Why should you use games as review in your class?
-Games are fun, and test review games are useful and AWESOME. Reviewing for an exam can be an enlightening formative assessment in and of itself. Before administering the test you can see what the students have retained. As the review unfolds you can identify weaknesses, clarify a misunderstanding and support students before they face the exam.
-Gamifying the review raises the stakes, the energy and the buy-in for students. Plus, it can be a lot more fun for you! Here are a list of 9 games to get you rolling, plus some from around the web. Use them verbatim or modify to your classroom needs.
If you’ve never played this game it’s super fun; and if you can’t draw it’s so much better!
How it Works: In groups of 4 students pair up, two and two. One pair goes first. The drawer picks up a card with a term on it — event, person, vocabulary, whatever you’re reviewing. S(he) has 1 minute to draw clues and get their partner to guess the correct answer. If said partner doesn’t get the answer after a minute the other pair has a chance to try and answer and steal the points. If they get the answer right they get 5 points. Then the next team has a turn. This continues for a prescribed amount of time. Whichever team has the most points at the end “wins”.
Extensions: You can have the winning team for each group enter a playoff on the white board at the front of the class until you have the ultimate Pictionary Pair.
Materials & Prep: You need to create about 20-25 clues to play this game for most of the period. Type up the clues in a grid (or handwrite the terms if that’s faster for you) and make enough copies for 1 per group. They need to be cut out and put into an envelope.
I’m not going to lie, this does takes a few minutes to do, depending on how many classes you have. However, think long term; you can save them to use next year. If you have a service student (I’ve landed 1 for the last couple of years — yay!) it’s easier.
If you have small dry erase white boards like these for each pair that’s awesome, but not at all necessary. Just cut up (more cutting!) sheets of copy paper into 4s and use to draw on (you can even have students do it at the before the game begins)
You will also need timers, which are super cheap on Amazon. Check them out here. As an alternative you can set a timer on your SMARTBoard and all groups will work in the same timeframe. That’s it, you’re done.
This is a REALLY old school game, but perfect for review. Students get riled up when playing this — to the point where they sometimes shout out the answer for the other team!
How it Works: Divide the class into 2 or 3 teams. You need a student to be the clue giver — they can rotate or chose one for the whole game. Team 1 starts. The spokesman has a term/person/event they must try to get their team to say without saying any of the words in the answer. They give verbal clues as fast as possible until someone gets it. Then they quickly go to the next term. Team 1 has two minutes to get as many terms as possible. Then it’s Team 2’s turn — same routine. Next up is Team 3 if you’re using 3 teams. Rotate three or four times and add up the points for the winner. This is fast paced and fun and covers a lot of review.
EXAMPLE (For French Revolution) Term: Louis XVI. Clues: “Absolute monarch. Lived in a huge palace. He spent more money than they could afford. He had his head cut off.”
Materials & Prep: You simply need a stack of index cards. Write words, terms, events, people, anything relevant to the review, one on each index card. Your need A LOT of index cards, at least 35, depending on how hard each term is to describe. Write down every clue you can think of, then start googling the topic to get more or throw in terms from older units to refresh their recollection. When you create the index cards save them to use year after year and class after class.
The game is the opposite of Password above. Instead of 1 person trying to get their team to say the answer only one person doesn’t know the answer and the team has to get that single student to answer.
How it Works: The class is divided into 2 or 3 teams. Team 1 goes first. Whoever is it must stand in the front of the room for the whole team to see them and hold up an index card on their forehead, so everyone can see but them. Alternatively, someone can write the term on the board behind the guesser. The team gives clues to try and get “it” to guess correctly. As soon as they get the answer they go to the next clue. After a prescribed time (2-3 minutes) play stops and the next team goes. You can do a determined amount of rounds (at least 3) or period of time.
Materials & Prep: You need index cards with clues. I try to make about 30. This takes some prep time, but if the questions are harder you can use less because it will take each team longer to answer the questions. If you’re having a hard time coming up with that many on the specific unit you’re reviewing throw in some review questions from prior units. And save the cards to reuse at the end of the year for finals and for coming years.
