Hangman Charades


This is just for fun. During a recent production I often found myself unable to begin class on time--I was always talking with an actor or a parent volunteer or something--so my students were left to entertain themselves for five minutes or so at the beginning of class. For some reason they hit upon "Hangman." You know how you play. One person thinks of a word or phrase and writes the right number of spaces, one for each letter, on the board. He also draws a stylized gallows. One by one, the other players guess letters. If the letter they suggest is in the word, the "leader" writes it in its appropriate place. If not, the letter is written under the gallows and one part--say, the head--of the hanged man is drawn. If the other players are able to guess the whole word or phrase before the whole man appears, they have won. If the man hangs, the leader wins. Well, anyway, my students usually made SOME effort to make the game appropriate for Drama class. They generally restricted themselves to the names of plays or movies, for example. But I thought the game could be made more dramatic. We set our minds to the task, and this is what we came up with.

Play the Game

Someone--first time around it should be the teacher--thinks of a word or phrase and writes the appropriate number of little spaces on the board, leaving extra space between words, just as in "Hangman"--or "Wheel of Fortune." The way we play, the leader also writes the category, as in "Charades"--Movie Title, Book Title, Song Title, Play Title, or whatever. There is no gallows, but there is a box for "wrong" letters. (I have fun making up silly names for this box, such as "Letter Rubishery."

In turn, the other players try guessing letters, but here's the catch: They don't just call out a letter. Instead, they must ACT OUT the letter. (For example, if the letter the player wishes to guess is "B," she might pretend to be a bear, or a basketball player, or even--clever!--a bee.) The other players, including the leader, call out letter guesses as in "Charades," and the guessing player can encourage them on the right track also as in "Charades." When the correct letter--that is, the letter the player wishes to guess--has been called out, the leader either enters it in its appropriate place or places in the phrase, or, if it does not occur in the phrase, enters it in the "rubbishery."

If the letter IS in the phrase, then the person who guessed and acted out the letter is given the opportunity to guess the phrase. (Naturally during the beginning they will probably not have any idea, but as more letters are entered, they may. Part of the fun comes from the fact that a player may KNOW the word, but be unable to guess it because it is not his turn.) Again, if the player wishes to guess, she must now act out the whole phrase. (For example, if the phrase turned out to be "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"--which is a pretty hard one, by the way--the player might act out Babe Ruth's famous home run, and then act out a king and knights.)

If the letter guessed is not in the word, nothing bad happens to the person who guessed it, except that she is not given a chance to guess the phrase, and the next player gets a turn to guess a letter. This means that eventually SOMEONE will guess the phrase, if only because there are no more letters left to guess except the last one missing from the phrase. (In this way the game is more like "Wheel of Fortune" than "Hangman."

If you want to play the game for a long time, rather than just as a time filler, you can keep score. A player gets one point for correctly guessing a phrase. (There is an element of chance here, because one can only guess when it is one's turn.) Players can take turns being the leader, or the teacher can remain in this role. (I have found that when I hand over the leader role to students I generally have to disqualify myself from play, because for some reason I always seem to know the phrase almost before any letters have been guessed. I think I just instinctively know the kinds of things each student is likely to come up with.)

A rule: If you play the game more than once--that is, with more than one phrase--players are not allowed to act out any letter the same way twice. In other words, if on the first phrase someone guessed "F" by becoming a frog, the next person who wants to guess "F" must find a different way--say, pretending to be in a thick fog.

Tip: The more completely you can divorce the guessing of the charades--of the individual letters being acted out, or of the whole phrase being acted out--from the guessing of the phrase itself, the better the game will work. Try not to jump to conclusions. If you're pretty sure the player is acting out a frog, for the letter "F," don't call out "P!" for prince just because you think or know that there IS a "P" in the word. And when it comes to the acting out of the whole phrase the same thing goes.

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