CYF Docs

Online Fun

Fun activities for the remote classroom

Ice-breakers, Energizers, puzzles, entertainments, Fun, Silliness

Warning: Work in Progress

Many of these are incomplete or untested. You can search for QuickWin to find what is ready now and what should just work (assuming you stick to the limitations mentioned in the activity description.)
I'll move the activities into sections (or otherwise tag them) so that it's clear which activities have been tested and are recommended.
Other data are: group size (min, ideal, max), new-class suitability, run time, EnlishLanguagePractice, GoodEnglishLanguageRequirement,

Game and activity ideas which are ready now - tested, trusted

Generally, gallery-view is best for these, or if also screensharing, gallery-view with view-options: side-by-side

Game: "Sound-check Story-time"

(word at a time / phrase at a time) (Tag: EnglishPractice, tag: QuickWin)
Tell a silly story a phrase at a time, or a word at a time.
A good way to test everyone's microphone briefly, and for the teachers to refresh their memory of trainee and TA names.
Example of play:
  • Neill: "Once upon a time there was a frog who lived in a pond... Ali?"
  • Ali: "her name was Abigail. She always dreamed of being a... Sabia?"
  • Sabia: "...uhmm airline pilot? ...Mohsen?"
  • Mohsen: "Every day the frog would go for a swim, and eat flies. But one day... Anna?"
  • Anna: "Yikes! Pass! Roberta?"
  • Roberta: "...but one day the frog..."
  • and so on
Notes, ideas:
  • GM must inject energy for some groups
  • This is not recommended for a new class or any other students who might feel awkward - that's counter-productive.
  • It is VERY ok for players to "pass", offer the possibility if someone is choking
  • Give an easy out to reticent players - it's a short game and they'll likely find it amusing to just spectate. (Perhaps some would like to draw some illustrations as we go along, instead.) Normally once they've seen the game does not involve a stage and a booing audience they'll join in if you give them a way in.
  • Can also be done in breakout rooms for more turns per player, less waiting, particularly for larger classes
  • Students might be interested in 22 rules of storytelling according to pixar​
  • Ask one or two volunteers or extrovert students first, to get the game rolling.
  • GM can repeat/recap the story at points if it's suspected forgotten
  • GM be careful to set expectation that the story probably won't make ANY sense and that is fine!
Extra: use rory's story cubes or similar online story prompts, as lubricant. You can use the storycubes app and screenshare it from phone to the zoom call.
Extras: Choose a setting:
  • I'd love if we happen to meet a shark
  • Or three elements: "Nima, Martyna, Laurie - what would you like to be mentioned in this story? a place? a thing? a desire?... " (wait as all three think of a topic each) announced simultaneously... "pirates" "paris" "accountants"
    • you can assign them individually to these categories so that we get one of each (e.g. adjective noun verb, or thing, place, desire)
Word-at-a-time: This is my preferred version but requires the students know the running order or is too slow.
Delegate to a trainee the task: "make a google doc with a list of everyone who is here, and screen-share it".
That order can come from a screen-share of a text doc with everyone's name on it (best) or a quick screenshot of one person's participant view (the former is better as it can be updated as people join the session)
Note that the order CAN'T come from the gallery view NOR the participant's view - those areordered differently for everyone!
introducing the game:
By preference I won't explain the game at all, I'll just demonstrate a quick 30-second round with 2 or 3 other experienced players.
If I have to introduce the game verbally I'll normally mention as few as possible of the following as i think are necessary:
  • We're going to make up a silly story together, with everyone adding ONE WORD at a time. You don't have to play if you don't want to!
  • We'll go round everybody following this list which [trainee X] is kindly screensharing, with each person quickly adding one word ONLY.
  • Our story is almost certainly going to be absolutely rubbish, don't worry at all about making it good - leave that to Pixar or to authors who spend years writing their books.
  • Don't worry about making your word clever but hopefully it makes sense [grammatically].
  • If you really can't think of any word, it is good to say pass rather than slow the game down.
  • It's going to start "once", "upon", "a", "time", ok?
  • I'll start, then billie, then down the list...
  • I say "once"...
Reverse story: start with the last line and work backwards. Source​

