Overview: No artistic abilities are required for this quick activity regardless of whether it is a stand-alone activity or unit starter. Context and communication styles will definitely be part of the wrap-up discussion and students will want to practice their ability to provide detail and listen critically well after this activity ends.

To access the video recording of the webinar detailing this lesson, please click here.

Materials Needed:

  • Students will need a piece of paper and a writing utensil. (Colored pencils will add complexity to the activity.) This page gives you some ideas of potential images you can describe if you do this as a stand-alone activity. 
  • If doing this activity virtually, teachers will need a platform for students to record themselves via audio or video and a mechanism for students to post these recordings. (Flipgrid will allow for both.) 
  • Teachers will need the discussion questions and the follow-up notes. (Provided below) 

Learning Outcomes: 

  • Students will identify challenges and solutions when communicating about and describing visual imagery. 
  • Students will improve their ability to be thoughtful active listeners and effective communicators 

Learning Objectives: 

By the end of the activity, students will be able to… 

  • Describe the importance of clear communication in a variety of circumstances. 
  • Recognize that there are various communication styles and that an individual’s background may impact how they communicate. 


  1. The goal of the activity is for students to understand what can happen when speakers and listeners are unable to communicate effectively.
  2. Have students draw or create an image. Images can be an original idea and/or related to the content area.
  3. Have students act as the ‘speaker’ and record themselves describing the image via your preferred educational tech platform/tool. (Consider a platform like Flipgrid so classmates can watch, comment & display their iteration of the image after listening. Students can also use a voice memo on their phones and upload the file to a platform like Padlet.)
    1. Note: Remind students that they should NOT show their image or drawing nor give any visual cues. The purpose of the activity is for students to act as ‘Listeners’ to another ‘Speaker”, practice their listening and critical thinking skills, and try to recreate the drawing/image based on the ‘Speakers’ description.
  4.  Post the pre-recorded descriptions on your preferred educational tech platform/tool. (See tech ideas in #3 above.)
  5. Assign students the role of ‘Listener’ and pair them up with another classmates’ recording.
  6. Inform students that the goal is for each ‘Listener’ to reproduce the image as described by the ‘Speaker’.
  7. Have ‘Listeners’ post the image their work on the assigned online learning platform. 
  8. Once all ‘Listeners’ have shared and compared their work, then have ‘Speakers’ share the images they described.
  9. Lead students in the discussion. 
  10. Debrief the activity with the Discussion and Follow-up. 


  1. As the Speaker, how did it feel to describe the image without being able to share the image/give visual clues?
  2. As the Listener, what strategies did you use to do the task? 
  3. As the Listener, how did it feel to do the task without any visual clues, getting any feedback nor being able to ask clarifying questions?
  4. How does your image compare to the image the Speaker described? 
  5. How does the Speaker’s image compare to their description of it? 
  6. What similarities or differences did you notice about other Listeners’ images?
  7.  If you were to do this task again, what might you do differently? 
  8. How did one-sided communication (i.e. ‘Listeners’ were unable to ask questions and get feedback) impact your ability to succeed with this task?
  9. What additional strategies could Speakers use to help Listeners better understand descriptions and meaning?
  10. What communication strategies do you use in your school and daily life to help others to understand what you mean?

Discussion Follow-up:

  1. Our communication style can impact how we communicate with others. 
  2. Our communication style is often influenced by our family, environment, culture, and personality. 
  3. Regardless of one’s communication style, communicating effectively requires the use of descriptive language, active listening skills and follow-up for clarification and understanding.
  4. When describing images, many speakers tend to focus more attention on what they want to say, rather than on what listeners want, need to or are able to hear.
  5. Many speakers assume that if they do an expressive job of describing their mental image, then the listeners will be able to ‘see’ the same image.
  6. To do this activity well, there must be a shared and clear comprehension and vision of the goal or final product/result.
  7. As speakers, in order for listeners to understand your message, it is important to use clear, effective language.
  8. This includes using specific descriptions, checking in for comprehension, and if possible, even giving a visual clue.

Extension in Content Area: 

Art – Use this activity as described in the instructions before a student shares a piece of artwork that they’ve recently created. A follow-up to this can be a peer review of the actual artwork after recognizing the complexity in the original project by the student that was speaking. 

English Language Arts – This activity can be a chance to add some great discussion after students complete a reading (fiction or non-fiction) where they’ve been asked to visually represent what they learned or what happened in the reading. The renditions of this will have two layers of complexity: Their perceptions of the reading and what their personal biases and understanding is of what they read AND the interpretation of what their partner conveyed with their oral description of the drawing. 

Family & Consumer Sciences – Consider completing the activity using an image that is appropriate to the subject area. A food dish for a culinary course, a fabric/clothing design for a textiles course or even an image of “family” in a child development course. 

Math – Consider having students do this activity with only mathematical terms and shapes. For example, they must use the official math terminology and angles to reference the parts of their drawing to the other person. 

Science – Consider completing the activity with an image of a science-related themes. The discussion and follow-up can be the same, but the theme will be on point with whatever lesson you are doing in class. 

Social Studies – Consider completing this activity using a moment in history. This can be used as a great lead-in to a review of various time periods of history as each student will need to “guess” the historical event taking place after reviewing their new drawing. 

World Language – Complete the activity in the target language. This activity can reinforce a student’s ability to use circumlocution and will allow both students to practice the oral and aural aspects to language learning. Consider using before and after pictures from the show called “Nailed It” on Netflix as a lead-in or wrap-up to the activity for fun. (“Nailed It” is recorded in English, but does have some episodes in Spanish that were recorded in Mexico.) Consider having students repeat this activity a second time to encourage them altering their behaviors/communication to see how they learn and improve after the first attempt. (Best for Novice – Intermediate Low) 

For more lesson plan ideas, please visit the AFS-USA Teacher’s Toolbox

For questions, comments or suggestions, please email us at [email protected].

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