Picture Taboo

dog tabooPicture taboo is a fluency focused activity which also builds vocabulary and acts as an introduction to a theme.

This activity has one important difference to regular Taboo. The student describing the object has a picture of it so they don’t necessarily need to know themselves what the English word for the object is. The other students may also not know the name of the object but hopefully will be able to recognize it from the description and can have their guesses confirmed by viewing the photo at the end of each turn.

There are some picture sets to download at the bottom of this page, or if you have internet access there is an app for your smartphone or tablet on the apps page.

How to play

For this game you will need a tablet computer or a smartphone with a large screen. You will also need a set of 10 to 20 pictures of objects based around the theme of the lesson. Preload these into a folder on the tablet so they can be swiped through.

Make sure the students are seated in a circle and explain that the tablet will be passed around the group. The student who receives the tablet must swipe to the next picture and describe the object, for example its physical appearance or its function. He or she must not say the name of the object, even if they know it. The other students in the class try to guess the object in the picture. If it’s guessed correctly, the student shows the picture to the class to confirm the guess and passes the tablet on to the next student. If they’re having trouble getting the answer you can ask the student with the tablet pertinent questions to help get relevant information out for the class.

In a mono-lingual class I would allow the students to guess the name of the object in their native language if they recognise it but don’t know the English name. The teacher then feeds in the English name for the object.

This game is a great warmer for a theme based conversation class.

Potential problems

Make sure that students shield the tablet while they are describing their picture. Encourage them to sit back from the circle to make sure their neighbours can’t take a peek. Also make sure that students don’t automatically swipe through a picture that they don’t like the look of otherwise all kinds of chaos can ensue when you run out of pictures early.


Here you can find some preselected, theme-based picture sets to use.


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