Just One

​BGG: Just One​
TODO: elaborate

Game: Articulate

(tag: quickWin) (tag: LanguagePractice)
PD are building lists of technical concepts to use in this game

Game: Taboo

(tag: LanguagePractice)
Most times you can just play articulate

Game: Charades

(tag: LanguagePractice)(tag: quickWin)

Game: Pictionary

London classes used google jamboard to great success. Thanks to Beth. https://jamboard.google.com/d/1C-VMgQXKGiAj0Q2FrqTqo_3JdM5KjYfQSPKNJeQZvVo/viewer​
Beth also suggested this word-generator for those who blank. https://www.thegamegal.com/word-generator/​
When we all tried to load the jamboard, the page wouldn't load. (22/03/2020) It was fine eventually.
Consider simply using zoom's share:whiteboard and view-options:annotation features.
pictionary variant: Gartic.io
Jon Sharpe recommends: https://gartic.io/​
(It seems to have 30 seconds of forced adverts at the time.)

Game: Twenty-questions / animal/mineral/vegetable

(tag: QuickWin)
This will work fine in large group (control the dominant voices) or in breakouts
Variants: see: "The Insider"

Game: The Insider

This is essentially twenty-questions but one person already knows the answer but wants to stay undercover. An assistant co-host can DM the roles and proxy the secret word from the "Master" to the insider. Be careful to also DM something to the other players so that everyone is seen on video to receive a DM.
​The Insider on BGG​

Game: Empires / Families / Chappie Tomato

To allow for the grouping that happens (normally physically), an assistant to edit a shared google doc with everyone's name on it to show the empire statuses:
  • Ahmad
  • Barney
  • Candy
  • Daniel
Then if Barney guesses daniel's word, he becomes king of an empire of two:
  • Ahmad
  • Barney, Daniel
  • Candy
He gets to guess again, but guesses candy's word wrong.
Candy gets a turn and guesses Ahmad correctly.
  • Candy, Ahmad
  • Barney, Daniel
She can't remember the last word, and Ahmad (who is allowed to help her, can't rember either) GM times them out after 30 seconds.
Barney remembers what candy must be and wins:
  • Barney, Daniel, Candy, Ahmad

Game: Telestrations / Eat poop you cat

My favourite game IRL.
In the game telestrations, a group (i think best with ~10 players) all draw a picture for a given start word, then pass their pictures on. The next person in the circle sees the drawing and writes an interpretation of it. Then passes it on. The next person sees the text (without seeing the previous drawing or original text) and draws a picture. So on, alternating between drawing and writing, until the booklet has completed a circuit.
There is a free implementation, drawphone, which works well on phone and laptop:
Another implementation (untested) looks to be:

Game: Psychiatrist / Off Your Rocker / Whose line is it anyway

Various themes in this game, all play the same way.
Off your rocker / Psychiatrist
One person leaves the room for 30 seconds while the others choose a shared delusion. They then act it out verbally and physically when the psychiatrist returns (normally, the shrink will ask questions in turn, but it depends on group size). The shrink tries to guess the delusion:
A delusion might be anything:
  • you're all scared of large objects.
  • you think you are superman
  • you think the shrink is actually a unicorn
    you can make them up.
  • needs a class who are ready for silliness and trust each other

Simple charades (activity / profession) - Quick energiser

As per the psychiatrist, one person leaves the room for 30 seconds while the others choose a shared activity or profession. They then all mime it at once, while the returned volunteer tries to guess it.
Alec ran this with 35 participants - (rollercoaster-tester and pizza-chef worked well, but half the fun is coming up with the ridiculous activities).

