Twenty Questions

The game of Twenty Questions is an engaging and challenging one for young students as they attempt to identify an item by eliminating as many alternatives as possible. Twenty Questions encourages logic-based questioning as well as focused listening, auditory memory, critical thinking, and descriptive language.

– Oral Language Kit puppet collection
– bag or box to hold one puppet
– one copy of Puppet Photo Cards per pair as a game board (Note: you might choose to laminate the BLMs)
– one marker (or dry-erase marker) per pair
Grouping: partners

Introducing the Game

  1. Explain that this game involves acting like a detective to solve a mystery.
  2. Pair students to work with a detective partner.
  3. Explain that detectives use probing questions to discover information and clues. In this game, the questions asked can only be answered with ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ The tricky part is that only twenty questions can be used to find the mystery puppet.
  4. Model how to examine the puppet photos on the game board and then ask questions that can only be answered with a ‘Yes’/’No’ response (e.g., “Is the mystery puppet an animal?” “Is the mystery puppet wearing a hat?”).
  5. Demonstrate how to work cooperatively to cross out eliminated puppets on the game board. For example, if the answer is ‘No’ to the question, “Is the mystery puppet an animal?” you would cross out the pictures of the puppets that are animals.
  6. Discuss how some questions do not provide much information. For example, the question, “Does the mystery puppet have eyes?” would elicit the answer ‘Yes’; however, it is not helpful as all the puppets have eyes and no puppets could be crossed out on the game board.

Playing the Game

  1. Secretly choose one puppet and place it in the mystery bag/box.
  2. Invite students to ask questions and respond accordingly with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers; modelling how to peek into the mystery bag to confirm your answer.
  3. Remind students to cross out the puppets that are eliminated according to the information learned after each question is answered. If students are having difficulty with this step, repeat or rephrase the information and check that the correct puppets have been eliminated.
  4. Keep track of the number of questions being asked as the mystery is trying to be solved with twenty questions.
  5. Reveal the mystery puppet upon completion of the game and review the clues that were used to solve the mystery. Discuss the types of questions that elicited the most helpful information.
  6. Invite a pair of students to choose another mystery puppet and play the game again.

Note: Once students are familiar with playing the game in a group situation, they can try playing it independently with one partner as the detective and the other as the responder.

* Adapted from First Steps Oral Language Resource Book, Education Department of Western Australia, Irwin Publishing, Toronto, Canada, pages 163-164.