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General Overview: Telestrations is a cleanly packaged implementation of an unpublished large-group party game called – depending on your social group – Telegram, Picture Telephone, or Eat Poop You Cat (I have no idea where some of these names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.
- 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?