Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

“Minimal Lines” – Vocabulary Review With A Pencil!


IMG_2268I first saw this activity done in a Gr.10 science class by educational consultant Faye Brownlie (here in my school district in Coquitlam). It was fascinating to see kids engaged in this and it worked really well to help them reinforce the key vocabulary for the unit – so I wanted to try it in my classes.

Its not full on pictionary! I know it’s a staple for many – and I like to play it with sentences too. No – It’s pictionary with a minimal twist. That is – how FEW lines does it take for you to draw that object? And it turns out its also a great way to reinforce vocabulary!

What you need:

Big piece of paper – I use recycled large newsprint paper

Pen or pencil

Word cards or photos or a list – I use flashcards from Quizlet – cut up and put into an envelope.

Kids in partners or small groups

Reminder of key Target Language words for ‘guessing’  – “I think it is…” “It might be…” etc

Warmup – explain you are wanting them to draw – with the fewest lines possible – the following objects. “What are the fewest number of lines it would take to draw a hamburger?” – Have them draw & share. Two lines? Three lines? Then ask them to draw a tree (or any other object you want to give) and compare with their table the number of lines it took.

Now – down to business!

The Process – Students select a vocabulary word and begin to draw. Their partner aims to get the word. When they do – how many lines did it take?  If they don’t – then give a hint (target language) to help them. Guessers can use any notes or support they need – we are reinforcing not quizzing! There was lots of great fun and interaction in the room. Students were busy trying to draw, and guess the word.

A Scoring Option –  In my class we actually counted the number of lines – keeping a running total – to see who could guess with the fewest number of hints between the two partners. This is totally optional – and I wouldn’t do it with every group but it does reinforce the ‘minimal’ idea.

You May Need Extra Target Language – We even had to stop to reinforce reaction and clarifying words because kids wanted to be able to comment on their own and their partners drawing and/or guessing skills.

It was all in good fun and most importantly they really did a thorough review. If enthusiasm flags try switching up partner – this lends new energy each time they begin anew.

Note: Reinforce that it’s the fewest number of lines possible. Some pairs just start to draw (and they are still reviewing) but most were really competitive in their ‘minimal’ approach.

I’ll use ‘minimal lines’ again – as an alternative to my Pictionary/Phraseonary activity. Great fun and learning too!




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