I love this game and have made cards for several topics. Global history teachers, if you’re short on time, or just want to see how I’ve done it, you can access review cards for the Scientific Revolution & Enlightenment Era or Imperialism they’re a click away. U.S. history teachers, you can try my cards for the Civil War or the Great Depression. You could also use these cards for both Pictionary and Password. Hope these resources are useful to you!
A colleague of mine turned me on to this game and it’s fun (thank-you, Brendan!). Students get to throw paper balls! But it’s also challenging and an excellent review for a unit.
How it Works: You start with groups of 4. Each group has to create 5 questions for the topic being covered. They cannot be questions that allow a yes or no question. Each question should be written on a separate sheet of paper.
Now the battle begins. Starting with a team chosen by picking a number or rock, paper, scissors — whatever floats your boat — the team throws their “bomb to another team. That team has 2 minutes to read the question, discuss and answer. If they get it right it’s their turn to throw a “bomb”. If they get it wrong one of their 2 battleships are sunk. Play continues until their is one victor.
Materials & Prep: This game is EASY prep. Create a PowerPoint slide of the rules. Walk around to ensure that questions are appropriate. You can allow open notebook while playing or not.
If you’re a teacher who likes props you can print out pictures of battleships or plastic toys for each group and take them away as they’re sunk. To take it to another level bring in dollar store tub toys as battleships and float them in a basin of water. When a battleship is sunk play an appropriate sound effect and push one of the boats to the bottom of the water.
Who doesn’t like Bingo?! I use this game often as a review.
How it Works: Students each get a different Bingo card with review terms on it. Walk around and have different students pick a term from a bag. They have to give the class a definition or explanation of the term, not just say it. This allows for a deeper, more meaningful review. The student calls on students until they identify the term.
You can play straight Bingo, L shape, inner circle, outer circle, “X”, postage stamp, and finally full card.
Materials & Prep: There are 2 ways to implement this. The first method is that you just make copies of a blank Bingo board for each student and display a minimum of 24 terms on a PowerPoint. Students are in charge of writing one term in each box (except the free middle box of course) in whatever order they wish.
The second method is to distribute pre-made Bingo cards with the terms already filled in. I have created a FREE Bingo Review for the Enlightenment Era, which is useful for both global and U.S. history teachers. There are bingo cards pre-made for the French Revolution as well that includes 30 different scrambled bingo cards and a vocabulary review handout.
I happened upon a pair of digital dice and was hooked! These are awesome for review games, but work to gamify anything you’re doing in your class on a day-to-day basis. It’s a PowerPoint slide. You simply click to roll the dice and click again to stop the roll. I have a whole separate post on them here, including a link to download our own set! Check it out if you’re interested.
LIFE’S TOUGH, GET A HELMET
This is a group game (groups of 4 works well) that involves answering questions and gaining points — or losing points if you’re unlucky!
How it Works: Display a medium-to-challenging question with clear instructions: Identify 3 causes of the French Revolution in a full sentence. One group member writes the full question for the group (recorder should be rotated). The group discusses the question and writes the answer once they’ve figured it out. Another group member is the runner (also should be rotated) and brings you the answer.
The first 3 groups to deliver the correct answer go to the white board where there are Post-it notes. The 3 winners each take a Post-it which has points on the back: 5, 10, 15, -5 or -10. The reason for the negative points is two-fold. Firstly, it makes the game more risky. Secondly, there are invariably 1 or 2 teams that start to dominate a game, this evens the playing field. Continue on to Rounds 2 – 10. Whoever has the most points in the end wins.
Variation: You can up the stakes for the last few questions by having a double-bonus rounds where the 3 winners can take two Post-its instead of one.
Materials & Prep: The two things you need are:
- A PointPoint with each question posted on a different slide
- Between 35-45 Post-its with points written on the sticky side.
Stick the Post-its randomly (or in rows if you’re a bit OCD) all over your whiteboard or any smooth surface. I’m not going to lie; it does take a few minutes to make and stick all those Post-it notes. If you’re playing this game with numerous classes elicit the help of students, if you have access to service students or class helpers.
Create the questions to cover major concepts you want the students to review and make them somewhat difficult. If the questions are too easy then it’s a content of who can write faster, rather than knowing the subject matter. I wrap up the class by distributing the ten questions from the game on a handout and ask students to answer them for the last ten minutes of class. This reinforces the review that just took place and gives them a study guide.