Game: Activity: Keep talking and nobody explodes

Stressful, but excellent teamwork exercise likely to generate a situation for study very quickly.
For some people, this shouldn't be in the "fun" category
Extra thoughts: With students' permission, videoing these exercises in small groups, and watching them back (after cool-down), while perhaps painful, can quickly show comms breakdown or good practices. Be careful to burn the videos after watching, agent!

Entertainment: Google Quick-Draw (Fun, one at a time, smaller groups, tests-screen-sharing)

(tag: QuickWin)
One person at a time plays Google QuickDraw while the others watch (passively) or perhaps give advice.
  • One game takes 2 minutes, it's fun to watch.
  • Can work in big group when people are relaxing - (e.g. on lunch)

Game: Sixes

​Sixes on BGG​
A mellow pen and paper game which can encourage light discussion.
Best with 6 players (4-8 is fine.)
This adaptation will benefit from everyone being visible on webcam for quick scoring.
Everyone simultaneously and secretly has (say) 2 minutes to write down (on real paper) 6 things of an announced category, attempting to choose the things other players will also have written down.
(*) They can write them on a piece of paper or in a local vscode doc. Doesn't have to be six things. but agree before.
Example of play:
  • GM: "Ok, write down 4 famous London tourist attractions that you think other people will also write. No talking, and NO asking clarifying questions! 4 famous things that tourists go to see when they come to London.... You have two minutes!" ... two minutes pass...
  • Cesar has written 1) london eye, 2) big ben, 3) houses of parliament 4) st paul's cathedral
  • Adalberto has written: 1) tower of london, 2) london eye 3) tussauds 4) buckingham palace
  • Manolito has written: 1) london eye 2) tower of london 3) big ben 4) trafalgar sq
(continued below)
Everyone keeps their own score. You get more points when more players have written the same things as you:
for each player:
for each item that player had listed:
announce item
let c = count how many people had written item (count by raising hands on cams or in participants view?)
if c > 1
each player who had it written awards themselves c points
Example of play, continued:
  • Cesar: "London Eye... anyone?"
  • On video for gallery view, all 3 raise their hands (or on participants view)
  • Cesar: "great, give yourself 3 points, everyone!"
  • Cesar: "next... big ben! anyone?"
  • On video, only Cesar and Manolito raise their hands
  • Cesar: "Whaaat, BIG BEN, Adalberto!"
  • Adalberto: "It's nothing special I've seen it"
  • Cesar: "exactly. you went and saw it"
  • Cesar: "... 2 points to me and adalberto"
  • ... (cesar finishes scoring his other words. 0 points in both cases)
  • Adalberto: "Tower of london? Yay 3 points..."
  • Adalberto: "London Eye - we already had that one... Madame Tussauds, the waxworks place?"
  • Manolito: "No. That place is creepy"
  • Adalberto: "Cesar? Madame Tussauds?"
  • Cesar: "no! you've heard my four words already!"
  • Adalberto: "0 points. ... Buckingham Palace! no? 0 points. I've got 6 points! Manolito what's left?"
  • Manolito: "So I had london eye (3) , tower of london (2), big ben (2 points, thanks for nothing adalberto)..."
  • Manolito: "... and trafalgar square! We went there last week, people!"
Some possible topics to get you started:
  • famous food from the UK
  • wild animals
  • Names of concepts or structures from fundamentals
  • famous websites
Misc: This could benefit from a simple app/spreadsheet to aid quick scoring
See also: Hive Mind (BGG)​
Variant: play some variant rounds where players are looking for uncommon items (see tv game "Pointless") which no-one else has chosen. So that nonsense isn't offered, at least one other player has to agree that the proferred answer IS in fact of the given category.

Possibilities to elaborate

Game (collection): jackbox games

(most games limited to 10)

Game: drawful 2

limited to 10 ppl

Game: Fake artist goes to new york

Max 8
Can work with annotation (but that may exclude)

Game: Crambo​

P1 thinks of a word and keeps it secret.
  • P1: I know a word that rhymes with "card"
  • P2: "is it... difficult?"
  • P1: "no, it's not 'hard'"
  • P5: "ooh is it shakespeare?"
  • P1: "no, not the 'bard'"
  • P3: "is it protection?"
  • P1: "yes, it is guard!"
"Dumb crambo" will also work, where mime is done.

