I think one of the most effective ways to reinforce learning in the classroom is to play games. Games are great for test prep and really for any time of the year. The great thing about games is that for most kids, you've got instant buy in, as well as engagement. They love playing games and when kids are having fun in the classroom, I think they're often learning whether they know it or not!
So, here are six of my tried and true favorite review games:
1. Stump the Expert
I start by placing five chairs in the front of the classroom facing the class, while I go and stand in the back of the room, facing the front of the room. Everyone takes out whiteboards (Home Depot shower board that was cut for a class set for $14.00), expo markers and their erasers (small carpet scraps). I randomly choose 5 kids to be the first experts and then I ask a question from whatever subject we're working on. Everyone writes down the answer but holds it to their chests so no one can see. Then I ask the experts to reveal their answers. If the expert is correct, he/she may remain an expert for the next round. If an expert is incorrect, that person goes back to his/her desk and the rest of the class shows me their answers. I choose a student with a correct answer to be one of the new experts.
Whenever we have a social studies or science test, I always prepare a study guide with questions for the kids to fill out. This makes it easy for them to study for the tests and to test each other for a quick review too! For the tic tac toe game, you can play with small groups of 2 or 3. With small groups of three, one child would be the teacher, and the other two would answer questions. If a child gets an answer right, he/she gets to place an X or an O on the tic tac toe board (whiteboard or scratch paper). When the game is over, players may rotate so everyone gets a chance to answer questions. With groups of two, students simply ask each other questions.
This is a game that my kids love!!! I set up a nerf basketball hoop in the classroom (with dire consequences to anyone who touches it when we're not playing the game but you might be able to put it down when not in use if you can figure that out)! Actually, my classes have been really good about this for the most part, over the years. Anyway, the idea is to divide the class into teams, I usually do 2 - 3, and then ask a question. I ask questions in a systematic order for each team, so all kids have a chance to play. If the team member gets the question right, the team gets one point and a try for some bonus points too. The person who is correct then stands behind one of two taped lines on the floor and tries for either a 2 point shot (closer to the net) or a 3 pointer (farther from the net). If that person misses, he/she still keeps the original point scored and the game continues.
For this game, I place two desks in the front of the classroom and each has a bell, not the kind with a handle but the one you press to ding. These are our game buzzers. Then, we make sure there is a clear path to the front of the room and stress keeping hands and feet in, so no one gets hurt. The class is divided into two teams and the first three players from each team, line up to play in the back of the room. I read a question and the first person from each team takes off to the front of the room to ring in and answer (if he/she is first to ring in) or the first person tags the next person in line to go up and answer. If the second person doesn't know the answer, the third person is tagged. If that person doesn't know the answer (oh dear!!!) then the question is "dead" and I call on someone to answer but no point is given. The next question, we re-load the players with whomever has not had a chance to answer or has been tagged and the game continues.
For this game, you'll need to do some quick prep ahead of time. Write a number using marker/sharpie on the front of each post it. You need #1 - 30, so that means 30 post its. On the back of each post it, using pencil (very important so it doesn't show through) write either positive or negative game events such as:
- Add 5 points
- Lose 3 points
- Take an extra turn
- Free ask a friend card
- Lose a turn
- Free team vote card (you give a multiple choice question and whole team votes for the answer)
- Change scores with the other team
- Pass on a question card...
You can repeat these with minor variations to add more variety. Here's how you play: Divide the class into two teams. Ask a question of one team (I go in a very systematic order so everyone can participate) and if the question is answered correctly, the team has a chance to get a point and keep it or to give up the point and take a chance on the Deal or No Deal board. If the child chooses the board, he/she will tell you a number and you read the "prize" to the team. Once a post it number is selected, I take it down, so it won't be chosen again. Then it is the next team's turn, and the process is repeated.
I do love to play Jeopardy with my students but I won't lie to you...this one takes some time to prepare questions in advance. I actually usually make a jeopardy for each of the main social studies or science units we do and then keep it in my file for the next year. That way, once it's done, you are golden for at least a few years, until the standards change again...ugh! Generally, I make up about 6 categories and have one question for each dollar amount from 100 (easiest) to 500 (hardest) for each category. I also have a tiebreaker question because ties happens more than I ever expect them too. To play, divide the class into teams and the first team member I call on (again, in order so everyone plays) tells me the category and the amount. I teach them to say the phrase, "Ecosystems for 100," or "Colonial Times for 300." We play until the board is cleared or until time runs out.
Hope these games have given you some new ideas to use in your classroom. There are lots of other games though. Which games do you like to play as a review? I would love to hear from you!
If you'd like to read about some of my games for grammar, check them out here:
Here's a fun post about creating random groups, which I think are great for reviewing: