Art Taboo (Art Telephone Game)

A fun, active activity designed to imrpove student's spoken communication by relaying information about an image in pairs. Works for all age groups with some modification.

  1. Before class, design one or two pictures for the students to describe. You can to them on pen and paper or a powerpoint, as long as the room can be arranged so half of the students cannot see it. The picture can be anything you want, but here are some suggested modifications:

For younger students I recommend making a "background scene" like an empty living room, and adding a few common objects like a book, a picture, a dog etc. in different locations in the scene. This is especially good for practising prepostitions but can also be used to practise colours, plurals or other categories.

For older students, I try to make an "unguessable" scene with unusual objects to describe, like a giant green sun, flying pink fish, a cat driving a bus and so on. This challenges them to ensure they are speaking clearly and listening carefully because they cannot assume what the picture will be.

  1. Split your class into pairs

  2. Ask students to select one person as the 'runner' and the other as the 'artist'. The runner can come up to the front of the class to see the secret picture. They then return to their partner, the 'artist' and describe the scene to them. The artist cannot see the picture, so they must draw it based on what the runner says. Usually I ask the student to choose by janken.

  3. Artists can make their pictures on paper or on electronic devices. We use Loilonote so the drawings can be submitted at the end of the game.

  4. Remind students that the runner is not allowed to see what the artist is doing, and Japanese is TABOO! (Hence the name "Art Taboo")

  5. Give students 5 minutes to describe and draw, then submit them to the teacher to pick the most accurate drawing. Note that it should not be the most artistically appealing picture, but the one that shows the location, size, shape and colour of the objects in the original drawing most accurately. There may be more than one that does this.

  6. Walk around the class listening out to ensure that there is no Japanese, checking that there is no peeking, and answering questions if students aren't sure what to do.

  7. If you want to, you can swap the pairs around and do another drawing.

  8. This is a very energetic activity, so it is a good one to throw in if the class seems a bit slow and sleepy to liven things up!

Submitted by phoebefay February 15, 2023 Estimated time: 20-25 minutes

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