Drawing games on Zoom

As I’m (hopefully) only doing Zoom classes temporarily, number one in my criteria for planning lessons is to do things which are better done online than face to face. As I said in my last post, the things which I’ve found gain something from being on a screen are giving instructions, checking/ clarifying, telephoning, and drawing games. The last of those is obviously the most fun and something I have 75 pdfs for, but does need some setting up. Here are some tips:

Zoom settings for drawing games

Firstly you need to make sure annotation is enabled in your Zoom setttings. It seems that if it’s turned on for the person hosting the meeting then it’s turned on for everyone, so if you can do it in a practice Zoom session, then it’s probably already okay. However, if you want students to be able to open the whiteboard function themselves (as recommended below), then you’ll also need to enable screen sharing for participants in your settings.

Choosing drawing games for Zoom

At least the first time that you do drawing games on Zoom, it’s best to stick to Pictionary, which is simply one person choosing something from a list and drawing something for others to guess. Luckily, this can be used for all kinds of vocabulary, business skills such as presentations, grammar like Present Continuous, etc, etc, etc. Particularly if you’ve run through useful language for giving instructions on Zoom, the second best option is probably a drawing dictation, in which one person gives instructions on what another person should draw. Another option which seems good but I’ve never tried face to face is students just working together to make the best drawing that they can to match the target language, e.g. all working on a picture to contrast “He’s cutting his hair” and “He’s having his hair cut”.

Other drawing games like Pick and Draw are also possible, but need a bit more organisation and/ or training of students on using Zoom.

Sharing lists of things to draw on Zoom

If you want students to draw things from a list, you need to make sure that they all get and can see that list by doing at least two of these things:

  • emailing it out
  • using the “file” button in the chat function to share the document
  • pasting the list into the chat box
  • opening the list on your computer and sharing it with the “Share screen” function

It’s more complicated if you only want the person who is drawing to see the list, but you can copy and paste and send as a private message to just that person from the chat box. Just giving them one option for what to draw is likely to lead to problems if they don’t understand that thing (and any explanation will also have to be done through private messages in the chat function so everyone else can’t hear). However, if you send them everything then they’ll have an unfair advantage when the next person draws. I would therefore copy and paste 5 to 10 options for each student to choose from, with different options for each student. After finishing the game, you can share the whole list with everyone in the ways suggested above.

The other possibility is to split the worksheet into Student A, Student B, Student C, etc and email just one part to each student, but you’d need to be pretty confident about the number of students who will take part when you are preparing it that way.

Spaces to draw on Zoom

If you want everyone to be able to see the list while they are drawing, guessing, etc, you need to have both that and a blank space for drawing on the screen at the same time. The easiest way that I’ve found is to make the list as a Word document, open that document in Word as usual, open the Word “search” function, then share that document with the screen sharing function . You and the students can then use the mostly blank grey search box space on the left-hand side of the screen for drawing on, as well as being able to underline things etc in the list on the right-hand side. You could also of course do the same by making a blank space on one side of the Powerpoint slide etc that you create.

If only the student who is drawing should look at the options, then you just need to open a blank page for them to draw on. The easiest way is probably by clicking on the “Whiteboard” function after you click on “Share screen”, but you can all do exactly the same things on top of any blank document.

Making sure that students can draw on Zoom

Whatever document you share, students can draw on top of it by clicking on the drop-down “options” button at the top of the screen, choosing “annotate” (“comments” on the Japanese version that I’m using), then choose the symbol that looks like someone has drawn a squiggly line (called “draw a picture” in my Japanese version). As well as using a pen, they can draw straight lines, draw arrows and draw shapes. They can also draw in different colours (e.g. one colour for each student to know who has drawn what) and change the thickness of the line, all by clicking on the “format” button.

The easiest way to set this up is to start with a few minutes or even a whole lesson on instructions on Zoom (e.g. with this worksheet). Alternatively, I guess it must be possible to show them how you are doing it while you draw a few examples by using “Share desktop” when you “Share screen”.

If you have students who can’t work out how to annotate on top of documents that other people open, you can just close the document that you are sharing and get the student whose turn it is to share their screen and open “whiteboard” or another document to draw on. This is easier to explain than how to draw on top of your documents, as there is a big “share screen” button in the middle of the main menu that is easy to find and use if you put them in charge of that. If they can’t find that share screen button, they probably just need to open Zoom up to the full size of their screen.

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6 Responses to Drawing games on Zoom

  1. Sandy Millin says:

    A great set of advice here Alex. This week I discovered autodraw.com which I think you’d have a lot of fun with 🙂

  2. alexcase says:

    Thanks Sandy, will give it a look.

  3. Pingback: What we do | Sandy Millin

  4. alexcase says:

    A few extra points:
    – Although I can’t claim to have planned it that way, getting students used to drawing in Zoom is great for when they can’t explain what they want to say in future classes, as they can rush of an attempted spelling and/ or sketch for you to give them the English words for
    – If you haven’t already, it’s well worth pushing your students to use a mouse, as it’s much more difficult with a laptop touchpad
    – It won’t be necessary if you’ve done something on Zoom instructions with at least some of the students and it would mean a lost opportunity for communication, but in emergencies it seems that students can get you to control their screen and so presumably be able to set up the annotate function for them: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362673-Request-or-Give-Remote-Control

  5. Angela says:

    I’ve just discovered your site. It’s amazing! Congratulations!!

  6. alexcase says:

    Thanks Angela

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