I’m no Alex Trebek, but I run a pretty mean Jeopardy game in my classroom. It’s one of our favorite activities to review material before a quiz or test. While a few students turn their noses up at the fun, most students jump right in. In fact, some days it gets so loud in my room they can hear us down the hall. It was even louder before last year, when one of my colleagues used some grant money to buy a set of buzzers, which she generously shares with me. Until then, teams had been using bells and other noisemakers to “buzz” in.
I discovered the magic of playing games for review during my first year of teaching, desperate to keep students engaged in the content. The format has changed over the past several years–I’ve gone high tech. The first year, I used a laminated game board and an overhead projector to keep track of questions that I read from a typed sheet. Now I use the Flash Jeopardy game from superteachertools.com, which works like a charm and even includes sound effects. With the addition of buzzers and a printout of the answer key this year, I can turn the activity over to a student volunteer to run the game on my SmartBoard. I may give a hint now and then for a difficult question, but it’s mostly a student-run activity. The bottom line is that they remember the material much more readily after playing the review game.
My second favorite game template from the same web site is “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” It works pretty much like the TV game show, but since there are only 15 questions, I use it mostly for quiz review over small chunks of material. It’s also easily run by students, and because it’s short, they can play the game the day before a quiz, and again just before the quiz if there’s time.
Then there’s Bingo, which works really well for vocabulary dependent material. I’ve got a version for use with the Periodic Table of Elements, called “Element Bingo,” but it also works well in my physiology course, which is rich in medical terminology. This one is low-tech, with paper grids the students place terms in themselves and dried kidney beans (from science labs) as markers. I create clue slips with answers on them, so that students often run this one, too.
When I first began playing games in my classroom, I enticed students to engage by awarding extra credit points to winners, but I’ve since discontinued those rewards. It started to feel as though I were bribing students to participate. Now I keep Starburst or Hershey miniatures in my desk and pass one out after the game, because “everyone’s been a good sport.” I have mixed feelings about providing rewards (my philosophy is that learning is its own reward, after all), but a small treat adds to the celebratory atmosphere after mastering a block of material.
I’m always on the lookout for new strategies and games to help us review material and would love to hear suggestions from others. In the meantime, we’ll keep our buzzers handy.