Guess What's in the Bag: A Language-based Activity
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After discussing the importance of descriptive language, as well as speaking and listening skills, students practice describing a series of objects. They then take turns reaching into a bag to describe a hidden object, using only their sense of touch. After five clues are given, the other students try to guess what is in the bag, based on the descriptive language used by their classmates. Finally, after the hidden object is guessed or revealed, students discuss additional ways to describe the object. Students can continue to play the game independently, using an online interactive, or with their parents outside of class.
What's in the Bag?: This online version of What's in the Bag? exposes students to simple text, along with audio, as they play the game.
From Theory to Practice
Young children can use descriptive language in authentic and purposeful ways to communicate in large-group settings. In this lesson young children develop speaking and listening skills as a part of language development. This shared language experience emphasizes the importance of both roles and, as Lindfors (1999) points out, "[R]elating meaning and expression is the essence of both speaking and listening. The speaker expresses his meaning out loud; the listener doesn't. The speaker goes from idea to expression (word), the listener from (the speaker's) expression (word) to idea. Thus the two simply proceed in different directions, but the act for both participants is to relate meaning and expression, to render 'word' meaningful" (147).
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Paper bag or pillow case
- A variety of objects to be described [Note: These can be brought in by both teacher and students.]
- develop and use descriptive language to communicate in a large-group setting.
- use prior knowledge and previous experiences to communicate clearly with their peers.
- develop and use good listening skills to process information given by clue-givers.
- develop and use good thinking skills to make logical predictions based on the clues.
Instruction & Activities
Note: Each session should last from 10 to 15 minutes.
- Introduce the activity by discussing the importance of using descriptive language to get one's message across, emphasizing both speaking and listening skills.
- Practice by describing the characteristics of several exposed objects. Encourage students to talk about the shape, size, material, feel (e.g., hard/soft, bumpy/smooth, pointy/round) and possible uses of the objects.
- Place an object (or already have one) in the bag, making sure the students don't get a glimpse of it.
- Tell the students that there is an object in the bag, and they will be given five clues to help them guess what the object is.
- Choose five students.
- Explain that, without looking, each of them will feel the object inside of the bag and give one clue to describe it.
- Be prepared to prompt students who might have difficulty developing clues. For example, "Is it hard or soft?" "Does it have corners or curves?" "From what material is it made?"
- After the fifth clue is given, ask students from the audience to raise their hands to guess the object.
- If the students have not guessed correctly after four or five tries, reveal the object.
- Either when the object is guessed at or has been revealed, encourage the class to give more clues to describe the item.
- Following the whole-class activity, have the students do it online individually or in groups using the What's in the Bag? interactive with sound on or with sound off to reinforce reading and listening skills.
- Finally, encourage the students to play "Guess What's in the Bag" at home or on the road with their families. Have them bring home the directions and also let parents know how to access the online interactive.
- Have students generate word sets/clues to share with other teachers and classes who are using this lesson.
- Play a game of 20 Questions. For this game you will need: objects, a student leader (the person who has the unrevealed object), a student checker (the person whom the object is revealed to prior to any questions), and a student to keep tallies of the number of questions asked.
The leader has an object in mind or hidden. They must tell/show the object to a designated checker before the questions begin. The students then ask a total of 20 yes/no questions to determine the object. For example, one might ask, "Can you eat it?" The leader responds with a "yes" or "no." This game encourages students to be good listeners and problem solvers. The answers to previous questions will help students determine what they should ask next.
- Allow students time to visit the I Spy Website, where they can discover clever object associations, word play, and themes that help them build important learning skills, including reading, problem solving, and creativity.
Student Assessment / Reflections
Observe students' use of prior knowledge when they describe and guess at the objects, taking note of their abilities to make logical decisions based on the information/clues provided.
If the class generated a set of descriptors/clues as an extension, display it on the wall on chart paper for follow-up discussion about the variety of words used to describe objects. Observe participation and encourage them that they can add to the Word Wall throughout the year.