Each of your groups is going to need a pen or maybe two pens, so if there was someone within your group that has a pen could you go grab them now.
… come up to me in a moment and I’m going to whisper into your sweet little shell-likes an object, and that object will be what you the person who comes up here needs to draw to the rest of your group.
Here’s how it works. You draw it. Under ordinary Pictionary rules for those who are not familiar it means you can’t talk, you can’t use any letters or numbers, you need to basically keep drawing until your group guesses what the object is successfully.
As soon as one person in your group guesses it, a new person, not the one who’s writing but a new person will come up to me because I’ve got the list, everyone’s working off the same list, and the first thing I will always ask you is what did your group just guess.
Now if it’s on the list it means you got it right. If it’s not I’ll ask to go back and have that person keep drawing until the group gets it.
Ordinarily you’ve got it correct. I will then whisper the next object that that person has to then go back to their group and draw. Okay?
And you keep going around your group several times, you’re working off the same list. The object is to see how far down the list you can go. Okay?
Are you able to do any gesticulating? Look, gesticulating works but drawing is far more effective. So no letters, no numbers, no symbols. Identify one person to come up now from your group and I’ll give you the first one.
Are you ready? Here comes your first one, and it is… D-O-G. Dog.
(people playing Pictionary)
How To Play Narrative
Start by organising your group into smaller teams of about six to eight people (see Getting Into Teams for some fun ways to do this,) and spread them evenly throughout your area.
Issue each group some sheets of paper and pens, and explain the basic rules of the popular board game Pictionary. It’s a game that many people will already know, but here are the basics:
One person draws something that the rest of their team tries to guess.
No numbers, letters or words can be spoken or written to assist the group (grunting included.)
No internationally recognised symbols, such as dollar signs, flags, etc are permitted.
If you’re familiar with the board game, this version is a bit like playing a huge ‘All Play’ round.
To start, ask one person from each group to approach you, and to creep in nice and close because you are about to whisper the first ‘thing’ they have to draw.
Working from an already-prepared list (of say 40 – 50 things,) whisper the first object in their shell-like – it could be a person, place, animal, action, thing, etc – check their understanding, and they’re off!
If you need a list in a hurry, download a sample list from the Resources tab.
Each ‘artist’ returns to their group, and, as quickly yet effectively as possible, tries to draw the ‘thing.’ When someone in their group correctly guesses its identity, another person from this team (not the drawer) will race back to you to seek the next ‘thing’ to draw.
At this point, you have to be quite organised. Referring to your list, begin by asking the budding artist – who has just raced up to you – to tell you what was the last ‘thing’ drawn by his or her group.
If you receive the correct answer (ie it’s on your list), then whisper the next ‘thing’ on your list.
If the answer is not correct, simply ask them to return to their group until they get it right. This way, groups can progress at their own pace depending on how good they are at drawing and guessing.
You’ll start with one person from each group, but beyond this, people will simply stream back and forth when they are ready. Stop when your list has run out, or you have been running for more than 30 minutes.
Practical Leadership Tips
A fun way to finish is to ask each group to gather their ‘artwork’ and display it for the whole group to see. This is sure to trigger plenty of friendly banter.
In the ultra-competitive world, you may like to suggest to your group that keeping their voices down will prevent them from ‘giving the answer away’ to other groups, ie everyone is working off the same list.
If you have more than four groups, involve extra list-holders to make the process more efficient. That is, ask one or more volunteers to hold an identical list (to yours) and stand elsewhere in the playing space so that they, too, maybe approached by the next ‘artist.’
Ensure that your list of objects to draw is culturally and generationally relevant. For example, just recently, I worked with a group of high school students, none of whom knew what an overhead projector was! Or a telephone book!
You could integrate Pictionary as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying the excitement and fun of solving a series of problems together in a team.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and effort required to interact and engage with others may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see. For example, you could invite your group to reflect on the extent to which they shared the drawing role across all members of the group, ie it is not unusual to rely heavily on the more confident and/or skilled artists in a group.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Pictionary could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Reflective Pictionary: Create a list that reflects the significant people, things and events that have occurred during the course of your program or are relevant to the experiences of the group (in this way, the activity can act as a processing tool.)
Do It Yourself List: Ask each small group to develop a list of their own ‘objects’ and ‘things’ which will be used to challenge another group. Be sure to check the list for suitability before you start.
No Draw Pictionary: Rather than draw, use charades or mime. That is, the ‘artist’ must use a series of physical gestures to communicate the message. As a further challenge, create a list of popular movies, TV shows or songs for this person to communicate. This is similar to Charade Line.
Artful Pictionary: Rather than draw, use play-dough. Each person will manipulate and mould the play-dough to look like the ‘thing’ they want their group to identify.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Use a (free) screen mirroring software (such as Whiteboardfox) or the free-hand drawing (annotation) function of video conferencing platforms such as Zoom as the drawing space. Nominate the drawer(s) and then secretly share the object name in the private chat. Either require the other group members to audibly suggest their answers or ask them to type it into the chat room facility. Once the object is correctly identified, share the next object via the chat facility to a new group member, clean the screen and continue.
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Useful Framing Ideas
If you ask a group of second graders to raise their hands if they think they are artists, almost every hand will shoot up. Yet, by the time these kids reach high school, barely a hand is raised. What happens in between? It’s not a simple answer, but I think that as we get older our creativity gets stifled by the “I’m not good enough” syndrome. Too bad. Because, in my opinion, everyone is an artist, we simply express ourselves differently. In our culture, we don’t do enough to celebrate these differences – except in this exercise…
One of the keys to a successful team is effective communication. This exercise is all about communicating effectively, but… there’ll be no talking. The communication I’m referring to is drawing. And notice that I said ‘effective.” You do NOT need to be an artist to communicate effectively as a drawer. You simply need to capture the key elements of the object or message you are trying to convey. If the popular board game ‘Pictionary’ required everyone to be a Picasso to play successfully, the makers would have sold about two dozen games. Rather, the success of the game is found in the fact that it’s fun to draw, and even more fun to guess…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun and highly interactive group game:
What did you think when you first heard that you needed to draw something? Were you afraid?
What were the most effective strategies for drawing or communicating each object?
Did you surprise yourself, or others, in any way?
Did your group develop strategies that helped you become more successful?
Fun ‘Community-Building Games’ Session
What You Need:
12+ people, 60 mins, sheets of paper, pens