To consider (probably needs adaptation)

Game: Wits & Wagers

  • needs adaptation & simple app for placing bets. Small-group quick voice comms is the hard part - Breakout room to discuss could work but it's a bit clunky for the tempo, and we really want to keep everyone together rather than suddenly dampen the vibe. Could accomodate big groups. Game show feel.

Game: "CYF jeopardy"

just jeopardy with tech questions: "a programming language that can run in the web browser": "What is JavaScript?"

Game: mastermind​

logical thinking. probably smaller group 6-8?, teams. Slow, cerebral, potentially exclusive. Good practice in relatively similar-ability teams explaining to each other the rules, and the logic, etc. (e.g. add a rule: your entire team must be able agree before you take a move. (Or better, a randomly picked player from your team must explain the logic of your move)).
needs a fixed webcam on the pictures, or web version. Better to know your team-mates. Shared cultural references also help. Worth experimenting, as it's a hugely popular modern game. Slower, more cerebral. Would work as a remote games-night social, perhaps.
Eddie Li points out this slack implementation https://codenames-slack.herokuapp.com/​

​Duplik (BGG)​

(tag: LanguagePractice)
Drawing game where you must listen and articulate carefully. Easy to homebrew. The original artwork seems to be clipart-y anyway. The only part that might be tricky is the reveal and peer review of each other's drawings - You'd all have to take photos of paper drawings, or draw online (much harder). Worth pursuing. Online impl exists / build?

coyote / pow-wow / who am i?

​Pow-wow BGG​
Classic parlour game, everyone gets assigned a name or item, normally written on a card stuck to their forehead.
We could perhaps do this in Zoom by having all participants except GM & assistants (host + cohosts) CLOSE the participants view. host and assistants rename everyone quickly to be the item, and no one looks at their own name. Enable in client settings: always show name above video, and enable gallery view.
Failing that, make/find a custom app for remote play.
breakout rooms, mixed.

zip zap boing

"zip zap... Zoom (TM)"? (sorry).
This would use gallery view, ideally, or a list of people (share a screenshot of the participants list -it changes and it presents differently for each user)
Alt-a to toggle mute
  • Confirm gallery view shows the same ordering.
  • Would need some reworking.
  • Try it. Laggy? Consider all open mics.

Activity: Einstein five-house puzzle (or similar)

Here as a placeholder for logic puzzles. Find some easier ones to start with.
I have doubts about this one for mixed-ability class.
Main problem is how to prevent quarterbacking. One or two minds will dominate and that will snowball.
In a similar ability group, makes for good practice explaining your logic to each other.
Breakout rooms of suitable sizes. Don't assign competitively (one group will finish much faster than the other - demoralising).
Also, these are much easier once you've learned how to do them.
" In a street there are five houses, painted five different colours. In each house lives a person of different nationality. These five home-owners each drink a different kind of beverage, smoke different brand of cigar and keep a different pet.
  1. 1.
    The British man lives in a red house.
  2. 2.
    The Swedish man keeps dogs as pets.
  3. 3.
    The Danish man drinks tea.
  4. 4.
    The Green house is next to, and on the left of the White house.
  5. 5.
    The owner of the Green house drinks coffee.
  6. 6.
    The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds.
  7. 7.
    The owner of the Yellow house smokes Dunhill.
  8. 8.
    The man living in the center house drinks milk.
  9. 9.
    The Norwegian lives in the first house.
  10. 10.
    The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.
  11. 11.
    The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
  12. 12.
    The man who smokes Blue Master drinks beer.
  13. 13.
    The German smokes Prince.
  14. 14.
    The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
  15. 15.
    The Blends smoker lives next to the one who drinks water.

