From the Archives: “Bag of Nouns” for Review, Formative Assessment, and Fun

I was inspired to repost this article from the blog archives (August of 2014) after using it in a particularly successful active review session with a group of students today. It is one my favorites to use with learners of all ages for blending active review and formative assessment with group building and social-emotional learning.

Many of the inspired educators that I work with have shared variations of this playful party game for active review and formative assessment in the classroom or training sessions. Similarly to Play Dough Pictionary and Charades Race “Bag of Nouns” doubles as a playful group building and reinforcement of training or academic content. The game involves three rounds so can take a fair amount of time to play.

Active Engagement Review and Reflection

Purpose: Active Engagement Review and Reflection, Community Building, Communication, Descriptive Language, Active Academic Review, Formative Assessment, Creativity, Training Review

Materials: scrap paper, pencils a bag, bowl or other container, timer.

Facilitation Suggestions:

  • Write nouns on the pieces of scrap paper and place them in the bowl/bag. The leader/facilitator can write up a series of nouns having to do with theme, or specific academic subject or training content.
  • Or, a participant-centered way to involve the group right away is to ask participants to each write a noun on a piece of paper having to do with the theme and place it in the bag (this gives you information about what they understand about the subject or some insight into experiences and perspectives you hadn’t observed in the group). If I choose this method, I sometimes have to edit the submissions, so I give the teams some planning time while I go through the nouns and pull out duplicates or any that don’t fit the theme. The benefit to giving them planning time is that they begin to discuss the content.
  • Divide the group into teams (depending upon the size of the group 2-4 teams work well).
  • The game involves three, timed rounds.
  • In round one, the team who is up first chooses a player to draw a noun from the bag. The player then describes the noun to their teammates without saying the word on the paper. As soon as their teammates guess the word, the player draws another.
  • This goes on until the timer reaches one minute. When the minute is up, the team adds up all of the nouns they were able to guess and receives a point for each one.
  • The next team repeats this with the remaining words in the container.
  • Depending on time you might just play one round each per team, or round one continues until each player on each team has had a turn describing the nouns to his teammates.
  • In round two of the game, players proceed in the same way; however, this time they are limited to using one word descriptions. Teammates should try to remember the nouns from the previous round to help them guess.
  • In round three, players try to make their teammates guess the noun without using any words at all, but by acting out the word instead. At the end of the three rounds, the team with the most points wins.

Variations: You might vary the time limits, use themes or academic content words.

Reference: A number of the educators and trainers who have attended my workshops have shared this as one of their favorites. There are a number of variations posted on word game and party game websites. Thank you to Averill McDowell, Kelly Cook, Kit Farnsworth, Mary Bouchard and Becca Schutz for sharing variations of this activity during recent summer courses and workshops. You can find a full descriptor and other similar strategies in the Inspired Educator, Inspired Learner book.

Reference: Inspired Educator, Inspired Learner: Experiential, Brain-Based Activities and Strategies to Engage, Motivate, Build Community, and Create Lasting Lessons by Jennifer Stanchfield 2014 Wood N Barnes Publishing.

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