Zany Characters (Exquisite Corpses)

In this playful visual arts activity students create a collaborative artwork, promoting teamwork and community building.

Zany Characters (Exquisite Corpses)

Zany Characters (Exquisite Corpses)

Contributed by Yael Ben-Zion


In this playful visual arts activity students create a collaborative artwork, promoting teamwork and community building.


  • Before the activity, prepare papers divided into 3 equal parts with dotted lines, and the headers: HEAD, BODY, LEGS and FEET.
  • Explain the objective of the game: to collaborate in teams of three to create a single character.
  • Show the prepared paper to the students. Explain that each group will receive one piece of paper and each member will draw a different part of the character’s body with one important rule: You CANNOT see what came before! 
  • Show examples. Explain how students should draw slightly beyond the dotted lines, then fold the portion of the paper they drew on so the next student cannot see it. Encourage students to draw as zany as they want to.
  • Divide students into groups of three and ask them to decide on the order: who draws first, second and third.
  • Give students 2-3 minutes to complete each part of the character then pass the drawing on to the next student to complete the next part. 
  • When all three parts are completed, use a call and response to refocus students’ attention. Invite students to view their collaborative character as a group before sharing with the whole classroom.
  • Create a small ceremony where each group reveals their character and presents it to the whole class.
  • Reflection: What did it feel like to create different parts of something together? What is it like to see our different styles of art-making come together? Would the characters have come out better if we were able to see and communicate what we were making?

Transition into Activity

Transition into the activity with connection to past experience: “Usually we draw a whole character by ourselves.”

Transition out of Activity

Transition out of the activity with movement: “Travel back to your seat walking as the character you have created.”

Classroom Arrangement

Small Groups at hard surfaces.

Supports/Adaptive Materials/Tools

  • Prepare in advance: paper to be used in the activity and examples of finished drawings.
  • Model with other TA and Classroom Professionals.
  • Utilize both visual and verbal descriptions throughout the activity. 
  • Use a visual timer or music to time the activity. 
  • If waiting for your turn is a challenge – It is also possible for each group member to work on a paper and pass it to the next person for the next part – each group would then have 3 creations.
  • Groups can be planned ahead of time with the help of the Classroom Professionals. 
  • Paraprofessionals can be part of a group to support individual students.
  • Collage pieces & glue could be used instead of drawing.
  • Use visuals to introduce the concept of characters.

Possible Roles for Classroom Professionals

  • Support students who have difficulties with drawing (what to draw, how to draw) or with the group setting.
  • Participate in modeling and art making.

Adjustments for Remote Instruction

Students can work in break-out rooms and follow the same process of assigning “parts” to draw. They can draw their section on their own piece of paper, and each group member can share on camera their piece of paper for the group to imagine what the character would be like put together. Another option, using technology, would be for students to work in separate Google docs, drawing with the pen tool. They can cut and paste their section, and the group can put all three pieces together in one doc or slides. The Teaching Artist or other Classroom Professionals  could rotate between rooms to support this process.

Art forms


15 mins