Game: Hive Mind

see also sixes

Game: Monikers

see charades

Game: Guess the leader

(send one person out, elect a leader. outsider returns and tries to guess the leader. all people try to mimic the leader. Probably breaks due to it being possible to monitor all webcams at once, versus walking around a dinner table.)

Game: Tapple

speed scategories - needs online impl.

Game: Scattergories app

Game: Drawful 2

see jackbox games

Game: Werewords

see also Insider

Game: Liar dice / perudo

needs online impl

Game: Skull - with beer mats

Game: The Quiet Year

story gaming in general. this one can use the whiteboard. advanced.

Game: Spinergy

Game: Overcooked - any multiplayer? one person is the manager - voice only

Game: Spyfall

Game: spit it out

Game: Madlibs

Game: balderdash (needs good players to be funny)

Game: Gooseberry

Game: Cross Talk

Game: Huh?

Game: concept: needs online impl

Activity: Selfies (feel-good)

(tag: QuickWin)
Take a selfie with everyone in it (who wants to be)
  • Give plenty of notice for those who don't want to be in it to leave the shot or turn off their cameras
  • choose a photographer: someone who knows how to screenshot
  • Use the gallery view (On faster computers you can get up to 50 faces per screen)
  • "photographer" should turn off "always show names" in their client settings, for more privacy.
  • ask for cheesey smiles here are some "dad jokes"​
  • photographer should give clear countdown
  • optional: collect the selfies, to make a book through the course. (simple website)
  • everyone shows an object
    • (something blue? A favourite book?)
  • everyone fingerspells something ("Coding", "CYF"?) - researched and practiced in groups.
  • (video-selfies record a section of the meeting for this one, make it into gif)
  • Give people a quiet, easy way out of the selfie
  • Don't take photos with participant names on them
volunteer to identify / design a good place for all the selfies to be collected (think: multiple cohorts of selfies). Google photos?

Activity: Present an object

(tag: QuickWin)
This activity is of a pattern: Find, process, present, collect
  • everyone goes and fetches an important/interesting object
  • presents on it for 10-30 seconds
  • intersperse trainee presentations with volunteer presentations
  • optional: 1/2 way, reflect what made a good presentation (perhaps energy, personalisation, the WHY, humour, object close-up view & lighting)
  • optional: collection of photos for everyone's object, as a memento?
This can be done in breakout rooms, for big classes.

Exercise: Find the cutest animal on google images

(equipment-test, Screen-sharing, training search & image-saving)
This activity is of a pattern: Find, process, present, collect
This simple warm-up / equipment test activity just gives a simple task to focus on rather than only asking the students "test your screen-share". The choice can allow for some expression, too.
  • go to breakouts
  • say hi to each other
  • individually find something as requested
    • e.g. All find a cute (or interesting) animal picture on google images
  • (optional) as a group do some processing on it (e.g. add it to a gallery / playlist)
  • help each other make sure everyone has managed to find a thing and do the optional processing
  • return to main
  • share with the class
  • (optionally) class collect the works, with attribution, to make permanent artifacts
In simplest form, this doesn't need to be done in breakout groups, but with 20 students, the same few people will dominate the conversation. In breakout groups (I suggest random groups) it gives more people a chance to chat.
seed differences in the starting conditions or everyone comes back with the same first hit for "cute animal"
  • find a song you love on youtube (collect into a playlist)
  • find a picture of a work of art you love
  • find a poem you love
  • ...

Activity: Make a recipe book:

Collect a recipe book together with all our favourite recipes (ideally, 2 each)
  • Into plain text in github
  • later into json, validated!
  • later rendered in react app (react module)
  • later into an API in node module​
The trouble with the later stages of this is the (relative) complexity of the (ideal) data model for real recipes, but we can keep it simple.

