Random Word Story

(Spontaneity, Taking Creative Risks, Collaboration)

Suggested for grades 5-8

How to Play: Step 1 (Teacher demo)

  • Pick three volunteers. Have them come to the front of the room.

  • Ask each volunteer to come up with a word that has nothing to do with anything in the current classroom conversation. They might just think one up, or ask a friend, open a book and randomly point to a text—anything goes to find a random word. Set a time limit: 30 seconds or so. Explain that they don’t want to overthink it.

  • You, the teacher, start to tell a quick one-to-two minute story. It doesn’t have to be interesting—tell about last night’s trip to the grocery store, or talk about your dog.

  • Point, one at a time, at your volunteers. When you point to a volunteer, that student blurts out the word they thought of in advance.

  • As seamlessly as possible, use that word in your story. Once you’ve done so, point to the next volunteer.

  • Be amazed at your storytelling brilliance!

Step Two: Student Storyteller OR Small Groups

  • Once you’ve broken the ice by demoing the game, ask for a volunteer to tell a story, and three new volunteers to offer random words. This can happen as a performance in front of the class, or you can form groups of four and have everyone try it together.

  • Sample Debrief Questions:

  • “What was it like, incorporating those random words into your story?

  • Did the story change because of the words?

  • Who was doing the improvising?

  • (If there was laughter) What was funny?

  • When do we feel like this in regular life?

  • Points to Underscore in Debrief:

  • We can make something happen with new input that is outside the plan, if we have fun with it.

  • We like to laugh with someone who is good natured about a creative risk or failure: that’s a lot different than laughing AT someone.


  • None


  • 2 minutes per story

Number of Players:

  • You can play alone. It’s even more fun in pairs and groups


  • As a review activity, use content words instead of truly random words.

  • Advanced: As a problem-solving exercise, get a problem to solve, like, “I locked myself out of the house.” tell a story about how those three words helped you address your issue.

  • Create the story collaboratively.

  • Add random words as you go by having a playmate shout them out at random times.

Tips to remember:

  • Don't try to figure out your story ahead of time. Start speaking before you’re ready.

  • If you are giving words to others, make them as random and unrelated as possible. It’s really both more fun and perhaps even easier that way. You are offering more inspiration.

  • Don’t worry about telling a “good” story. You’re just making it up, for heaven’s sake!