top of page

Pictionary Protocol - Unpacking the ISTE Standards

One of the best professional development experiences I’ve been a part of was a Critical Friends group at International Schools Group in Saudi Arabia. The last Tuesday of every month, our cadre would gather and engage in discussion protocols around topics of importance to our group members. Sometimes it was an issue an individual was facing, sometimes it was a collective concern, sometimes it was student work, sometimes it was professional encouragement. Regardless, each month’s discussion topic was pre-planned and on the day of we engaged in Discussion Protocols used in Critical Friends Groups. Discussion protocols provided the structure for us to engage in conversations that continually moved the topic forward, allowed for equal participation, and considered a topic from multiple angles and perspectives.

I quickly came to anticipate and look forward to these monthly gatherings. We all committed to staying beyond working hours to participate in this group because we all found value and a new type of professional development that we all yearned for. Authentic. Relevant. Personal.

I also soon came to realize these protocols could be adapted to work in professional development workshops or sessions for teachers. My colleague and mentor, Tara Waudby, regularly led sessions for the various ISG schools utilizing these protocols, and the conversations they sparked led to deep engagement and change.

I took inspiration from Tara Waudby and another colleague, Nicole Fedio, when planning my own PD sessions with teachers. By utilizing discussion protocols, I came to realize workshop participants were engaged with the learning, discussed freely amongst themselves, and did not look to me to provide the answers, but rather to facilitate the discussions. Some of my go-to discussion protocols are: Chalk Talk, Four A’s Text, and one that I invented that I’ll call Pictionary Protocol. I’m sure I’m not allowed to use the term “Pictionary” so perhaps I should call it “Draw and Guess Protocol.” Not nearly as catchy, though.

Let me explain my newly developed protocol that seems to work very well when unpacking new concepts and ideas.


Description: I developed this protocol to help facilitate the unpacking of and discussions about the ISTE Standards for Students. This protocol could be used by any PD facilitator, school leader, or teachers when looking to examine dry standards, itemized lists/terms, rubric components or other important yet most likely boring or difficult to internalize items.

For this particular example, I wanted teachers to examine and see the potential for the ISTE Standards for Students for technology in education.


  1. Before the session began, I placed a large sticky note flip chart paper on each table. I also had 6-10 sharpies on each table.

  2. I began by dividing the group into smaller groups of 3-4 teachers.

  3. Each teacher was invited to make a copy of the ISTE Standards Reflection (Digital Worksheet)

  4. With one group member as the scribe (typist), each group worked to digitally fill out each component of the digital worksheet.

  5. AFTER the groups completed their digital worksheet, I instructed one member of each group to draw 4 quadrants on their large paper on their table, and number each quadrant 1-4.

  6. Each member had to choose a number from 1-4 as their quadrant.

  7. The quadrant numbers represent the numbers on the components of the digital worksheet.

  8. Each member then needed to DRAW their component from the digital worksheet. That’s right. DRAW. No words. No symbols. In this regard, teachers had to internalize the content of their component and figure out how to interpret that visually. I observed a lot of conversation and chatting (and laughing) among team members as to how to visually convey the elements of their worksheet component.

  1. When all the Picassos finished their work, the entire group stood up and grabbed some sticky notes and sharpies.

I had everyone walk around to different groups and write an idea down on the sticky notes as to what they thought the drawing represented and post it on the related quadrant on the paper. I had the standards and indicators on the board they could refer to. In this manner, they were studying the standards and indicators while trying to guess what the squares were. Again, I observed a lot of conversations taking place as colleagues tried to figure out what each group’s standard was and then trying to figure out the rest of them. By referencing the standards, they were able to speak to each other about the standards and perhaps internalize them more than if they just read them.

  1. We closed the activity by celebrating what everyone is already doing to meet the ISTE standards.

  2. Later in the session, each teacher worked on revamping a lesson or unit plan and I had them revisit their discussion from this protocol to provide ideas of how or where they could rework their lesson/unit plan.

  3. All in all, it seemed to work very well to generate authentic discussions about the ISTE standards for students and how to implement them in a classroom lesson or unit plan.

If you try this type of discussion protocol with your staff or students, please let me know how it worked for you and if you made tweaks that made it more effective for your purpose.

Have fun!

bottom of page