Concept Charades

This is a pretty complicated game. I created it with my advanced middle school group, who did well with it, but it worked less well with my less advanced students, even those who were older. Central to the game is the idea of "concept" or "category." These are large over-arching ideas such as "Love" or "Fate," as well as disciplines like "Mathematics" or "Science" and spheres of life such as "Politics" or "Religion." I've included a list below, but you will think of others to add. It is very important that the participants understand the kinds of ideas that will make the list. (Indeed, sometimes when I play I read the whole list out before we start.)


This game works best with a group of no more than five or six. If there are more, you may want to adjust the rules so that not every player participates in each round. You could create a rotation.



Before playing the game, make a set of index cards, each with a different concept or idea. (See list below.) Depending on the sophistication of the participants, you may want to read out these cards before beginning, but if you do, be sure to shuffle them afterwards.


Play the Game

Players take turns, and it is important that everyone remembers where she or he appears in the order.


First player takes a card, looks at it, and returns it to the bottom of the pile.


First player must now act out, without words (you can decide whether to allow sound effects) the concept or idea on the card. Player should choose one basic approach or idea to pantomime, rather than trying to approach the problem from as many different ways as possible. (For example, if the card said, "Politics," the person might pretend to be giving a campaign speech. Alternatively, she might pretend to be using a voting booth, or to be watching political ads on television. But she would NOT do all three of these things. She would choose one approach.)


There is no guessing out loud at this point!


Once the first player feels she has finished, the second person (who has NOT seen the card) must try to act out the SAME CONCEPT, but in a different way. (To go back to the same example, if the first player had acted out giving a campaign speech, the second person might say to himself, "Aha! The word is 'Politics!'" and act out voting in a voting booth.)


Of course, the second person may not have successfully guessed the word, but that's part of the fun. It gets to be a little like the child's game, "Telephone," in which a message is transferred from person to person, deteriorating and changing as it goes.


As you have no doubt by this time guessed, when the second player is done, the third player must act out the concept in yet another way, and so on until everyone has acted. Then the word is revealed and everyone enjoys dissecting their mistakes and critiquing each others' acting and ingenuity.


Obviously, while guessing the concept may grow easier with each player's turn (assuming the previous players have guessed correctly), coming up with something to act out becomes more and more difficult. Therefore, when a second round is played, the SECOND player begins, and so on, so that everyone has a chance to be first, and everyone has to deal with the dregs.


(Actually, it is the tail end of the round that I find the most fun. Trying to come up with a new way of enacting the concept after all of the obvious ideas have been taken really stirs up the creativity. One student in my class enacted "Politics" by sitting at a table holding imaginary ballots up to the light and looking for "dimpled chads."  Okay, so I've been doing this for a long time.)



Here are some, You'll think of others.