WHEEL OF FORTUNE
This is not a game for a rowdy class. It entails throwing a beach ball from team-to-team and not all classes can handle that. However it’s fast paced, fun and can be as rigorous as you want to make it.
How it Works: In groups of four the teacher throws the beach ball to a group. Whoever catches it has 30 seconds to answer your question. If they get it right they go to the spinner to see how many points they get. That team then throws to another team and the game continues. You can end the game when a team reaches a certain number of points or stop at a prescribed time to ascertain the winner.
Materials and Prep: Obviously, you need a beach ball or an equivalent (nerf ball, paper ball, etc.) You can invest in a prize wheel for your classroom, which can be used for various other purposes as well.
My daughter purchased one and uses it weekly as an incentive for her students as well as for teaching and review games. She gives out raffle tickets all week for various good behaviors. On Friday any student with ten or more tickets can spin the wheel for a prize (homework pass, +5, candy, pencil, etc) It’s not the highest quality they sell, but Jackie says it gets the job done. You can check the price on Amazon here.
Finally, you need a list of questions to pose to your students. This can be created ahead of time or done on the fly, depending on you comfort level with “winging it”.
Boys and girls love this game. It can also be added to any of the other games. When a group gets an answer they get the prescribed amount of points AND get to shoot for extra points.
How it Works: Divide the class into four groups. One group gets to pick the question for another. Simply have a stack of index cards facing down, so they don’t know if they’re choosing a hard or easy question. Group 1 has 30 seconds to answer the question. If they get it right they get 10 points. The group chooses a shooter who gets 2 shots at the basket for an extra 5 points. The game continues until a set amount of points or time.
Variations: If a group does not get the answer you can go to the next group, then the next, etc. Another variation is to have a double bonus round at the end to allow lagging groups to try and catch up so that they don’t give up and “check out” of the game.
Materials & Prep: Write down 20 easy and 20 hard questions on index cards in preparation for playing the game. You also need a basketball hoop and basketball. We share one in my department. The really flimsy ones can be frustrating. This is a solid hoop which you will have for years and is less than $25.
This is a great way to practice multiple choice questions. Students enjoy Plickers much more than traditional paper and pen methods of review.
How it works: Each student is given a sheet of paper with a QR code that is unique to them. A multiple choice question is posted on PowerPoint. Students hold up their Plicker with their answers (each side has a 1-4 and they turn the card so that the correct answer is on top). The teacher scans the room with an app on his phone and records all the answers. The app tallies all the answers and show each student’s correct or incorrect answer.
Materials & Prep: Plickers is a free app that you download on your phone. Simply sign up and upload your classes onto their site. It’s very user-friendly. The site will generate QR codes on each Plicker for you to print out. I like to laminate mine and they can be used again and again. Generate multiple choice questions from Problem-Attic, old NYS Regents exams or Googling.
REVIEW GAMES FROM AROUND THE NET
The above games are all tried and vetted in my classroom. I surfed the web to find other review games that seemed like fun (and I will try in the future). Here are the ones that I particularly liked.
The following games are from Teach4theheart.
RACE TO THE BOARD
Teachhub.com described several review games in their article. Three I really liked are
PASS THE CHICKEN
Scholastic describes two classic games here scholastic.com
Finally here is a game with a fun name at Toengagethemall.blogspot.com
Playing games in class has so many advantages. It changes the tone of the classroom and allows you to interact with the students in a more informal manner. You get to see different sides to students (some are incredibly competitive!) You can assess student comprehension and recall in a nonthreatening atmosphere.
Prizes can take many forms. My go-to is extra points on the test the we are reviewing for. Other possibilities are candy, their names posted or a homework pass. One colleague gave “bragging rights” to the winning team in each class. He told them that they could officially declare themselves “Global History Badasses” or something similar for the rest of the day. The students bought into it, much to my surprise!
Whichever game you play and prize you give enjoy the levity. Teaching is often stressful; we need to embrace those fun and sometimes inspiring moments when we can. So go play, good pedagogy demands it!
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