Engaging Students with Review Games
Whenever I needed to review content with my students, I used review games to add interest and variety. One popular game is Jeopardy, and my students enjoyed using that format of creating questions to match my answers about a topic. In retrospect, I realize there were times the game was not that engaging because some students chose not to participate, except to listen. William McCracken, a science teacher at Loris High School in South Carolina adjusts the game to increase involvement:
I put students into groups with Post-it notes. Then they make up questions from their notes, labs, etc., and assign a point value. Everyone in the group must make a question, and each group must have questions that represent all point values. As they finish a question, the students give me the questions written on the Post-its, and I begin to separate or categorize the questions according to content. The tricky part is making up the category names and trying to come up with something catchy. For example, if I have a group of questions about Boyle’s Law and Charles’ Law, I might call the category, “Crime Doesn’t Pay” or, “Don’t Break the Law.” You can have fun with making up the categories, and the students enjoy trying to figure out what I’m talking about.
An example of playing review games in the classroom with different versions of classroom Jeopardy.
Notice the intricacy of the process. First, students must create the questions themselves, which requires deeper understanding of the topic and shifts ownership to them. Next, they must work in their groups to design questions at varying levels of difficulty in order to have questions at each point level. As the game begins, they must analyze the topic headings created by the teacher. Even before you start the actual review, students have been engaged in multiple opportunities to apply their understanding.
Recently, I observed a teacher using another adaptation of Jeopardy to review math concepts. In the traditional game, only one student or group asks a question to match the answer. She added a twist, enhancing student engagement by requiring everyone to respond. Each group used a small dry-erase board to work through the problems and create the corresponding question. Although she called on one group for a verbal response, every group with the correct answer received points. All students were involved throughout the entire review, rather than becoming distracted or disinterested if someone else had responsibility for the response.
Review Games: Get Crafty
Another teacher uses a game with her social studies students called “Will the Real Abraham Lincoln Please Stand Up?” She explains:
The students stand at their desks, and we go around the room asking them questions about Abraham Lincoln or another historical figure we have been studying. If the student gets the question wrong, he or she must sit down. The level of questions increase in complexity as the game goes on, until there’s only one “Abraham Lincoln” left standing. The students love reviewing this way. Later in the year, we ask them to create and bring in the questions and answers for the review. Each student writes three to four questions of various levels and puts them in the bank of questions I pull from for the game!
Finally, you can let your students take the lead to review information. Scott Bauserman, a teacher at Decatur Central High School in Indiana, asks his students to choose a topic from the social studies unit and design a game. The finished product must teach about the topic, use appropriate vocabulary and processes, and be fun to play. As he explains:
Students have to construct the game, the box, provide pieces and a board, and write the rules. I received a wide variety. One game I will always remember was about how a bill gets passed into law. We spent time [in class] talking about all the points where a bill in Congress or the state General Assembly could be killed, pigeon-holed or defeated. The student took a box the size of a cereal box, set up a pathway with appropriate steps along the way, constructed question/answer cards, and found an array of tokens for game pieces. If a player answered a question correctly, he or she would roll a die and move along the path to passage. But the student had cut trap doors at the points where a bill could be killed, and if a player landed on a trap door/bill stopper, the player to the right could pull a string, making that player’s token disappear from the board. The player would have to start over. Not a bad game from a student who…is still struggling to pass his classes.”
A Final Note on Review Games
There are many ways to use games to review content, whether to cover a wider range of information or delve into a specific subject. No matter what game you choose, adapt it to ensure student engagement at high levels.