Telephone Pictionary

In the Telephone Pictionary ESL activity, students pass information in secret (like in Telephone), but alternate between drawings and written descriptions.

Students for Telephone Pictionary ESL Activity:6+Time for Telephone Pictionary ESL Activity:15-20 mins
Resources for Telephone Pictionary ESL Activity:
A4 Paper; Paper Clips; Scissors

Each student needs a piece of A4 paper (use recycled if possible!) and a paper clip. They fold the paper into eight portions, then cut along the folds to make eight smaller papers. They stack the papers and hold the bundle together with the paper clip.

You can divide the students into groups of six to eight, or do the activity as a whole class (if your number doesn’t easily divide). If you do make groups, try and make sure they are of the same size.

All the students in the group/class sit in a circle.


Note: Each writing/drawing stage must be done individually, without any classmates seeing. You may also want to give a time limit of one minute for each stage.

  1. Each student thinks of a funny/unusual sentence/description in the target language (e.g. a man is playing tennis on the moon with a dinosaur). They write it on their top paper.
  2. Everyone then passes their bundle to the person on the left.
  3. The students read the sentence they have been given. They then put it to the back of the bundle, and draw a visual representation of the sentence on the next paper.
  4. The students again pass the bundles to their left.
  5. The students look at the picture in top of the bundle they have been given. They put it to the back of the bundle and write a sentence describing the picture on the next paper.
  6. This pattern of writing and drawing continues until the bundle reaches the student before the creator. So with eight students for example, this would be seven rounds/passes.
  7. The students take turns reading/describing what is on the top paper they now have. Each time, the student to their left (the original creator) then reveals their original sentence. It’s always fun to see how the original information has changed!

Optionally, if you have a small class, you can go through each bundle together and see where the information became confused. Correct any mistakes in the writing at this point too.

Target Language

The Telephone Pictionary ESL activity is a fun warmer for any level. If you are doing it with more advanced students though, make sure they challenge each other with strange objects and unusual vocabulary.

You can also use the activity to practise the present continuous. In this case, specify that all written sentences have to use this tense.

Got a picture or video of this activity in action? How about snapping one next time you use it? We'd love to showcase your submissions- find out more here.