A humorous and educational look at speech pathology.

Archive for June, 2012

Board Games and Speech Therapy: Telestrations

Today, I’m focusing on my favorite acquisition from last weekend’s Origins Game FairTelestrations by USAopoly.

Telestrations 12-Player Party Pack unboxed

Variants/Expansions: Telestrations currently comes in three versions. The basic game supports up to eight players, the Family Pack supports six players, and the Party Pack supports up to twelve players.

General Overview: Telestrations is a cleanly packaged implementation of an unpublished large-group party game called – depending on your social group – Telegram, Picture Telephone, or Eat Poop You Cat (I have no idea where some of these names come from). At the start of each round, each player gets a prompt card, a marker, and a markerboard sketchbook. Each player writes the word or words on the prompt card on the front page, turns to page 1, and has 90 seconds to draw that word or phrase. At the end of the time, the players flip to page 2 and pass the sketchbooks to the left. Then, each player looks at the picture on page 1 and writes a guess as to what it is on page 2. Once all players have written their guess, the players flip to page 3 and pass again, and must now draw on page 3 what is written on page 2. Continue until players have their own sketchbook back. At that point, the players review the contents of their sketchbook with the group, and hilarity ensues when seeing how what was written and drawn was interpreted (or, as is often the case, misinterpreted). The game doesn’t have a mandatory scoring system, but an optional “friendly” scoring system and “competitive” scoring system exist if desired.

Skill Support:

  • Vocabulary – The players need to understand the vocabulary on the prompt cards and in the guesses to sketch the guesses.
  • Approximation – The pictures drawn are often imperfect; the players need to be able to guess based on an approximation of an object or phrase.
  • Written Language – Writing your guess is an essential part of the game – saying it out loud spoils the next player’s guess.
  • Verbal Reasoning – Explaining how “wig” became “belly dance” at the end of the round requires expressive language skills.


  • The Game Is Simple: This is a game that can be played out of the box with less than five minutes of setup and rules explanation. Modeling game play is easy.
  • Engages Multiple Learning Modalities: Uses verbal and written language as well as “learning by doing”.
  • Simultaneous Play: Because all the players play at the same time, you’re able to provide each student with a significant amount of engaging activity even in a larger group.
  • Scoring Optional: As an inherently noncompetitive game, Telestrations allows you to teach skills without worrying about who “won”. As the game rulebook says, if you have fun, you win.
  • Modification Suggestions: The rulebook is clearly written for people who like to make house rules and play with the mechanics of a game. Between two choices for scoring systems and three ways to “twist things up”, changing the game to fit the group is easy.


  • “Telephone”: I mentioned in the Backseat Drawing post that one person can serve as a weak link. This is doubly true here; being seated next to the exceptionally poor artist can create a frustrating experience for an impatient player.
  • Markers: In my experience, giving students markers is risky due to the possibility of tables, textbooks, iPads, and the like being marked up by students.
  • Fine Motor Needed: This is not a game for your kids with severe fine motor difficulties (although my wife, who has mild spastic cerebral palsy, is able to play and loves it). In particular, the markers in the 8-player version of the game are somewhat thick, which can make it difficult to draw well.
  • Literacy Dependent: The cards included with the game contain prompts that are designed for ages 12 and up. Students younger than this will likely have a hard time understanding the terms in the game (although the rules of the game acknowledge this and offer ideas).


  • Alternate Prompts: If the prompts in the game are difficult for your students, your students don’t find them interesting, or they’ve seen them all, you can draw from other resources to provide additional prompts. While I regularly recommend games like Rory’s Story Cubes or The Storybook Game for this, you may want to stay away from prompts that have pictures on them, instead using vocabulary cards (like vocabulary terms from the curriculum) or cards from games that only contain words like Apples to Apples or The Chain Game.
  • Colors: Adding colors to the drawing process, especially as the students are just learning, can add an extra level of directions or help the audience understand better what is being drawn. Colored dry erase markers are the easiest way to accomplish this.
  • Clinician Participation: This game works best with an even number of players (because if there’s an odd number, you don’t draw your own prompt). To make the number of players even, the clinician can either participate or abstain as appropriate.

