One-Word/ Phrase Storytelling

Number of Players


What Is It and Why Use It?

One Word/Phrase Storytelling is a verbal activity that asks students to actively listen and respond to one another to create a collaborative story. Students apply their knowledge of story structure (beginning, middle, end, problem/solution, etc.) within an ensemble-based improvisational activity.


Invite students to sit in a circle. Explain that the group is going to create a story together, one word or one phrase at a time. Discuss the elements of a good story and story structure; set goals for effective story making.  Begin the story by contributing a first word (Once or The or Corinna) or phrase (Deep in the ocean or The worst day I ever had or My magical hat was first discovered). The next participant in the circle adds another word (or phrase), and so on around the circle for one or more rounds until the story seems complete. After each story, ask what the group liked about the story and discuss ways to make a more effective story for the next round.  If helpful, pause the story in the middle and review suggestions for effective story making.

  • How did we do with this activity?
  • What was the main conflict in our story? Why? How was it resolved?
  • How might we improve on our story if we wanted to tell it again?
  • What makes a good story?
Possible Side-Coaching
  • What kind of word might we need next in our sentence/story? A verb? A noun? An adjective?
  • Try and incorporate our story structure elements to make an even better story.
  • What is the conflict in our story? How will the conflict or problem be resolved?
  • Try to build on what has already happened.
  • Try to wrap up the story within the next five or six words.
Possible Variations/Applications
    • Focus just on the use of punctuation as the group tries to build a sentence that uses a specific punctuation (colon, or comma, or question mark). Make sure that students vocalize the punctuation as part of their “turn.”
    • Focus on building a single sentence together in smaller groups rather than a large collective story.
    • Connect the story to content.  For example, direct students to create a story about what the group thinks happens next in the story they are reading, or to create a story that uses the elements found in a fable.
Source Citations