Prewriting game | What’s in the bag?

The What's in the Bag game is a fun prewriting guessing game that introduces or reinforces the concept of concrete or descriptive writing. Fun for all ages!

When I was teaching junior high and high school writing classes, we made sure that part of each class was spent in play. No one is too old for games! Besides, pre-writing activities help prime the writing pump and get those creative juices bubbling! So we played word games, sentence-building games, and games that built vocabulary or taught writing skills.

Not all writing games require pencil and paper. One of our favorites is “What’s in the Bag?” It’s a guessing game that fits many levels of sophistication, so it’s adaptable to all ages, and it’s great for reinforcing the concept of concrete or descriptive writing. Here’s how to play:

Advance Prep

Gather together several paper lunch bags, each containing a common object. Vary the textures and shapes of the objects.


  1. Give your student one of the paper bags and have him put his hand inside.
  2. Instruct him to describe the object by its properties, not its function. Tell him: “Feel the object and describe it using adjectives or other phrases to describe its features. Don’t say what it looks like, where to find it, or how to use it.”  (If the object is a fork, the student might say, “It’s hard, cold, made of metal, sharp, one end has four prongs, it’s long and thin,” etc. He may not say, “You eat with it, you stab food with it, it’s in the silverware drawer,” etc.)
  3. Siblings or classmates can take turns trying to guess the object.
  4. Since students of all ages can play the What’s in the Bag game, involve your whole family or class. They’ll enjoy taking turns guessing and describing.

Hints and Tips 

  • If you only have one child, it’s harder to play along if you already know what’s in the bags. So ask your spouse to put some bags together the night before so that you’ll be surprised along with your kiddo.
  • If the child is young or unable to articulate very well, you can help him get started by showing him 10-15 household objects such as a whisk, screwdriver, cotton ball, roll of tape, small stuffed animal, camera, comb, or toothbrush and helping him think of descriptive terms for each one. The next day, use some of these items in the feely bags. Now that he is familiar with descriptive words for each item, it will be easier for him to play the game.

The “What’s in the Bag Game” is one of many pre-writing activities and writing games tucked into the pages of all our WriteShop curriculum: WriteShop Primary for grades K-3, WriteShop Junior for grades 3-6, and WriteShop I & II for middle and high school students. Check them out by downloading a free lesson sample!


  • Posted December 15, 2008


    What a great idea, I can’t wait to try. My older daughter was just asking me to do something “fun” with her for school. This sounds like a good way to help the younger ones and the older kids wouldn’t mind a break to play along! Thanks!

  • Posted December 16, 2008


    This is definitely a fun multi-age game. I know your kids will have a blast!

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