Word Bag

by Margaret Bennett
(NY, United States)

This is a fun game that we play sometimes at Toastmasters Meetings. Toastmasters International is where people go to improve their public speaking skills.

One activity that always occurs at our meetings is Table Topics. You have one to two minutes to extemporaneously speak on any topic decided over by the Table Topics Master. When it’s my turn to be the Table Topics Master, I like to play this game I call, for the lack of a better name, Word Bag.

The neat thing about this game is the words can be chosen for different age groups. I’ve always played with adults, but the words could just as easily be adjusted for age.

The object is to get people to choose a word from the bag and then they share something about what that word brings to their mind.

You want to encourage people to be open so they are free to tell a story, or a joke, and as a matter of fact they can talk about anything at all, as long as it involves the word chosen and they make it to at least one minute.

For the game supplies you will need...

  • A bag -- if you have a velvet bag that came with a Crown Royal bottle, it makes for a much showier presentation than a plain old paper sack or white grocery bag.
  • Twice as many words as there are guests, written out beforehand on separate pieces of paper -- the reason I like to have extra words is that as the host, I do not want to know beforehand which words will be picked. This makes it more fun for me!
  • Some blank pieces of paper and pencils.
  • A list with everyone’s name on it.
  • A piece of red construction paper with a cardboard backing.
  • A stop watch -- most cell phones do have a stop watch feature.

The way it works is you have a host who calls people up to pick a word. The host can also be the official timer or he can have an assistant.

NOTE: The timer needs to be where he can be seen by the speaker.

After each person speaks, the timer records how long they spoke for. The timer starts when the person blurts the first sound, and at 1 minute and 45 seconds the timer holds up a red card to tell the speaker to wrap it up.

When everyone has had a turn the timer will read off everyone’s time. Anyone who spoke less than one minute or more than two is disqualified. Everyone who was within time now qualifies to win the game.

The winner is decided by everyone present. You write who you think the best speaker was on a piece of paper, and then the timer can count the responses. Whoever got the most votes for being the best speaker WINS!

To figure out how long this game will take is easy; give the host five minutes to explain the game, and then add two minutes for each person. So ten people playing would take – five minutes to explain the rules and then twenty minutes for the actual playing, then another five minutes to count the votes after every one is done for a grand total of about thirty minutes to play the game.

In choosing words, be sure to pick words that are interesting and avoid everyday words. Try to think of yourself talking about the different words for a minute.

If you can’t think of something to say, for example, about the word ‘margarine’, how will anyone else?

The game is simple to put together, but is a whole lot more fun when a little effort is put into the word selection. Here are some words I’ve used: Opera, Cemetery, Kazoo, Circus, Chihuahua, Tofu, Mermaid, and Model.

I remember one time a man from my club picked Opera and he sung part of an aria for us! Considering none of us knew he was an opera buff we all found it quite amazing. That is why I enjoy this game so much, because you never ever know what someone else will say about the word.

It can really break down barriers and allow you to get to know a group of people more personally.

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