Relationship Skills

Family Resources on Communication: Trio Drawing

Project and Purpose

Students put their communications skills to the test in teams of three to draw a picture based on a famous work of art

Essential Questions

How is good communication an art?

If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students continued learning about the place of non-verbal communication. In class students continued discussing body language and communication (this lesson usually follows other lessons regarding listening and nonverbal communication). Students participated in an activity called Trio Drawing where students work in groups of three to draw a picture based on a work of art. A “silent communicator” looks at the piece of art and non-verbally sends messages to a “talker,” who in turn tells the “artist” what to draw.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

Whether someone realizes it or not, much of the way people communicate is nonverbal. Gaining insight into how people communicate helps students learn how to communicate more effectively. The Trio Drawing activity allows students to practice and assess nonverbal communication.

Conversation notes:
Speakers, particularly in conversations, do not always understand their body language and voice tone. Learning to provide non-verbal cues in communication is an important skill in a variety of interpersonal contexts.

Article about types of nonverbal communication by Kendra Cherry at Very Well Mind:

Suggestions for effective gesturing in formal speaking from Toastmasters International:

Constructive Conversation Starters

The first item is for follow-up after participating in class activities.

Tell me (or us) about “Trio Drawing”. Did you find it difficult or easy? What did you learn about non-verbal communication? Why do you think non-verbal communication is important to study?

Describe how non-verbal communication enhances spoken communication? Why do you think people are sometimes misunderstood as a result of their non-verbal communication?

There is a saying, “think before you speak.” Is this good advice? Why or why not?

What habits could you develop to improve your nonverbal communication? How would you implement these habits? Why should you?

School to Home Resources on Communication: Trio Drawing


  • One piece of paper per trio
  • Pencils/erasers
  • Individual copies of artwork (Note: use photographs, pictures from magazines, prints, posters, etc.)


1. Explain that in this session, students will practice their communications skills in teams of three to create a work of art. They must use their active listening skills, their body language, and their clear speaking skills to complete the task.

2. Have students form groups of three and select roles for the first round of the activity. The roles are:

  • The SILENT COMMUNICATOR. The Silent Communicator will use gestures, facial expressions, and movement to communicate to…
  • The TALKER. The Talker will interpret the body language of the Silent Communicator for…
  • The ARTIST. The Artist listens to the words of the Talker to draw what is being described. The Artist may ask questions of the Talker, but not of the Silent Communicator.

3. Positioning:

  • The Silent Communicator faces the back of the Artist.
  • The Artist has his/her back to the Silent Communicator and faces the Talker. It is best if the Artist is seated with a hard surface to draw on.
  • The Talker faces both the Artist and the Silent Communicator.

4. Give each Silent Communicator a copy of one of the works of art, prints, photographs, etc. Silent Communicators do not show the artwork to anyone on their team. The Silent Communicator then uses body language (gestures, facial expressions, movement) to communicate the artwork to the Talker.

5. The Talker does their best to interpret the Silent Communicator’s body language into descriptive words for the Artist, being sure to use specific vocabulary and instructions.

6. The Artist follows the Talker’s instructions to draw the work of art, making appreciative sounds and gestures, and asking questions when appropriate

7. Give the teams 5-8 minutes to complete their drawings. When “time” is called, have the teams examine the drawing that was created and discuss the process.

  • What helped in communicating the artwork?
  • What was challenging?
  • How might you improve the communication process without changing the rules?
  • How did you use the communications skills discussed in earlier sessions?

8. Have team members swap roles, exchange works of art with another group, and attempt the exercise again, paying close attention to their own suggestions for improvement. Analyze the exercise with the second grouping.

9. If time, try the activity a third time, again swapping roles within the groups, and analyzing the exercise.


Ask students to discuss the following questions in their small groups or in the larger group. Then have them write a brief response to the last question.

  • Which role did you prefer? Why?
  • Which role did you like least? Why?
  • Which role did you think your partners did best? Why?
  • What did you learn about communication skills in this exercise? Explain your answer.
  • What does this exercise tell you about your communication skills? Why?
  • How are good communication skills an art?
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