of events" and "describe the setting, characters, objects, and events in detail" (p. 21).
The learners for Kids' Stories are K - 2nd grade students. These students range in age from five to eight years old. Under Piaget's developmental stages, these students are in the process of moving from the pre operational to the concrete operational stage (Biehler & Snowman, 1990). This simply means that they work best with actual objects or with things that they have experienced concretely and directly. Students this age are also very egocentric, and enjoy activities which directly relate to themselves and their own experiences. However, they also enjoy role-playing, and this is one way to get them to learn content outside of their own experiences. Most students this age really enjoy school, and are beginning to see patterns of beginning/middle/end in their own lives.
Kids' Stories is designed to be used in a classroom setting. It has been designed so that students can play the game without adult supervision, making it possible to be used as an enrichment activity. In addition, it can be played with multiple students on one team and with an adult (or older student) supervising play - making it adaptable to small group activity. Students must have sufficient space around the actual playing board in order to affectively play the game. Kids' Stories can be played more than once, since each student will not receive all the groups of cards during one game session. Playing the game several times allows students to practice their sequencing skills over and over, solidifying their mastery.
When students have mastered the basic game, the teacher is encouraged to have them try one of the enrichment variations to extend their learning. Prior to the game, the students should be exposed to the idea of event sequencing. Afterward, as mentioned above, the teacher can extend this idea into reading and writing through extension activities.
The object of Kids' Stories is to be the player (or team) with the most cookies in their lunch bag at the end of the game. A player earns cookies by successfully placing their groups of event/story cards in sequential order. The game ends as soon as one player reaches the bedtime space.
The following are a list of objects within the game box that are needed to play the game:
Kids' Stories is designed to last approximately 12-15 minutes (keeping the attention span of these learners in mind). Set up for this game is minimal: choosing lunch bags, shuffling cards and placing into the Schoolhouse, and rolling to see which player will go first. Ideally, the entire game would take place in one session. If time did not allow a full game, a winner could still be determined by stopping and seeing which player had accumulated the most cookies.
Object: To have the most cookies in your lunch bag at the end of the game.
To Play the Game (Basic):
To Play The Game (Variations):
The Overall Scheme
Originally, Kids' Stories began as an idea for a rummy-like card game, in which players would be drawing and discarding story cards, trying to find a group in order to win. Both Holly and Karen are elementary school teachers, and felt that a game dealing with sequencing would be very much appreciated and used at their school sites. Marie, as a special education aide, also saw the value of this topic from her experience working with children and adults with special needs. After meeting as a group, we decided to make it a board game and retain the card sequencing element.
We wanted to make this game very concrete and "real-life," keeping in mind that this age-group is developmentally egocentric. We played around with ideas for the game to be fantasy-centered, or centered around popular children's literature (like nursery stories). We decided against these ideas because we felt that by using already published literature, the children would not have an opportunity to describe their "own" story from the cards - they would just be reciting the already established story. We decided to use the theme of Kids' Stories for the game. This would allow all students from all backgrounds a chance to identify with the theme - thus increasing relevance and applying to their egocentricity (Biehler & Snowman, 1990; Keller & Suzuki, 1988; Malone & Lepper, 1987). All the sequences portray children doing simple tasks in several settings - school, playground, and home.
Review of the Literature and Game Catalogs
We did a review of the literature to see what the research said regarding real photographs verses drawings for the story cards. We found that some research supported the use of real photographs with young learners, while other researchers indicated that elaborate colored drawings would work just as well if not better (Anglin, Levie, & Towers, 1996; Braden, 1996). Coming to the conclusion that the area of visualization and visual imagery research is still not unified on this topic, we choose to make a few sets using photographs and a few sets using colored drawings and play test the two sets for appeal, clarity, and ease of publication. The results of our testing revealed that our students liked the cards using real photographs better, and were able to distinguish needed details to correctly sequence them. [*Note: We obtained prior written parental permission for all children involved in this project.*]
We also conducted a search (via the web and through various instructional game catalogs) to see if any other games existed that focused on sequencing skills for young children. The only games we found that were somewhat similar used cards that had one side forming a complete picture as a way to self-check that the cards formed a proper group (like in matching games with addition facts, sight words, etc.). None of these games used the cards for event/story sequencing order, and we could find no board games with this instructional purpose.
Our game board design began as a way to physically extend the idea of beginning/middle/end into the structure and physical look of the game. Since children at this age are working on sequencing not only objects but also events in time, their progress through a day was one obvious example of this. We visually wanted to divide the board into three sections: morning, afternoon, and night. The idea for a race track pattern went along with this theme. However, we wanted the winner to be the one who demonstrated mastery of the sequencing skill and not merely the first person to finish the game. This was where the idea of combing the two structures (the cards and the game board) came together. Even though we sectioned the board into three areas, we also didn't want a player to feel that they were looking at the board "upside down." To solve this, we came up with a circular loop during the middle of the day (representing the time they're in school).
