Friday, June 13, 2014


Artistically Challenged Pictionary

Thanks to The Doghouse Diaries for this great comic. It IS how my students play sometimes.
I think most language teachers know how to play pictionary with their class. It is a very popular party game and has really clear applications to language teachers. For those that don't you can follow the directions from the comic (hehe), or the SUPER basic set of directions that follow:
    1. Give a student randomly select a word (usually a vocabulary word).
    2. Have them try to draw it on the board. 
    3. Other students guess the word.
Now, you can add variations (divide it into teams, have it timed, say they can't draw any circles, etc.) to make it more difficult or more fun.

I always feel a little bad when playing pictionary because...well... this is an example of my wonderful work. 

Alfred Sisley - Flood at Port-Marly
It isn't bad! In fact most people will look at it and say, "flood."  However, many of my students are INCREDIBLY talented and will end up drawing something like the image to the right in about 30 seconds.

As a result, even though the vast majority of students LOVE playing pictionary some students get discouraged because they just don't have the artistic skills to have fun. They get stressed about letting their team down, or people not guessing what they drew properly.

I even have a few talented artists who get discouraged because the white board "limits their abilities" (I have found that whiteboard crayons help).

The category card with the child options
So the other day when I was shopping I was super excited to find Pictionary... the CARD GAME for sale! I live in Mexico at the moment, so the game was technically in Spanish, but that isn't important since the main point of the game (for me) is that it is all pictures. I tend to create my own clues for students.
The category card with the adult options

To start, there's a category card you can use to show if it is movie related, TV related, music related, or something else.
Then there are the "clue cards" these are what people have to guess. In this case mine are all in Spanish, but if you buy the English version your would be in English! Regardless, I would probably create my own to fit my classes level and knowledge.

The nice thing about the clue cards is they are arranged into two categories: children and adults. The children have four words surrounding a theme. For example, "Weather" is snow, air, cloud, and sunlight. Depending on how you play children can say the theme before they start to help others guess. Adults have four options: a movie related option, a TV related option, a song related option and a random word or phrase. 

Finally comes the drawing cards which are my personal favorite and why I am writing this blog. For example, take a look at the following cards and see if you can guess the movie:
A man with fire eyes

There is a lightening lady
A man with fork hands

Any guesses?

If you guessed X-men you are right!

The man with fork hands was supposed to be Wolverine, the lady with lightening was Storm and the man with fire eyes was Cyclops.

Now, if no one had guessed yet, I could have kept giving you hints! (Like the photo to the right).

There are 88 of these little drawing cards in a pack (44 red and 44 blue). The only thing I don't like about them is they are SO little! If you are having students work in small groups then this works fine, but if you want to do a full class review this would be impossible for everyone to see, but I LOVE that they even the playing field of artistic and non-artistic while encouraging students to be creative!

You have a few options as how to proceed.

1. If you have a doc cam, or a similar device, it would be easy to have students rearrange the cards on a table and display them larger for all the students to see. I am not that lucky, but I know a lot of teachers who have them, so make the most of it!

2. Even if you aren't artsy crafty, you can make your own cards! Part of the joy is that these don't require much artistic skills. They are just stick people, squiggles, and other easily drawn shapes. If you don't have the time to make them yourself, you could have students draw these one day as a listening activity. Save and laminate your favorites! Another option is to make a list of what you want and have students offer to make them for extra credit. It would show comprehension!

3. You can photocopy the cards so that they are bigger. My photocopier maxes out at 4x as big, and that makes them look like the picture to the right (which I think it big enough for the class to see). There aren't many details in the pictures so making them bigger doesn't really distort the image.

2/3 b If you are doing option 2 or 3 I suggest you laminate the cards and invest in some reusable adhesive so students can easily stick them on the board / wall for everyone to see.

If you are as artistically challenged as I am, I hope this post helped you.. If you have students who hate pictionary because they are like me, I hope you will consider this as an option.

Finally, even if you and your students are extremely gifted, I would encourage you to try this out. It gets students to really think creatively about how to use the cards to express their word. So many of my students are intelligent, but their creativity is still weak. Games like this will hopefully help them work their creativity muscles so they can think outside the box in real life!

If you don't think these cards could be used to make YOUR classes vocabulary words I'm happy to show you what I would do. Comment below (or on facebook) with the vocabulary word from your class, and I'll show you what Pictionary Cards I would use to describe your word!

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