What is “charades”?

Charades is a traditional British parlour game in which one person mimes or acts out the title of a book, film, play or song whilst another person or an audience guesses the answer.

  • Players divide into two or more teams
  • The players each take a slip of paper and write a book, film, play or song title on the paper. These are collected up and placed into a large container, and shuffled.
  • The teams take turns to nominate a player to retrieve a slip of paper from the container. The player keeps the title secret.
  • The player then has to act out the title on the slip of paper to both teams. It is sometimes helpful to put a time limit on guessing. Whichever team guesses first wins the slip of paper. If neither team guesses correctly, the team who wrote down the title wins the slip.
  • The wining team is the team with the most correctly guessed slips at the end.

Rules of the game:

  • The actor may not speak, sing, hum, or make any noises at all
  • The actor may not mouth words at the audience, nor write out letters or numbers in the air.
  • Props are not permitted.
  • Some signs are allowed, for e.g. ear-tugging to signify “sounds like”, opening palms to signify a book, pretending to use an old-fashioned reel movie camera to signify a film, and holding a number of fingers against the forearm to signify the number of syllables.

Signals for common words

Some signals exist to signify common words:

  • “A” is signed by steepling index fingers together.
  • “I” is signed by pointing at one’s eye, or one’s chest.
  • “The” is signed by making a “T” shape with the index fingers.
  • Pretending to paddle a canoe can be used to sign the word “or”.
  • Other common small words are signed by holding the index finger and thumb close together, but not touching, to signify a “small” word.

Adapting charades for use in the classroom

Write words from an activity on slips of paper and then fold them up. Students volunteer to come to the front, then pick a word and act it out. The other students must guess what the word is. Divide the class into teams if you want to add an element of competition.

Macmillan Shakespeare charades