Stick Figure Review

Geoffrey Butler, INTERLINK Language Center at UNCG

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: vocabulary, review activities, active learning, student-generated material
  • Learner Level: beginner and above 
  • Learner Maturity: junior high school and above
  • Preparation time: 10 - 15 minutes
  • Activity time: 20 - 40 minutes depending on class size, level, and the number/difficulty of terms.
  • Materials: paper, tape, students need paper and pencil of their own.

This activity allows students to actively and creatively review important course terminology–ranging from high frequency vocabulary words to more complicated concepts such as culture or literature–depending on the course content or proficiency level. Through using simple stick figure art, students can express, interpret and explain their ideas to their classmates. Stick figure review has been adapted from an activity originally developed by Stephen Liles, a retired US History teacher, under the name of “stickman history” for use in his public high school history courses.


Step 1: Prepare a list of important terms to review. They can range from high frequency vocabulary to scenes in a story to historical events. 

Step 2: Write each term and a corresponding number on a slip of paper. 

Step 3: Prepare a piece of tape for each slip of paper.


Step 1: Explain the concept of stick figure drawing to the students, showing a model or two. It is important for the efficiency of the activity that students try to draw simply and quickly. Begin the activity when the students seem to understand the concept.

Step 2: Distribute the slips of paper. Each student may get a single slip or multiple slips depending on the class size and number of terms the teacher wishes to review. The teacher may also distribute pieces of scrap paper to the students.

Step 3: Instruct the students to look over the slips of paper and take a few minutes to draw a stick figure representation of the term on their scrap paper (Some examples of these terms would be vocabulary, such as grocery items or fictional characters like Harry Potter). When the students are finished, they should also write the corresponding number at the top of the paper. 

Step 4: Take pieces of tape and hang the stick figure drawings around the room. Direct any fast finishers to assist with this process.

Step 5: Instruct the students to take out their notebooks and make a list of numbers, one on each line, corresponding to the number of drawings (e.g. if there are 18 drawings, then the students need to write 1-18 in their notebooks on individual lines).

Step 6: Tell the students to walk around quietly at first and look at the drawings. Students try to guess the terms and write the word in their notebooks. When students are halfway through the activity, tell them that they may share their ideas.

Step 7: Lead a whole group review of the terms when the majority of the students are finished. If there are any “mysteries” left, ask the artist to explain the term to their classmates.


This activity is a handy review of vocabulary or important concepts ahead of the end of a teaching unit. It is an active and enjoyable way to go over items before a task or test. The teacher can also collect and keep the pictures for use in future activities or for future groups of students.