5 Things to Keep In Mind with Choose Your Own Journey Stories

A little while ago, I published a guide on how to write your own Choose-Your-Own Journey stories. Since that post, I’ve had some time to reflect, and I’ve brainstormed 5 extra ideas that I would add to my original guide.

1. Start small.

I’m not sure I said enough of this in the first post, but creating your first choose-your-journey-story is going to take time, and there’s no way around it. There’s so many things to learn — how to hyperlink Google slides, move layers, how to plan and write the stories themselves, etc. 

If you’re looking for a guide on the actual, “how to” of writing a story, click here

I highly recommend that your first story you write be no longer than maybe 10 slides, with just a couple of options for students to choose from. Yes, you could write a longer story for your first time, but remember that this activity is also going to be new for your students too. They, just like you, have to have time to build their exposure and capacity for how to use these stories to learn. And that takes awhile.

I felt pretty ambitious when writing my first story, as you can see here. However, it’s pretty straightforward--no pictures, outside sources, just an expereience for students to compare life in Athens vs. Sparta for males and females.

Download this CYOJS for free here.

2. Remind students to avoid “button mashing”. 

Once your students have the hang of how the stories work, continually prompt them to read carefully and slowly before choosing certain options, both before they begin and as they start to read. My students especially tend to speed up when they have to restart frequently or certain choices don’t seem to affect their story outcomes. Just keep reminding them: “your actions matter”!

3. Stories can subtly “teach” a moral or deeper lesson.

Some of the best stories that I’ve written have an underlying message to them that players can only appreciate after they’ve interacted with the stories multiple times.

For instance, although this story helps students understand how the Mandate of Heaven in Chinese history works (as well as the philosophies of Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism)  it also helps teach the lesson that every dynasty in China eventually falls as part of the dynastic cycle; in the story, students cannot avoid death! (the boiled goose is a long story, :D)

Download this CYOJS for free here.

4. The best stories are multimedia and multi-dimensional.

Just like any other product you use in your class, the best CYOJS's integrate lots of pictures and higher-order thinking. Take note that both of the stories above DIDN’T have any pictures (there’s always room for improvement, right?). So, what can a well-executed, multimedia, and multi-dimensional story look like? Check out this one.

Download this CYOJS for free here.

Yes, this game has lots of pictures, primary sources, and more, but it has a SCORING SYSTEM that tracks’ players’ oppressiveness and the paranoia it causes for Americans in real time. 

After the experience is done, I have students record their final oppressiveness/paranoia scores and then, we graph the relationship between the two traits. Eventually, we get a graph that looks like this and students reflect and discuss it:
And voila! The activity has now tied in higher order thinking through literature, history, and math. Definitely one of my favorite stories I use with students all year.

5. Students can write their own.

There’s no rule that students can’t make CYOJ’s as well. Some of my students’ writings have been some of the strongest demonstrations of learning mastery that I’ve ever seen. Here’s my slide that I share with students when it’s time to make theirs on the Phillipino-American War. And yes, students really CAN do it with enough scaffolding and patience. Feel free to use any resources you find here (rubrics, guides, etc.).

I hope everything you’ve found above has been helpful!

Happy journeying!


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