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Fun & Games but learning too, part two.

FUN & GAMES But Learning Too


This is the second of two articles describing the use of games as an art teaching strategy. (See the October 1989 issue for part one.)

Every teacher, at some time, teaches a lesson plan and finds that what was designed to fill the class time does not. Frequently the time left is only a few minutes and many teachers are tempted to allow students to chit-chat. But, art already has so little time allowed in the curricula that none should be wasted. Visual art learning games are one way to organize learning for short time periods. The suggested games that follow are all designed to take as little, or as much, time as available. Most of the games need no materials, so each one can be played at a moment's notice.


One of the simplest games is I-Spy. It is great as a reinforcement of a learning concept or unit, perhaps concerning the elements of art. The teacher or leader begins by selecting an object in the room, deciding which element will describe it and then saying, for example, "I-Spy something that is a primary color." Players then ask questions to help them discover what the object is. However, the leader can answer only "yes" or "no," so students must first ask general questions, such as "Is it red?" Once the color has been established, the students can ask more specifically if it is this object or that object. The student who names the correct object is allowed to take over as the "spy."


This is an action game suited to young students learning how to mix colors. It is ideal for when the teacher notices that the class is getting restless after a formal learning session. The teacher selects students who may be wearing clothing, perhaps a sweater, of primary colors. One of these students moves towards another student who is wearing a different colored sweater. The teacher then asks other students the outcome of mixing the two colors of the sweaters. If possible, the teacher should request a student who might be wearing a sweater of the resultant mixed color to join the first two students.

The game can be adapted to suit the needs of the students and the colors of clothing that students might be wearing.

Round Robins

This is an old parlor game well-suited to many visual art adaptations. Players need some knowledge of artists, artworks and/or art related words.

In the first variation, the teacher/leader announces a letter to the players and they, in turn, each say an artist's name, or art related word, beginning with that letter. Play continues until a student is unable to add another artist's name. That student drops out of the game and play continues with the next player. The winner is the last player able to think of an artist's name beginning with the required letter.

In another variation, the teacher/leader begins by saying an artist's name or art related word (such as "Rembrandt"). The second player gives an artist's name, or art related word, that begins with the last letter of the artist's name (such as "Titian"). Again, play continues until a player is unable to add a name or word, at which time they drop from the game. Other players continue until they too cannot think of appropriate artists or art related words. Then the theme name/word changes. If scoring is desired to add competitiveness, each player could begin the game with a total of ten points. Each time they are unable to add a name, one point could be taken away from them. The winner(s) would be those players with the most points after play is finished.

A third variation could have players say artists' names or art related words that begin with each letter of the alphabet. For instance, the teacher/leader would begin by saying an artist's name that begins with the letter "A," such as "Albers." The second player would need to say an artist's name that begins with the letter "B," such as "Botticelli." Play and scoring would continue as with the earlier variations.

Hollywood Squares

Some games can be easily adapted from popular television games. Hollywood Squares is one such example. It is suited to whole class participation if organized well, but does need more than a few minutes to play.

Nine students are selected as panel members, and placed in three rows of three people. The remaining students in the class are divided into two teams. One team is assigned the letter "O" and the other team the letter "X." The first member of team "O" asks one of the nine panel members an art related question. If answered correctly that panel member becomes an "O." If not answered or answered incorrectly, the question is cancelled and a member of team "X" selects one of the nine panel members to answer their art related question. If correctly answered that person becomes an "X."

Play continues with "X" and "O" team members taking turns asking questions of the nine panel members until sufficient questions are asked and answered to produce a row of three "X's" or three "O's" in the panel.

To allow all students the opportunity to ask and answer questions team members and panel members can alternate as each round of the game is played. This allows all players the opportunity to fully familiarize themselves with all aspects of the game and the topic under discussion.

Bingo Bonus

So far, we have discussed games that are played on an individual level and on a small group level, games that need elaborate materials and games that need no materials at all. This last section will discuss games that need well-planned materials and time to play, but involve the entire class in the same game at the same time. The game is Bingo. This traditional game is excellent for reviewing material at the end of a unit and could be used for the test itself. After all, the purpose of a test should not be to just test a student's knowledge but also to continue with the process of teaching and learning. If students are unable to answer a question in a Bingo game, they need to find the answer for play to continue.

Any unit of study can be adapted to a Bingo game. The sample questions for Tic-Tac-Toe (see "Fun and games: Part I" in the October 1989 issue of SchoolArts) would be ideal for Bingo. Other games could refer to a particular technique, such as batik, or an element, such as color.

To make the Bingo game you need individual playing cards, 24-30 cards with questions and answers, and paper or chips to cover squares. The playing cards should include a title and twenty-five carefully drawn squares. The center square should read "FREE." The remaining twenty-four squares contain the answers to the Bingo questions. The answers may be visual or verbal and, in many instance, can be typed, photocopied and simply adhered in the appropriate squares. Answers should be placed in varied positions to heighten competitiveness. A sturdy posterboard works well for the Bingo cards and blank playing cards work well for the calling cards. It is advisable to include both question and answer on the same clue card so that if necessary the caller can give the answer to the players. The chips can be purchased or made from construction paper.

To begin play, each player covers the "FREE" square with a chip. Then the caller asks the questions on the cards, and the players find the answers on their individualized Bingo cards, covering them with chips. The first person to cover five answers in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line is the winner. If there are more than twenty-four questions as clues, the winner could be the first person to cover all twenty-five squares.

Batik Bingo

This game of Bingo was used at the end of a unit about the history and uses of batik. It was used as a review of terms and images and proved to be more effective with middle school students than a test might have been. It was enjoyed so much that it was played again later in the year and acted as a further review of the unit on batik.


This bingo game was originally designed to go along with a unit on color for first grade students. However, some sixth graders saw it being played and asked to join the game. They enjoyed it and, observing this, the high school art teacher asked to use it with her students. This game has since been played with undergraduates and its versatility demonstrates how games can be a successful classroom teaching device for all ages.

The questions are all verbal and the answers are all visual. When making this game, be sure that only one answer is possible. The questions are all based on color terms and color mixing. The answers are pieces of construction paper in solids or stripes within squares, triangles and circles.

Games can be a stimulating and innovative way to develop learning in visual art. As demonstrated, these games can introduce a new unit, be part of a unit or even be a whole unit in art. They can help review a unit or art concept in preparation for an art test, and sometimes even replace the test itself.

Visual art games are an innovative way to teach. Students can sometimes become so intrigued by them that they begin to regard art classes more favorably than previously. These games have all been designed to be not only pleasurable for the markers and the players but also act as learning devices. The process of organization necessary for successful playing of the games is directly associated with Piaget's theory of mental operations (Piaget, 1966) and will assist in developing students' organizational abilities.

None of the games are difficult to make and none are difficult to adapt. Should the readers find these games unsuited to their situations they can easily adapt the materials or devise other playing variations. Laura Chapman, in her book Approaches to Art in Education (1978), and Al Hurwitz and Stanley Madeja, in their book The Joyous Vision (1977), describe other visual art learning games that you may wish to refer to and use.

It is hoped that the games included in this series will serve as a stimulus on which to develop and build more ideas for visual art games.

PHOTO : Suggested materials for making art bingo games.

PHOTO : "Batik Bingo" playing card.

PHOTO : Student playing "Batik Bingo" showing the completion of a Bingo line.

Dr. Paula J. Ahmad is Assistant Professor, Department of Art, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Ahmad, Paula
Publication:School Arts
Date:Nov 1, 1989
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