The game board, markers (lunch bags), and the cards were purposely made large because many children still have difficulty focusing on small print and handling small objects at this age (Biehler & Snowman, 1990). We put the board on cloth, allowing the game to be sturdy (kids can be rough on game boards!) and stored compactly. Originally we were going to have long, narrow story cards, thinking that the students would be holding the cards in their hands. We quickly abandoned that idea when we realized that fine motor skills is one area of difficulty for many at this age.
Another design issue was: What to do with the pile of cards? We wanted a way to self-check the order of cards (especially if Parent were another student), and placing numbered, colored shapes on the back of the cards seemed like the easiest way to accomplish this. However, then the problem of having the players look at the backs to do the sequencing instead of using the skill became a problem. This was when we decided to provide a master sheet with all the sequences.
Also, we realized that by building the "stealing" element into the game, this would not only give the game some chance component to it (Malone & Lepper, 1987), but also keep the other players engaged throughout (by needing to pay attention to other players' cards). To add some intrinsic motivation (through challenge and control) we also decided to allow other players the opportunity to correct the sequence and thus earn the cookie (Malone & Lepper, 1987). We were thinking that we would give each player the opportunity to self-correct, but this significantly decreased the challenge element of the game.
Design Issues: A Mathematical Approach
In order to decide on the number of cards needed, the number combinations needed, and the number of various colored squares needed in order to play a 12-15 minute game (with four players), we turned to Holly's husband, a statistician/programmer for help.
By doing some mock "plays," we calculated that nine moves could be accomplished in five minutes for four people. Therefore, 22 moves would comprise a 12 minute game. Using the numbered die (1-3), we deduced that each player would average two spaces per turn. This equated to needing 14 spaces for the entire game. During a game, each player would be landing on 6-7 spaces (approximately). We wanted to make sure that green spaces comprised a majority of the board, with yellow being the second most, and only one or two red spaces. Figuring that early on in the game, the number of cards to steal would be few, we decided to place the red space sooner and leave the yellow spaces for later (to add to the excitement of the game).
We then determined that on average each player would pick up 8 cards and steal 2 throughout the course of the game. By starting with two cards, this would allow each player to average 10-12 cards for each game (depending on steals). This seemed like a reasonable amount of cards for each player to handle.
Our final task was to calculate how many cards we needed for each deck. We decided on 45 cards in all - five 3-card combination groups, duplicated three times. With five different combination groups, obtaining ten cards would be the maximum number of cards where it would be possible not to have a set. This is very unlikely and the ability to steal helps to solve this possible situation anyway. If we had six 3-card combination groups, then a player could have more cards left in their hand with a greater chance of not getting a set. We settled on five 3-card combination groups for this reason. The thinking was similar on the deck with four-card combination groups.
We met within our group and with Bernie several times to flush out our ideas. We also tested some initial thoughts and ideas on our children and other colleagues.
Once all of the above decisions were made, we play-tested Kids' Stories to check on a few key elements: 1) the overall design of the game board - did it make sense? Was it motivating? Easy to setup and handle? 2) the rules - Were they clear and easy to follow? Did having Parent be in charge of the cards and the cookies work? and 3) the cards - Could students understand them? Were the different groups easy enough to distinguish? Did they like photos or drawings better?
We used kindergarten and first grade children from Hawthorne Elementary School for the play-testing. As stated earlier, the children liked the photographs better than the line drawings. They enjoyed the "race" aspect of the game and the "stealing." One area that needed more clarification was the idea that children needed to gather the entire set of three cards in a sequence, not just three identical cards. We rewrote the rules to try and emphasize this point. As Devon, a first grader, explained, "I like the game because it makes me so happy. It helped me learn about the stories."
We learned many valuable lessons from this experience. First, we now realize the enormous time and effort that goes into creating an educational game. We will not be quick to discard a product we don't like. Instead, we can use the principles we've learned to try and change the game to make it better (if possible). Also, we realize that we can take an existing game and by varying some of the elements, create a new game that will fit our instructional purposes. In fact, we plan on taking this game and utilizing some of the elements for additional variations in our classrooms. Finally, we really appreciate the team effort. Admittedly, we were all hesitant to join a group, thinking that this task would be better suited for an individual. However, we realized firsthand how valuable working in a group to design a game can be. Synergy is something we experienced - and value highly!
Books & Journals
Last updated October 23, 2000