Review games!

So, I want to start off with a couple of things: First, congrats to the Kentucky Wildcats! They are (if you can believe it) 5-1! Crazy! So, they’ve earned you a football freebie! Keep watch for it tomorrow! Second, I’m still very new to this whole blog-o-sphere, and trying to find the right formula for my entries. I’d love your comments and input about each entry and also would really appreciate knowing what it is that would be most helpful for me to blog about. I don’t want to waste your time with useless posts, so chime in and tell me what you need/want! If you don’t want to post on the entry itself, you can always email me at with your comments and suggestions!

All right, so for this entry, I thought I’d give you some fun ideas for whole-class review games. I used these with my middle school math classes, but you could easily work them into other content/levels. I, myself, am a grossly competitive person (which you may or may not have picked up on since the start of football season…). I found that in general, my students were competitive as well, and I devised ways to use that to everyone’s advantage. Handing out review worksheets and having kids just go through problem after problem was super boring – for them and for me. They never wanted to do it, and so it was like pulling teeth to keep them on task and quiet. So I created – or in some cases, “stole” – review games to play in class. I know lots of teachers like the electronica review – class Jeopardy, etc. But I didn’t have the time to create that for my classes. So instead, I used the quick & dirty review games – good old fashioned racing fun. Here are 3 versions of race review that I used frequently in my class (and with great success – my kids would beg to play and light up whenever I announced that it was review day).

1) Board races. This was not something I came up with. This is a review game that my own teachers used and I loved as a student, so it was natural that I’d implement it in my classroom. Here’s how I played it (although I’ll give some ideas for adaptation). I split the class into groups. Depending on the class size, it might be 2-3 groups or it might be as high as 4-5 groups. Of course, they got to choose a team name (limited decision time: 15 seconds). Then, I wrote the group names on the board so I could keep score. I already had a pre-planned list of review problems – this is important, because you don’t want to waste time trying to come up with things for them to do. Now it’s time to start the game. One person from each group (students MUST rotate turns and EVERY student MUST take a turn at the board…this will be difficult for some of your introverts, but if you build a safe and supportive classroom culture, they’ll do fine) comes up to the board and gets a marker/chalk/whatever you’re using. Then, you give them the problem and “go!” The first student to answer the problem a) correctly and b) legibly wins a point for his/her team. You can make your own rules about if they have to show their work, or any other criteria. At the end of the period, the team with the highest score wins. I always said that their score was extra credit points on the quiz or test. Any given winning team would usually only earn about 5 points, so that worked out pretty good. You could also just set a flat point rate (winners get an extra 2% on the test grade, etc.) or you could do some other reward – I hear candy is a pretty big hit, although I shied away from giving out any sort of food in my own classroom. Of course, any cheating voids the point for the team – no help from the team mates – every student must do his/her own work at the board. Another variation of this is to have textbooks up at the board and have students do the problems from there. This way, you don’t have kids who start working the problem in their heads before you’re done reading it. If you just wait for everyone to get ready and then call out “#18!” it might make it a little more even of a playing field, depending on your population.

Pros: high-energy, high engagement; low-prep; can last as long or short as you want.

Cons: only one student working at a time from any given group; it can get really noisy, even with the best instructions; it can get over-competitive, depending on your population.

board races1

2) Mini-white board group review. Sorry there’s not a cool name for this one. Again, you break students up into groups. For this review game, I found that more smaller groups worked best (for example, instead of four groups of five students, do five groups of four or even seven groups of three and one group of four. I wouldn’t recommend pairs, though). Give each group a single mini-white board and dry erase marker. Have them elect a group captain; this person (and ONLY this person) will be allowed to write on the board and submit an answer for the group. Again, I allow for team names (15 second decision limit), but I keep score in my book – not on the board for this one. Give out one problem at a time. Once a group has an answer, they write it on the whiteboard and hold it up in the air. First team to get it right gets a point. However, if they get it wrong, they are out and cannot rework the problem (although that rule could be altered if you wish). I find this gives incentive to work a bit more slowly the first time around so they don’t get it wrong and give up a point for a silly mistake. Same rules for the team with the most points at the end of the class period. I find this review game to also be a bit quieter, because students don’t want nearby groups to overhear their answer.

Pros: medium-energy, high engagement; low-prep; can last as long or as short as you want; more students can be working on a problem at the same time.

Cons: if you have one or two bright students in a group, they’ll probably end up doing most of the work, so you have to be careful about how you group the students; it’s difficult to mandate shown work because of the mini-white board limiting space; it can be harder to manage group dynamics because this is a difficult one to walk around the room during, because you’re got to be ready for that first white board to pop up.

board races3

3) (Silent) Row races. This is my personal favorite. It has all the pros and virtually none of the cons. For this game, student desks must be arranged in rows; their row becomes their group. Each student will need lots of scratch paper – unless you’re doing some serious problems like solving systems of equations or stuff with the quadratic formula, 2-3in. x 8 ½ in. works well – just have your student rip up some loose-leaf paper into strips. I began doing this game as a non-noise-restricted game, but found that it worked MUCH better when students were forced to be silent.

a. So, rule #1 is there is NO noise. No talking, no “encouraging,” no pestering, no shouting, nothing.
b. Rule #2: no touching – you cannot touch the person in front of or behind you, either with your hands (or other body parts) or paper/pencil.
c. Rule #3: each student works the problem him/herself.
d. Rule #4: when a student finishes working the problem, she folds up her paper and passes it to the student in front of her.
e. Rule #5: students are NOT permitted to look at classmates’ work.
f. Rule #6: when the entire row’s work makes it to the first desk, that student raises all the papers in the air.
g. Rule #7: the first row with all their answers gets a “speed” bonus point. As each row gets all their answers to the front, the teacher walks around and collects the papers and checks the answers.
h. Rule #8: each row gets one point for each correct answer. Do NOT give papers back to the students. This minimizes anger with students who might be “dragging down” the team and getting things wrong. The kids who get them wrong know they got them wrong. They don’t need their papers back.
i. Rule #9: the row with the most points at the end of the game wins (same incentives apply).

Pros: every student works every problem; if you have students put their names on the paper, you’ll be able to track who is really struggling as you look at the answers – you can even mark it down on a clipboard so you can do more targeted review later; it’s silent; high-energy, high-engagement; it rewards speed as well as accuracy, so students have incentive to work quickly but carefully.

Cons: ummm…it’s not targeted review, although if you give several problems in a row of the same type and you notice lots of students aren’t getting it right, you could always stop and reteach and then continue the game…although this is true for any of the three review games.

board races2

I hope this entry has given you some ideas for fun ways to review concepts. Again, I used this with my middle school math classes, but you could incorporate it into other content areas. The exception here might be English…I’m not sure how you could do literature review. But you could do grammar – finding parts of speech in a sentence, etc.

Check back tomorrow for the freebie! Sneak peek: it’s a classroom management tool!


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