Alternate Uses: The best tool in Telestrations for alternate use is the sketchbook. As a multi-page markerboard, it works well for anything that requires students to either make a series of responses or a secret response that is passed to another player, whether it’s vocabulary practice, math lessons, or even providing a series of hand drawn or handwritten prompts in rapid succession. Other alternate uses can include writing practice (writing about one player’s reveal), and abstract reasoning (which of these prompts would be the easiest to draw and why?).

As a multisensory game with lots of possibilities for modification and accomodation that includes simultaneous play and recommended changes in the rulebook, Telestrations is one of the best treatment tools I’ve seen in a long time, and joins Apples to Apples and Rory’s Story Cubes on my “absolutely must have” list. In addition, it makes a fantastic party game to take home after the end of the work day.

Has anyone else had experience using this game in therapy? How useful has it been? What other uses and modifications have you used? Are there any board games you’d like to see discussed in this space in the future?



Board Games and Speech Therapy: Origins 2012 Round-up

The games added to our collection last weekend (mouseover for list). No, we did not pay for all the games. Yes, we paid for all the ones I’m going to talk about.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my wife and I attended the Origins Game Fair last weekend. We had a lot of fun, played a lot of board games, and lamented that we could not come for the entire convention due to its overlap with the school year. While most of the games we played didn’t relate to speech pathology or the use of board games therein, I did find some gems I wanted to share:

Dixit: Journey – I mentioned this expansion for Dixit when I discussed the game itself, but I finally got my hands on a copy. The artwork is of very high quality and less “cartoony” than previous Dixit games, and it comes with updated 3-6 player rules (although I haven’t had a chance to review those yet). Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with storage for the previous expansions, so I’ll have to see if all the cards fit into my Dixit: Odyssey box.

Get Bit! – I discussed this game in an earlier blog post, but I wanted to bring it up again because it won this year’s Origins Award for Best Family, Party, or Children’s Game. So, if your administrator questions using a game about sharks eating robots in therapy, you can respond by saying that you’re using an *award-winning* therapy tool – and then deflect the follow-up question about which award.

Hike – A small-press casual card game I had never heard of before this convention. It’s similar to Uno in that your goal is to get rid of the cards in your hand by matching, but differs in that all the matches are nature-themed (tree, water, bug, bird) rather than just color and number. There’s some literacy, too, but I’m considering it as an option for lower elementary students who are working on ecology units in class (gotta address that NCLB-mandated curriculum relevancy, after all).

Say Anything – Say Anything is a game I didn’t buy at the convention, but will be ordering soon based on a demo in the dealer’s hall. The best way to describe it is free-answer Apples to Apples – instead of picking a card, each player writes a response on a markerboard.

Telestrations – Telestrations is my big find of the convention, and the subject of my next full post. It’s Telephone plus sketching. Each player in the group has a markerboard pad with multiple pages. The players get a prompt (usually a one-word or two-word phrase) and one minute to draw it. The pads are passed to the player next to them, who has to guess what the picture is. The pads are passed, and the players then have to draw the previous player’s guess. Continue until the pad reaches its original owner. In one game, we got to see, through a variety of miscues, “wig” become “belly button”. The educational aspect of the game is learning about where the communication breakdowns occur and how they can be prevented. I’m very excited to try this one out.

Timeline: Inventions – Timeline is a sequencing game in which players need to put a series of cards in chronological order. The first version of the game, Inventions, features various innovations throughout history including writing, the corkscrew, and the compact disc. It’s a good sequencing game for older students, especially if you can get them to talk out their reasoning behind where a certain invention should go.

Wits and Wagers – Wits and Wagers is a spin on trivia games in which you don’t necessarily have to know the correct answer – you can guess what the correct answer is. Each player is asked a question with a number for an answer (for example, “How many people signed the Declaration of Independence?”) and writes down their answer on a markerboard. Then, the answers are arranged from lowest to highest, and the players place a bet on which answer they think is correct. The answers nearest the middle get the lowest payout and the answers at the extremes get a higher payout. Because the scoring is based on the wager and not having the correct answer, even students who don’t know the facts can still try to guess what the correct answer is. This is another game that’s on order after a demo, but I’m very excited to take an in depth look at it afterward.

I’m sure there were many other good therapy games there that I didn’t see, but we were only two people, and it was a pretty large convention. If there’s something you think I might have missed, let me know and I’ll look into it next time…