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Discussion Strategy: Visual Telephone Game (Quick Tip)

Features of this activity:

  • Students explore a work of art through multiple perspectives
  • Students visually and verbally translate one another’s associations with the work of art


Essential Questions:

  • How do we translate big ideas/concepts into the visual realm?
  • How do artists use symbols, motif, and abstraction to convey meaning in a work of art?
  • In what ways can a work of art be read from multiple perspectives, and how can we use this to stimulate rich dialogue about a work of art.


Materiales necesarios:

  • Pencils – One per participant
  • Paper or index cards – Each participant will need as many pieces of paper as there are participants. So if you have seven participants you will need 49 pieces of paper or index cards.


  1. The group will be seated in a semi-circle around the work of art. Each student will have a stack of index cards and a pencil.
  2. Facilitator will give a brief introduction to the work. The group will observe the work of art in silence for a minute. Then, facilitator will ask for them to generate 3 associations, adjectives, or phrases pertaining to their observations. They will do this in silence.
  3. The group will now be seated in a circle. Each participant should write one of their phrases on the top piece of paper. They should not tell anyone else what they have written.
  4. Each participant then passes their stack of papers to the person to their right. They look at the phrase on the top piece of paper and then move that sheet to the bottom on the stack.
  5. They should have a blank piece of paper on top now. They draw a picture which represents the phrase which was passed to them.
  6. Each participant passes the stack of papers to the right again. They look at the picture on the top piece of paper and move the sheet to the bottom of the stack.
  7. On the blank sheet now on top, they write a phrase which describes the picture which was passed to them.
  8. This continues, alternating phrases and pictures until the stacks of paper make their way all the way around the circle.
  9. At the end, each player stands up and shows each paper in their stack. This way everyone can see how the message changed as it was passed from one individual to another.
  10. Using the student’s individual associations, discuss the work of art from multiple perspectives.

Follow up questions:

  • Was the experience of interpreting someone else’s picture and text easy or difficult?
  • How would this game change if there were participants from multiple generations?
  • What were some of the consistent symbols used throughout the game? How do symbols and signs become universal?
  • How does this experience relate to the construction of historical narratives?