Playful Teaching: Charades

Maïka Sondarjee, PhD Candidate, Teaching Assistant

Course: POL208 – Introduction to International Relations
Class Size: 20 students
Duration of Class: Full-year
Class Style: Tutorial

Maïka Sondarjee is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Toronto. While studying the World Bank policies since 1980, she is also a consultant on the meaningful inclusion of women in participatory development projects abroad. She teaches critical theories and gender studies in international relations and she won the 2017 TATP Teaching Excellence Award.

Playful teaching, Maïka has found, improves students’ engagement with the course material, especially for students with disabilities and/or mental health concerns. In her tutorials, Maïka uses the classic game charades to improve student retention levels. Making play a part of learning opens up the ambiance of the classroom to create a more positive space for students to learn. By promoting learning through creative engagement techniques, students’ participation in class also rises.

The impact on students with disabilities and mental health concerns is also significant. Through this technique, students are able to connect differently with the material and improve their recollection of often difficult subject matter. More practically, it offers all students the opportunity to make clear visual connections to complex and intricate ideas.


  1. Print and cut into small pieces the names of concepts/ideas covered in the course (alternatively, students can each write one or two concepts down).
  2. Bring a bowl or a hat, the printed concepts, and a timer.
  3. Divide the class into 2 or more teams (depending on the number of students). Tip: Make sure teams are diverse. Take into consideration the make-up of the teams, including gender, race, disability, and students who are more and less vocal in regular class participation.

There are three rounds, each timed for 1-2 minutes.

In the following rounds, teammates must guess the concept being described by a student.

Round 1: A student selects a concept and describes it only using words.

Round 2: Using the same batch of concepts, a student can now only use one word.

Round 3: A student is only allowed to draw the concept on the board.

In each round, the student can select as many concepts as time permits.

At the end of one session, students connected the drawing of an eagle to the concept of American hegemony.