Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cartoon Olympics

Here is a great pre-reading activity which I just recently learned from my colleague Bob Patrick, who created this. I added some tweaks to it, so below are our collaborative directions for this activity:

  1. Create a list of new vocabulary words which you wish to pre-teach
  2. Create drawable sentences using these words - in many cases, the more random the sentence the better! I have found that 8 sentences are a good number. Be sure to get in repetitions!
  3. Create PowerPoint/Google slides of these sentences - 1 sentence per slide.
  1. Have the words above listed on the board, and call attention to them establishing the meaning of each.
  2. Students work in groups of 4.
  3. 4 students from the class are the identified judges.  Each has a whiteboard, marker and eraser rag, and are seated together at one end of the room. Have those four chairs marked “iudex”.
  4. In each group, every student has a whiteboard, marker, and rag
  5. Number every student in a group as 1, 2, 3 or 4. If there are groups of three, one student will be both numbers 1 and 4. If there is a group of 5, two students will be number 4.
  6. Using the vocab above, project the first sentence on the screen - every student draws the best picture possible. Give students 1-2 minutes to establish meaning among the group and then around 2 minutes for each to draw a picture.
  7. After this, in their groups, students have 1 minute to help each other out with their pictures by suggesting addition to the pictures for clarification or suggesting changes
  8. Roll a die, and whatever number rolled is the student numbers who will submit their pictures to be judged. If I rolled a 5 or 6, then re-reroll die.
  9. At the front of the class on the board ledge or on chairs, groups will place their pictures for the class to see.
  10. Teacher clarifies the meaning of the sentence with the whole class.
  11. The four judges score on a scale of 1-5. Teacher gives paper to the judges to write down their score. Teacher keeps up with totals.
  12. Have the judges declare a "best in show" for the sentence, and show the picture to the class.
  13. Have students erase their whiteboards, and begin again.
  14. When all sentences have been done and scored, team with highest, next highest and third highest are declared the gold, silver and bronze medal winners of Cartoon Olympics. Have gold, silver and orange (or three different colors) stars to award to each member of the winning teams.
  15. If all sentences are not finished, this may extend to a second day.

  1. I was surprised at how engaged students were in this activity. The fact that students do not know if they will be selected to represent their team keeps students accountable to the activity.
  2. I have found that this is usually a 2-day activity, since around four sentences is how many can be done in a 50-minute period.
  3. The random roll of the die keeps the activity novel.
  4. I like how the groups collaborate among themselves to establish meaning of the sentence.
  5. The group consultation after students draw their picture is very important, because nobody in the group knows whose picture will be selected. This way, students will ensure that all aspects of the sentence are represented in each other's pictures.
  6. Students really do enjoy seeing each other's pictures as they are displayed at the front before the judging.


  1. In any single sentence (like the example one of the elephant/uxo/maritus) how many of the words are “new” to the students, i.e. how many are on the list of words being learned for the pre-reading this week?

  2. I tried this out with my Latin one classes and my kiddos had a very hard time with the judging section (it was really time consuming and kids felt put out and/or that the judges had been unfair). I had told the class that judges would be judging based on how well the pictures reflected the sentences? What kind of conversation did you have with your judges? Any advice to smooth this out, other than to be more judicious about who my judges are?

  3. Salve, Silvi! As usual, this post came just in time for me. I have two questions for clarification. In the beginning you say the judges have whiteboards, but later the judges are given paper. Why to the judges have whiteboards? Secondly, does each judge give a separate score for each picture so that each picture will have four scores to be added together for a total? Or do the judges work together and come to a consensus for one score for each picture? ut semper, multas gratias! Tammy (Luna)

  4. Recently tried this out.
    In the spirit of the original post, a few observations:
    -It is not a fast-paced game, as noted above. But I was able to get it down to five minutes per round.
    -I used a four-sided die (you can sometimes get one in a pack of a bunch of others at the dollar store).
    -The students said they liked it.
    -I had the judge panel rotate through the groups, so each group has a couple chances to not draw but just discuss what they think a good drawing looks like. As long as each group gets an equal 'out' round where they are the judges, it works out mathematically (though you need to account for extra points if the group is bigger than others by dropping the lowest score).

    If anyone reads the activities on this page as often as I, I hope this helps.