Games: Do They Work?
Over my many
years of teaching, I have debated the value of review games. My
biology students love them, of course, particularly when the games
reward them with candy or small toys, or bonus points for their
class grade. However, often my students become more embroiled in
the winning or losing of the game rather than in their understanding
of critical concepts. They are willing to debate issues such as
fairness or “cheating” endlessly! I also find that games
often don’t cover complex material very well nor do they connect
the material as successfully as other more traditional methods of
that, there are times that I do use games. When the material primarily
involves vocabulary review or when there are other items that require
memorization, I find that games can work very well. And they do
have the added value of generating excitement and interest in the
students. Competition can be a very good motivator to learn material!
I have detailed below some of my favorite review games and given
you some relevant links.
There is a simple little bingo card creation site that I have used
For your first card, you can type in 25 words and then the program
will create a card. After that, you can shuffle the cards multiple
times. Each time you can print the card until you have enough cards
for a class. I usually do about 30 cards. My students use pennies
as their counters, but you can use little bits of paper, buttons,
or dry lima beans. When you call the words, you give the definitions
INSTEAD of the words that on the cards. For example, if the word
was “carnivore”, you would ask, “What is the name
for a meat-eater?” Then all other traditional bingo rules
apply. I like this game because students really have to pay attention
and think. I let them talk because if they get an answer from someone
else, then at least they are learning!
I have attached
a jeopardy Powerpoint template that I got from the following
Be aware that there is a little mistake in the template on the website
above. I have fixed this mistake with my template. Preparing these
games will take a little preparation but it is worth it! You will
have the games that you make forever and they are easy to modify.
Once you open the template, you should immediately save it as your
game subject. The first slide is the opening game format with the
categories. You can click in each category and type in your own
subject areas. Then you come to the second slide. From this point
forward, the slides are done in pairs. So slide two is the answer
and slide three is the question for the first category worth $100.
For example, slide two might be “carnivore” and slide
three would be “what is a meat-eater?” Slides 4 and
5 are the answer and question for the next box, first category worth
$200. You will be moving from top to bottom and left to right on
the original slide. When you view your Powerpoint, you will click
on one of the categories (for example, the first category for $100),
and then the answer will appear. As with the traditional Jeopardy
Game, the student will have to give the question. You will only
click on the slide again when the correct answer is given and then
the correct answer will be revealed. You will then click on the
little house in the right hand corner and that will take you back
to the first slide with the categories. Of course, you can reverse
questions and answers if you wish! With Jeopardy Games, I like to
divide the class into three groups and then have the competition
be between groups. Sometimes I let the groups consult and other
times we rotate through people within the groups. They are many
possible variants for organizing around this game.
This is a fun and easy game to create. I use a “low-tech”
method. I create a 3 x 3 table in Microsoft Word. Then I type (using
a large font) different vocabulary words or concepts in the 9 boxes.
I make an overhead transparency from my work and some construction
paper “X’s” and “O’s”. I cut
out 9 little squares of paper to cover each of the boxes and then
I let the students take turns choosing which box they want to answer.
They must get a correct answer to get an “X” or an “O”.
I divide the class into two groups and then the students within
each group take turns with the answers. If the students get an answer
wrong, then I cover the words with the paper square and the other
group gets a chance. This is a fun, quick and effective game.
Trash Ball is a popular game in our high school. I think most of
our departments use it. Divide your class into two groups. Then
you start asking your review questions. Within each group the students
are numbered so you might have students 1-12 in each group. So your
first question goes to student 1 in group A. If the student gets
the answer correct, the team gets one point. Then the student gets
to throw a huge paper ball (made of paper wadded up into a spherical
shape) into a trash can. If the student chooses to throw from across
the room and makes it, the team gets 3 points; if the student chooses
to throw from 6 feet and makes it the team gets 1 point. So a correct
answer has the potential of earning 2-4 points total. Then the next
team gets their chance, with student 1B. After that you return to
team A, student 2, and so on. Kids love this game because it combines
learning academic concepts with athletic prowess!!
Bounce Back is a game that my student teacher, Russ Deets, and I
created one day in desperation, when we decided that our students
needed something new and exciting to do. Here is how it works: We
divided the class into two groups. The students organized their
groups so that each student had a number. Then we asked a question
of the first student in group A. That student could answer for 5
points or he/she could bounce the question back to student 1 in
group B. The student in Group B (student 1) would either answer
for 5 points or bounce it back to student 1 in group A. If student
1 got it right they would get 10 points.
Then the challenge
went to the 2nd student in each group – but group B got to
start the next time. The kids love the game because they get to
take chances, trying to earn more points by “bouncing”
the questions back.
This is a great game that is also played by many departments in
my school. Again the class is divided into two groups. The teacher
takes turns giving each group a question. When the teacher gives
a question to group A, all the students who think they know the
answer stand up. Then, the students in group B get to decide which
of the students in group A should answer the question. If the selected
student can answer the question, that group gets as many points
as the number of people who stood up, but if the student cannot
answer the question, then group B gets to answer (any student in
that group can answer) and group B will get the same number of points.
The fun part of this game is that student try and bluff the other
team into thinking that they know the answer so they can push their
points up! The teacher then alternates the teams who get to answer
the question first.
let me know if any of these games are useful to you or if you
have your own favorites that help students learn more successfully.