The basic mechanics of the party game ‘Taboo’ is great to build confidence and vocabulary skills. In this adaptation, we will practice the use of coordinate markers such as ‘and’, and ‘but’.
This adaptation can still be played as a party game but without the pressure of a time limit. Instead, the focus is on learning about correct sentence structure and coordinate marker usage.
You can do this activity even if you do not have the Taboo game. You can use these cutouts that I have provided.
Objective(s) of activity:
The primary objective of this game is to describe a word on a card to team mates without using the word itself. The teammates then have to guess what the word is.
However, the describer is restricted with respect to how many sentences he or she can use.
Targeted age group:
Children from the ages of 6 to 12 (or even older) can play this game. In fact, I think this adaptation is suitable even for adults.
Number of participants:
If you are playing this as a party game, there should be enough children to form at least two teams of two kids each.
You can also do this activity with a single child but the competitive element will be absent.
If you are using Taboo cards, you probably have to screen them beforehand for difficulty and appropriateness. If you do not have the game, you can still do this activity. All you will need are square pieces of paper which have the words written on them. I have provided printable cutouts for you. You can make more if you need to.
Once you have formed teams, you will choose one person from one team to be the describer. This person will take a card and then have to describe the word that is on that card without using the word itself.
However, unlike the original game, you have to introduce restrictions on the number of sentences that can be used in the description. You should start with a two-sentence requirement.
Suppose the word on the card is ‘Hammer’. This is a relatively simple word that can be described in one sentence: ‘I use this to knock nails into wood.’
However, you can coerce your child to use her creativity by coming up with other ways to describe a hammer. If you are playing with a two-sentence requirement, then the child must come up with two ways to describe a hammer.
‘I use this to put nails into wood.’
‘You can find this object in toolboxes.’
The team gets a point only if the word is guessed correctly after the sentence requirement is met.
You should ensure that the child forms full sentences in their description. Once the teams are comfortable with this version of the game, you can introduce the next part.
In the next variant, the sentences that are formed must be connected together using appropriate coordinate markers, ‘and’, ‘but, ‘or’.
Thus, if the word is ‘Hammer’, the description might look something like this.
‘I use this to put nails into wood AND
you can find this object in toolboxes.’
The coordinate marker ‘AND’ is quite simple to use which means that the guesser will default to this marker. This is why you should alternate between coordinate markers. Thus, you can specify that you want ‘but’ to be used. If so, a description of a hammer may look like this:
‘I can use this to put nails into wood BUT
you cannot use this to put nails into metal.’
When the team has guessed correctly (or once time is up), you can move to the other team. Teams take turns with a different describer every time and the game ends after a predetermined number of rounds.
Since coming up with the appropriate descriptions are not as straightforward as in the original game, you can give more time per round, say two minutes for each describer.
Notes for scaling up/ down difficulty:
One way to scale up this activity is to require more sentences in the description. So instead of just two sentences, you can impose a three-sentence restriction with the coordinate marker restrictions.
In this version, you can make forming the description really challenging by requiring certain numbers of each coordinate markers. Eg. 2 ‘but’s or 1 ‘and’ and 1 ‘but’ etc.
Alternatively, since ‘but’ is harder to use in these descriptions, you can award more points for descriptions that use ‘but’ rather than ‘and’. Eg. Every description using at least 1 ‘but’ can get 3 points but using ‘and’ only gets 1 point.
This will incentivize the use of the harder coordinate marker. This also means that your child has to come up with a more challenging-to-form sentence.
It is possible to do this activity with a collaborative element while still maintaining the competitive aspect. What you can do is form two teams and show both teams the word on the card.
In this version, the first team that works among themselves to come up with the right description using the required number of sentences and coordinate markers will get the point.
The advantage of this version is that it does not put a single child on the spot by making her wholly responsible for the clue generation. You can try this variant with younger kids.
Let me know in the comments how this version of the game went in your party!