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ESL Icebreaker Game for High School: Pictionary with a Twist

“Pictionary with a Twist” is an exciting and educational icebreaker game tailored for high school ESL (English as a Second Language) students.

This version of the classic Pictionary game challenges students to illustrate and guess phrases or idioms, adding a linguistic twist that enriches vocabulary and understanding of English expressions.

It’s an excellent game for encouraging creativity, teamwork, and active learning in a fun environment.

ESL Icebreaker Game for High School Pictionary with a Twist

ESL Icebreaker – Pictionary with a Twist

We have loads of icebreaker games here on the site for all ages, you can check out the full list for adults on the link directly below but we also have icebreakers for kindergarten, primary and high school here which you can check out as well.

(Of course you can adapt all of them for your classrooms and students as needed)

How to Play

  • Game Setup: Prepare a list of English phrases or idioms, and write each one on a separate slip of paper. Divide the class into small teams.
  • Basic Rules: A student from each team draws a slip and tries to illustrate the phrase or idiom on a whiteboard or large paper without speaking or writing words. Their team has a set time to guess the phrase correctly.
  • Game Variations: To increase the difficulty, include more complex idioms or phrases related to current topics of study. Alternatively, limit the drawing time to add urgency.

Educational Benefits

  • Enhances Understanding of Idioms and Phrases: Students learn to interpret and use common English idioms and phrases, which are crucial for fluency and cultural understanding.
  • Promotes Creative Thinking: Translating phrases into drawings requires creativity and abstract thinking, skills that are beneficial in all areas of study.
  • Fosters Team Collaboration: Working in teams to guess the drawings encourages cooperation and communication among students.
  • Improves Visual Learning Skills: Visual learners especially benefit from this game as it relies on imagery to convey meaning.

Resources Needed

  • Slips of Paper with Phrases/Idioms: Prepared in advance by the teacher.
  • Whiteboard, Large Paper, or Drawing Pad: For students to draw on.
  • Markers or Drawing Utensils: Suitable for drawing on the chosen surface.

Playtime Guidelines

  • Duration: Typically, 20-30 minutes works well, allowing each team several turns to draw and guess.
  • Pace: Keep the game lively by setting a time limit for drawing and guessing (usually 1-2 minutes per turn).
  • Group Size: Adaptable for small to large classes. Larger classes can be divided into more teams to ensure everyone participates.

Adapting to Different Learning Levels

  • For Beginners: Start with simpler and more common idioms or phrases, and allow more time for drawing and guessing.
  • For Intermediate Students: Introduce phrases that require a moderate level of language skills and slightly reduce the guessing time.
  • For Advanced Students: Challenge students with complex idioms, literary phrases, or expressions that involve more intricate language concepts.


“Pictionary with a Twist” transforms a beloved drawing game into a powerful tool for language learning in high school ESL classrooms.

It successfully combines the development of language skills with artistic expression and teamwork, making learning English enjoyable and engaging.

This game is a fantastic way to break the ice and create a dynamic classroom atmosphere where students feel comfortable exploring and using the English language.

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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