From Digital to Paper: A Folding Story Activity

folding story
Some you know that I have been having some fun over at Folding Story, a collaborative story site in which ten pieces of a story as put together but the writer only sees the prior “fold” — not the whole story.

I wanted to bring the idea into the classroom, but the site itself is not appropriate for my students. (The crew there says they might be adding “private writing rooms” in the future for educational purposes. We’ll see.)  So, I went the old-fashioned way yesterday: with paper. My students created and contributed to a five-fold story on paper, and mostly, it was very successful in terms of sparking creativity.

The hardest part, believe it or not, was showing them how to fold the paper in such a way so that as the story progressed, the writer would only see the previous fold. In seconds, you could see which kids have some spacial IQ and which don’t. But we got them through it and began. (Essentially, we folded an 8×10 paper into half, and then into half again, and then flipped one of the folds. This gave us five spaces for writing. I had then number the folds, too, so that we knew where we were. An easier way would be to keep it to four folds, but it seemed to me that five was a magic number in terms of a story developing farther enough away from the original.)

After they wrote on a fold, I would collect and redistribute, and they would write the next part while only reading the fold before them. When we got to the last fold, they could open it up and read where the story had begun. We shared a few out with the class. Then, they all got their own original stories back to see where their story had gone.

You should have heard the chatting, and felt the creative energy in the room, as we were doing this activity, which took about 25 minutes. They were very excited to be writing this way, in collaboration with some unknown others in the room. They all were trying to figure out whose story they had and where their original story had gone.  I only had one story during the day that was a bit inappropriate (it included a joke about a butt — no doubt, written by a boy) and after I repeated directions about writing for the classroom, things were fine.

As with the site, there is the potential for inappropriate writing, since the writing is being done with anonymity. I suppose I could have changed that — had them add their initials, or read every contribution as I was collecting them for redistribution. (What I did was I read ones where I wanted to send a message to the writer. I’d stand next to them as I collected their writing and very dramatically read it silently to myself.)

Peace (in the folds),

  1. I plan to do the same activity with my after school writing club students. I hope they enjoy it as much as yours did. I’d also like to share the idea with my teachers on campus. Do you mind if I borrow your picture (with proper citing, of course) to show my teachers a visual example of the activity?

  2. I have down this activity before, the kids really do enjoy it! I have also done a class version of one word at a time story making, the rules are simple, I give them a starting sentence and then they continue it working around the room one word at a time. It really shows those kids who are listening and those who are thinking ahead. They love it when I read it out, especially when I let them keep in the silly words like fart and bum!
    Gives me a giggle too!

    • Hi Tracey
      I think it shows the power of creativity and imagination. I’ve done the OneWord stories, too, although often, I do it with a koosh ball — where a student adds a word and then gently tosses the ball to someone else in the circle, who has to add their word, etc.

  3. Pingback: How to Fold a Paper for a Folding Story | Kevin's Meandering Mind

  4. Cool idea!

    I signed up for right before we went back to school after break and didn’t spend enough time there to try it out. Today’s FS newsletter took me to their Twitter feed, which brought me to your site. #smallworld

    I do shared-story activities a lot with my students, but I have them read the whole story so far before adding a sentence, (hopefully) developing story elements. I think I’ll try this, too, to switch it up a bit.

    I like the idea of signing each addition…I’ve always had the few who add a bit too much “spice” to the story.

  5. I’d like to try this with my writing group but its online. Does anyone have ideas on how to do this on Zoom?

    Any suggestions would be so helpful.


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