This is Not a...

Number of Players

A roll of tape (alternate variations use a cloth, a 2-dimension figure like a triangle, a dowel rod)

What Is It and Why Use It?

This is a/Not a… asks students to use their imagination and pantomime skills to transform an object into something else. This activity supports students’ abilities to use specific details both in their pantomime skills and in their verbal description of the object if words are being used as a description. This activity also encourages students to explore how to infer based on context clues, and identify the main idea of an action.


Hold up a roll of tape offer an imagination challenge for the group. The object of the game is to transform the tape roll into something it is not. For example: This is not a roll of tape, this is my red, shiny apple (pantomiming biting into the apple, and then making a sour face) Yuck, with a worm inside. Ask students to describe what you did. Reference the performance skills that actors use to transform an object including: the voice, body, imagination, face, point of view, descriptive language, etc. Explain that each person in the circle will take a turn. They will say: This is not a roll of tape. This is a… as they use the context clues of their performance and their words to transform the object into something new. Take questions. Pass the object around the circle so that each participant can transform the object. The pace of the game is dependent on the needs of the group, but the teacher should keep the goals of spontaneity and creativity in mind.

  • What object transformations do you most remember from our exploration? Why?
  • How did the properties/characteristics of our object (tape roll) inform your transformation choices?
  • What skills did you use to be successful in this activity? Where else in our inquiry might we want to use these skills?
Possible Side-Coaching
  • Think about how you can use your actor tools (voice, point of view, imagination, body shape, expression, etc.) to help us understand what the object has become.
  • In your verbal description of the object, try to use adjectives and adverbs to help us understand what this object looks like.
Possible Variations/Applications
  • Multiple objects (e.g., a group of 3-dimensional solids) can be placed in the center of the circle and each person can choose which object to use for their turn.
  • After playing multiple rounds, allow students to play a round in which the participant pantomimes the object WITHOUT words so that other students must guess what the object is.
  • READING/WRITING  and SOCIAL STUDIES: Have students turn a piece of fabric or a dowel rod into something related to a story from class or from a time from history.
  • Math: Use 2-dimensional shapes (a triangle, a square) or 3-dimensional solids (a prism) to make connections to the shape and the larger world. In this version it can be useful to say: This is triangular prism AND it is also… 
Source Citations