The "30 Second (or less) Story" Competition

Goal:  Students will work collaboratively to create a 30-second long story based on a word/phrase set supplied by the teacher.  The idea is to see which small group can create the most creative short story under the limits of the given word/phrase set.


  1. Students should form small groups of 4-5 students
  2. After getting to know each other’s names, students should choose a recorder, a storyteller, and actors.
  3. Each group will get a set of 5 note cards with words and phrases on them.  (Each group will get the same set of words/phrases.)
  4. The group will write a short story using at least 4 of the words/phrases on the cards with the goal of being the most creative story in the class.  The group recorder will write the story down.
  5. After about 20 minutes, each group will present their story.  The storyteller will read/tell the story while the remaining 2-3 group members act out the story for the class. 
  6. When all groups have presented, the groups will vote on which story was “the best.”

In a follow up discussion, students will justify their choice of best story by answering: What made that story good?  This can then lead into a general discussion about what elements are needed in a story to make it a "good" story.  Students can draw on the work of their classmates, on movies they've seen, and on stories and books they've read for inspiration in this discussion.  The teacher should write the list of ideas down on the overhead and make sure each student has a basic understanding of what each element is.  This list should be referred back to in the coming weeks as students engage in lessons about plot, developing detailed description, learning figurative language, using other narrative elements (dialogue, in medias res, flashback, and "exploding the moment"), and begin to see "texts" as more than just a "good story."