A humorous and educational look at speech pathology.

Posts tagged ‘hedbanz’

Board Games and Speech Therapy: Hedbanz

Today’s game is a mass-market game that’s been through frequent reprinting and is probably the most frequently misspelled activity on my progress notes: HedBanz, currently published by Spin Master.

Variants/Expansions: It looks like most of the variants of this game are just republications under another name (Hedbanz for Kids, What’s Up, and What’s On My Head appear to all be the same game). It also looks there’s a version of the game for adults; this version contains more difficult concepts like “Tahiti”. In addition to the general game, there is also a Disney version of the game.

General Overview: Hedbanz is, at its heart, 20 Questions in reverse. Each of the 2-6 players puts on a fashionable blue plastic headband and puts one of the picture cards in the headband without looking at it. On a player’s turn, that player asks the other players yes/no questions trying to determine the object on their card. When an object is correctly guessed, the player takes a new card and continues. When time runs out, it is the next player’s turn. The scoring system in the game starts each player with three chips; a player who correctly guesses an object loses a chip, and a player can give up on guessing an object and get a new card if they take a chip. The first player to lose all their chips wins. The game also comes with prompt cards that contain a number of sample questions for modeling.

Skill Support:

  • Item Description – Describing items, in small chunks, is the primary skill of the game. This game addresses item description in multiple ways – the player who is guessing the object needs to think of a method of describing an item (color, size, features, category), and the players answering the questions need to accurately describe the item.
  • Auditory Recall and Synthesis – The player who is guessing the object needs to be able to recall the answers to previous questions and synthesize the answers given into a mental picture of the object.
  • Question Formation and Answering – Framing a question in a way that gets you information you need – and answering the question that’s asked instead of providing topical information that was not asked for – is an important component of the game being played smoothly.


  • 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.
  • The content is entertaining: The visualization of the game itself – wearing pictures on your head with a blue plastic headband – is, for many students, entertaining enough that they enjoy the game, even if it challenges them.
  • Low literacy friendly: While each card has a word on it, in most cases, the word is just an additional prompt; the pictures themselves can provide enough information for the student to know what the object is.
  • Collaborative: This is one of the few games in my collection that encourages students to collaborate rather than compete (the other notable one being Backseat Drawing). Because the student asking questions needs a single answer to get a good idea of what their object is, requiring the other students to collaborate and come up with a single answer promotes teamwork skills.


  • High memory requirement: The student has to remember all the answers they’ve been given in order to do well at this game; students with poor auditory memory are likely to struggle.
  • Closed-ended questions: Asking and answering yes/no questions – and providing only the information asked for – is hard if you’re excited and into the game. I have to, more so than in most games, redirect students to asking a yes/no question instead of an open-ended one, probably because asking an open-ended question is a one-step process (“What color is it?” requires you only to think of the information you want), but asking a yes/no question is a two-step process (“Is it blue?” requires you first to think of the information you want, then to make a guess as to what the information might be).
  • Rules reliant: I’m not sure why this is, but I seem to have a larger incidence of “accidentally” dropping a card and peeking at it or providing additional information beyond the question asked in this game than with most other games. Hedbanz doesn’t work nearly as well with students that have difficulty following directions or adhering to rules – if a student cheats or does something they weren’t supposed to because they didn’t understand the game, the play experience and treatment benefit of the game are ruined. I have one group of third graders who can’t play this game at all because the headbands don’t stay on their heads and they like to whisper the objects to one another; after numerous redirections, the game became about not getting caught cheating rather than playing the game, so it became nonproductive as a treatment tool.
  • Timed: Timed games are terrible for students with processing issues or delayed responses. Furthermore, they put the focus of the game on speed rather than accuracy.
  • Incongruous rewards in scoring: Positive behavior support practices indicate that when a student does something correctly, they should be given a token to reinforce the behavior. This game takes a token away from a student who answers correctly and gives a token to a student who gives up. It’s not a poor scoring system from a mechanical perspective, but it works against most behavioral strategies used in the classroom.


  • Get rid of the timer: Timed games focus on speed rather than accuracy. By eliminating the time pressure, students are better able to focus on the language objectives.
  • Get rid of the tokens: The scoring system doesn’t reward students for correct answers in a manner that’s consistent with behavioral reinforcement in schools. Getting rid of the tokens and allowing students to keep correctly guessed cards as points (similar to how Apples to Apples scores) provides positive reinforcement and allows the game to proceed indefinitely (or as long as the treatment session allows).
  • Visual prompts for questions: The prompt questions provided by the game are great, but they’re also written language and there’s 24 of them. Using visual prompts to generate questions (plug Expanding Expression Tool once again here) helps students to generate questions that fit within the rules. Using the EET, I make question generation for my students a two-step process: they select which description area they want to know about, then they ask a question about it. In groups of students who aren’t at that level yet, the students can just select a descriptor and get the necessary information.

Alternate Uses:

  • Hedbanz cards work great as visual prompts for a variety of games and activities that, in and of themselves, rely too much on literacy (Apples to Apples) or don’t have a large number of prompt cards in the activity (the Expanding Expression Tool).
  • The cards are great for sorting for categorizing activities – having students take the cards and put them in categories based on location, function, color, or any other group can provide students with a visual or kinesthetic reference to reinforce the information.
  • The headbands themselves can be used to add guesswork to another game for additional challenge or just variation. For example, using the headbands with the Storybook Game can provide a student with the most recent three or four words used to help reinforce the most recent additions to the story. Similarly, putting the prompt card in Backseat Drawing into a headband allows all the students to give drawing directions while the artist guesses what he or she is drawing.

Hedbanz is a popular and easy to find game for speech therapy. It uses a spin on a common car game with strong visual reinforcement to help students develop descriptive and expressive language, and doesn’t require much modification to be used in therapy. In addition, the headband itself allows an enterprising therapist to modify a number of other activities to make them fresh and interesting for students who might be bored with them.

Has anyone else had experience using this game in therapy? How useful has it been? What other uses and modifications have you used?