Backwards Charades

I texted Mary Overton this morning because I can’t remember who I learned Backwards Charades from. I know it was while I was teaching at Skinner Middle School in Denver, and it may have been Mary who taught me or maybe she learned it from someone else! Regardless, it is a wicked awesome game!


Last week I dislocated my jaw and it hurt REALLY bad to speak. I did a whole bunch of different games and computer activities which still gave my students input but allowed me to not talk as much.

My students really love Backwards Charades. The idea is that rather than having ONE person act out silent clues for a big group, you have the big group acting out silent clues for ONE person. The reason it is awesome is you can more easily HEAR the two students calling out answers when it is just two voices… Here is a video you can watch before reading the instructions. (Obviously some of my classes get more rowdy and excited and aren’t necessarily silent actors… we are working on that… LOL)

Here is how you play….

  • Divide your class into two teams
  • Separate them so that they are on two ends of the room
    • I like going outside so if that is possible for you, do that!
  • Create a “line” imaginary or not, that the teams cannot pass when they are acting
  • Create a “line” for the students who are guessing that they cannot pass
  • Establish rules
    1. ABSOLUTELY NO arguing with the teacher on HOW points will be assigned at the end of each round
      • Think of points as arbitrary just like my point system for management. You can assign as many points as you want for as many different things as you want! If you see someone being AWESOME and respectful and encouraging his/her team mates you can assign points. If you hear someone say something really smart, you can assign points. The possibilities are endless.
    2. NO passing that “line” the teacher created or points will be deducted from your team
    3. NO speaking out the words, you can only gesture (Yes, you can use the TPR gestures for words from class)
    4. Guessers should only be “guessing” in Spanish
    5. NO dissing the other team or disrespectful smack talk (or I will take points)
  • I like to keep track of points on the same white board that I am writing the sentence on. It is an easy way to ADD points to a team for awesome participation or for listening and the kids can see immediately what their points are.
  • Pick one (or two if it is a big class) “guessers” and have them stand at the other end of the classroom facing away from you (the teacher) and the other students.
How do you gesture Taco Bell?
  • Write your sentence on a white board for the two groups of students to see
    • As far as creating sentences for kids to guess you can get as creative or silly as you want but make sure it is ALL language that your students know. If I am worried that a student doesn’t know, I will silently gesture the meaning to them before having the “guessers” turn around.
      • I made my sentences unique to the language that each class has been focusing on.  Since I am non-targeted it is different for each class
        • My Spanish 2a/b class examples: “No he visto la película” “A mí me gustaría comer pizza pero hoy la cafetería tiene hamburguesas .” (I have not seen the movie, I would like to eat pizza but today the cafeteria has hamburgers)
        • My Spanish 1b class examples: “Fue a las montañas en motocicleta y comió una hamburguesa grande” “No quiere hacer la tarea”  (He went to the mountains on a motorcycle and he ate a big hamburger, she doesn’t want to do the homework”
        • My Spanish 1a class examples: “A Maestra no le gusta pizza” “Grant quiere chocolate” “No fue a la escuela” (Maestra doesn’t like pizza, Grant wants chocolate, She didn’t go to school)
  • Count down 3,2,1
  • “Guessers” turn around and actors start acting
  • The first team to get their guesser to string it all together in one sentence wins

There you have it!

Backwards charades in a nutshell!!! Have fun!!


Until next time,



La Maestra Loca

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  1. I just tried this with two second grade classes. They loved it! Thank you for this great activity.
    I was a little worried I would not be focused enough, so I wrote out some sentences ahead of time to have in-bounds ideas to draw from. For 5 minutes we went over the rules, demoed the game, and practices gestures for all of the in-bound words that I would be using. I made sentences like “La mamá le da 2 pizzas.” Then, we went outside and played it for about 20 minutes. At the end several kids said this was the one of the funnest games they have ever played at school, not just in Spanish class. Of course, Running Dictation is their number one favorite! Thanks for both ideas. Sara

  2. I’m just wondering if you set a timer or you just keep going until someone eventually guesses. What if nobody gets it?

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