Making & Sharing Observations: A Telephone Game

Image Source – Wikipedia Commons

Updated July 2016


  • Google Slides  (Public)  – includes directions and photos of damselflies
  • Lesson Plan – (pdf-Instructions)
  • Images to print out and laminate (pdf)
  • 1 Index card per team

I used this activity with my 6th graders to emphasize observations, communication skills, and team work. It is a variation on the classic Telephone Game that many students are familiar with. Depending on the number of students you have, I found that 7-8 per team worked really well. The more students on a team, the more difficult it is to relay the information to each student, and less than 7 was much easier. If your teams aren’t exactly even, that is ok. When grouping students, be sure to mix abilities and plan accordingly for teams that are larger/smaller.

How the game works is I have 10 color photos of damselflies, and each team will make & share observations for one of the photos. The only person who will see the photo, however, is person #1. The rest of the team will not see the photo, and they don’t know what the photos are of. The only information they will have are the 10 observations person #1 will give them. Once each group determines who #1 is, #1 will come up to make and record 10 observations about their photo for 3 minutes. The rest of the team will determine who will receive the information from #1 and the order they will go in. Some strategies will go into determining the order, for example, someone who has a really good memory may want to be person #2.

Students will spread out around the room and take a seat. When the 3 minutes are up, person #1 will go to person #2 and whisper the 10 observations to them for 1 minute. Person #1 will have their index card, but can not give the index card to person #2. Person #2 can ask questions and repeat the information until the 1 minute is up. #1 will take #2’s seat and #2 will go to #3 and share the 10 observations from memory. This will continue until all members have had a turn sharing the observations.

The last member of the team will share the observations with the class and then pick out the photograph from the 10 I have. We will then compare the last set of observations to the original 10 and find out if they were able to choose the correct photo.

This was a fun and challenging activity, and it lead to some really great discussions about making and sharing observations. Many groups had difficulty picking out the original photograph because the information changed or went missing somewhere along the line, just like when they play the game telephone.


  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Photographs by Lewis Hine – Child Labor in America

Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker of Pennsylvania Coal Co. Source: Library of Congress. Photo by Lewis Hine

Updated August 2016

As part our Mining and Minerals unit, we discuss the impact of obtaining natural resources and their effects on the environment. We look back at the Second Industrial Revolution and the impact it had not only on the environment, but on society as well. Children were working in mines, factories, and farms under dangerous conditions. Because they were working long hours in order to earn money for their families, they were not able to attend school. We then discuss the factors that lead to child labor, do they still exist today? Unfortunately, child labor still exists in many countries for the same reasons it did at the start of the 20th century, when Lewis Hine took these photographs.

Lewis Hine Photography – Child Labor


  • To analyze primary sources (photographs) related to child labor
  • To learn how Lewis Hine brought awareness to the issue of child labor
  • To explore the factors that contributed to child labor
  • To write a piece of historical fiction inspired by one of Lewis Hine’s photographs


Google Slides

  • Students will select 1-2 photographs for their assigned category
  • Students will analyze each photograph using the Photo Analysis Sheet
  • Each group will create one presentation containing their slides and photographs
  • Groups will share their presentations & story excerpts with the class

Subject: Coal Mining

  • Student 1 – pictures of a solitary child (if 3 people in group, combine topic with Student 4)
  • Student 2 – pictures of groups of children
  • Student 3 – pictures of boys and men mining
  • Student 4 – pictures of buildings, machinery, tools, or animals at the mine

Photographs by Lewis Hine - Examples 2016

“I miss Poland and my old life there. I went to school and learned to read and write. I could even struggle through a few English words. After school, I would race down the dusty gravel road to my small yard. My father built a tree house out of scrap wood he brought back from the shop. We hung a tire swing from it. My dad would push me everyday, I miss him so much.”

Subject: Factory Workers or Urban Setting

  • Student 1 – pictures of a solitary child (if 3 people in group, combine topic with Student 4)
  • Student 2 – pictures of groups of children
  • Student 3 – pictures of adults and children working side by side
  • Student 4 – pictures of buildings, industrial settings,  & machinery

Photographs by Lewis Hine - Examples 2016 (1)

“… ‘Am I payin’ you too much?! Because I can change that.’

‘No sir, we are working.’

‘OK good, because I ain’t be wastin’ my time on hirin’ someone new’…”

Subject: Farm Labor or Food Industry

  • Student 1 – pictures of a solitary child (if 3 people in group, combine topic with Student 4)
  • Student 2 – pictures of groups of children
  • Student 3 – pictures of adults and children working side by side
  • Student 4 – pictures of buildings, machinery, & farm animals

Photographs by Lewis Hine - Examples 2016 (2)

“It gets darker and darker every day, but we are holding up. Sometimes I wish that we never left Ireland. It was so much easier there. Ah,well…thinking about everything back home will only make me sad.”

Subject: Family Life

  • Student 1 – pictures of a siblings working together
  • Student 2 – pictures of a child/siblings working with parent(s)
  • Student 3 – pictures of families at home
  • Student 4 – pictures of families working in a factory, farming, or using machinery

Photographs by Lewis Hine - Examples 2016 (3).jpg

“Day 5: Family. I am the youngest of nine children. We are all one year apart. In 1918 we sailed over from Italy.”


Students will write a journal entry or personal letter (¾ to 1 page) based on one of the photographs they have chosen. They will share their stories along with the photograph they chose for their slide. Samples of writing above are from the Class of 2017.