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Teach High School Science

Review Games: Do They Work?
Judy Jones

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 reviewing.

Having said 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 many times.
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 website (http://graves.k12.ky.us/tech/jeopardy_instructions.htm). 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.

Please 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.


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