Activity: Find and present funny jokes

Another of the pattern: find, process, present, collect
  • Breakout rooms, say 4 ppl each.
  • Individually find one joke each, and share them with each other in the 4
  • Decide the best 1-2 jokes
  • Back at main, one team-member tells the joke on mic, another team-member types it into a list in text chat.
  • Two students volunteer to collect the jokes and send them to the other cities on slack after. Action one TA to check it gets done.
    • perhaps the students put them into a webpage (codepen/glitch) or hosted on ghpages/netlify (~ CYF-best-jokes.com). another github repo...

Activity: 5-minute Photo competition

(tag: quickWin... untested)
Everyone has 5-10 minutes to take and share a photo of something (according to a prompt)
some prompts:
view from your window | favourite book | a toy/game | sunset | something the colour [orange]
More detail: Sharing on slack would work: in a specific thread.
  • instead of photos:
    • draw a picture
      • in real life, and photo it
      • online using zoom annotations
    • draw pixel art (e.g. with piskel​
      • use a collab drawing tool
Might need more time. Lunchtime activity?

Activity: Scavenger Hunt (with photo-proof)

In teams. 10-15 minutes.
Each team issued the same list of items that can hopefully be found around the house.
Teams have to photograph those items (not just find an image on the web) and submit (e.g. to a slack thread).

Activity: Drawing together (breakout-suitable)

Everyone collaborates to draw a picture, based on a prompt
Use Zoom's share:whiteboard, and annotations
  • Beware not everyone has access to annotations. not inclusive.
Or an online collab website

Activity: Drawing separately then posting

Everyone gets a prompt (or a picture to copy) and has to draw it. E.g. on JSPaint​
At end of time, ask the participants to post the results on a slack thread.
  • Some volunteers should post first, and should be careful to set a low, low bar.
  • Don't force the students to share.
  • Don't assume all students have a paint program installed or can find it. Here's a free browser-based one - JSPaint. Intentionally pretty terrible and works fine.
  • instead of using an open-ended brief, it was a relief for most students to simply have an artwork to try to copy. those who wanted to get more interpretative did so without needing to be told.
Ed ran this in London successfully, with a class who knew each other for 3 months. Drawing time 7 minutes.
variant - pixel art:
pixel art: Alec had us using [https://www.pixilart.com/](pixilart.com (sic)) successfully in a tea break. Maybe wasn't working well on chromium in linux but that could have been neill p.e.b.k.a.c.

Activity: talent shows

Activity: music performance

If someone can play an instrument or can sing, perhaps they'd give us a performance.

Entertainment: Snapchat faces: silly

(tag: quickWin)
Functions as equipment test (if the students copy and try to do same)
Well-known volunteers present their face distorted by snapchat "lenses", perhaps apparently while attempting to lecture seriously.
One or more well-known volunteers:
  • install zoom on phone
  • install snapchat on phone
  • join the zoom call on phone (mute laptop to avoid feedback squeal, unmute on phone)
  • share screen
  • start snapchat
  • tap once on your face to scan it
  • choose lens
This is a good time for natural selfies: the photographer can use gallery view and side-by-side from view options

Entertainment: Phone tour

  • Join the call on your phones and give a tour of your house / park
  • can be assigned in advance to those students who want to try it
  • never mandatory: students might not want to show their conditions, or perhaps even their location
  • might work nicely in break outs of 6-7 per room, to shorten the activity

Meta: types of game

  • Drawing games: Drawing with a mouse is hard (pictionary, fake artist, drawful)
  • Language games: words, stories are great as the students want and need to practice language and articulation.
  • Trivia games:
  • Any game!: Any game we can play remotely has value if it is fun, accessible, inclusive, and has some logic to be explained and choices that can be discussed.
  • Video Games: Watching and commenting on some people playing any video game - this is entertainment.

Potential sources for games

Equipment and software:

basic assumed equipment

  • zoom
  • zoom whiteboard: share:whiteboard and annotations: view options: annotate (next to viewing jo smith's screen)


  • more electronic-y
  • online drawing tools
  • online voting systems
  • spreadsheets
  • mini apps to support certain games