Effective Review Games

Our novice teacher development program, Teaching Excellence, facilitated a session on Effective Review Games and Strategies last month and I want to pass along some of that session to you all. 

Kids love review games, but unfortunately, it can be hard to make sure they’re both fun and effective.  Here are the criteria the Teaching Excellence team offered as well as the directions for a few example games they’ve had success with.  Enjoy!

All Great Review Games…
…ensure ALL content is practiced effectively. …ensure ALL students practice effectively.
1.  Plan with your assessment in mind

2.  All of the ‘what’ is reviewed

3.  All of the ‘how’ is reviewed

4.  Content is scaffolded throughout the game

1.  ALL students need to be accountable to all questions during the game

2.  Procedural expectations for game must be clear

3.  Behavioral expectations for game must be clear

4.  Opportunities for feedback are interspersed throughout the game

Looking at the right side of the table, it’s worth reiterating the importance of making the procedures and expectations crystal clear.  It is zero fun if a game spirals into kids shouting out rapid-fire answers, accusing each other of cheating left and right, and then you having to cut the game short or dole out consequences because things get out of hand. 

One other take-away, though it’s not written, is that speed is not a focus. If everyone is going to be able to participate and process the review questions, things can’t move at the speed of light.  It can still be a game even if kids are spending plenty of time quietly working with their groups or silently answering questions!

Example Games:


Preparation before class:

  • Using assessment, design questions that range from very easy to very hard covering all topics in unit.
  • In Jeopardy power point template, organize questions by objective or topic and scaffold with easiest questions at 100 and hardest questions at 500
  • Determine if, and how, prizes will be awarded – by group, per person, only for random questions, etc.

Set up in class:

  • Give each student an individual scorecard.
  • Each student’s name is written on a popsicle stick. (Or other method for randomly calling on students)

Game Play:

  • Let a student choose which question he or she would like to answer.
  • ALL students will answer questions on their individual scorecards SILENTLY.
  • Teacher can circulate and give hints to students who are struggling to get started.
  • At the end of the time allotted, have all students put their pencils down and wait for a name to be pulled.
  • The chosen student answers the question and then is allowed to choose the next question.

Scavenger Hunt
Preparation before class:

  • Using assessment, design application-level questions that can be answered/solved within 3-5 minutes.
  • Type each question and its corresponding answer on a single sheet of paper and print them all out.

Set up in class:

  • Divide the pieces of paper with the questions and answers in half.  Around the room, post an answer and then a different question below it.
  • Place answer sheets for students on tables.

Game Play:

  • Students can work in pairs or independently, but each student will fill their answers in on an answer sheet.
  • All students/pairs will start on a different question.
  • Students will solve/answer the question and then look for their answer around the room. Once students find their answer and record the answer on their numbered chart, they will answer the question written underneath. Students will continue in this manner until they end up back where they started.
  • Students can self-check their work since the answer must be posted somewhere around the room. Also, if students end up at a question that they have already answered, then they know they have made a mistake.
  • If you want to work with a small group of students, you can pull students at this time since students can self-check their work.

Pass the Paper Relay
Preparation before class:

  • Writing relays work best with short writing assignments such as paragraphs. You could also use writing relays for longer essays by breaking the writing process down into chunks.
  • Using assessment, design a set of prompts that relate to whatever type of writing assignment you would like your students to do.
  • Create folders or envelopes with writing assignments for each table.

Set up in class:

  • All students need to have out several sheets of blank paper. The number depends on how many different prompts you plan to do.
  • Students should be in groups of 3-5.
  • The envelope with prompts should be in the center of each table.

Game Play:

  • Each team selects ONE prompt.
  • Every student at the table reads the prompt and silently writes the first step of the writing assignment (the answer, the assertion, statement, thesis, etc.). Set a time limit that is appropriate based on the writing assignment.
  • When the timer goes off, all students pass their paper clockwise to the next person.
  • Each player reads what his or her classmate has previously written and then adds the next section of writing (context, text evidence, analysis, etc.). Again, set a time limit that is appropriate.
  • When time is up, students again pass their papers.
  • Continue the process until a complete paragraph or essay has been written. You will need to extend the time limit during each step to allow for the extra time for students to process what their classmates have written.
  • The entire process should be completely silent!
  • When students are finished, they should read each sample they have at their tables and decide which paper is the best.
  • They read their paper out loud and the teacher (along with the class if they know the rubric) assigns the paper a score.
  • Teams get points based on their rubric scores.

Team Work Relay
Preparation before class:

  • Using assessment, design a set of questions for students to solve, ranging from easy to hard.
  • Each group of students will be given the packet of questions as well as an answer document to record or work out each problem.

Set up in class:

  • Choose a few student leaders who will “check” work or the teacher can check work.
  • Divide students into groups of 2-4
  • Each group of students will be given the packet of questions and answer document.

Game Play:

  • Students will work in their groups to solve as many questions as they can, with all students showing the work and/or recording the answer for each question.
  • After a group of students solves 3-4 questions (this number can vary), the teacher will randomly choose one student to go to the student work checker and have that student check their answers.
  • Groups will earn 2 points for every answer they have correct. If a student has an incorrect answer, they will need to return to their group to rework the problem. They can then earn 1 point for that question.
  • The student work checker or teacher will keep track of the relay sheet and points earned by each team.
  • The team that has the most points at the end of the class is the winner.

To learn more about Teaching Excellence, click here!

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