Infusing Play Reflection–Week 9

For my Journal this week, I’m sharing a collection of reviewed games, requiring little to no prep that should work in many different types of classrooms. I’m reminded of the importance of play in everyday life. Whether or not we’re successful in gamifying our classrooms, we can at least add in fun!


Prep: I have students write vocab words from particular units/lessons down on small pieces of paper and toss them in a (clean) hat I reserve for the purpose. Divide the class in two down the middle. I always called one half Group 1 and the other half Group A, so they would be equal. Sometimes I would give them 1 minute to come up with a name for themselves–sometimes the group name had to be a vocab word, if it fit, for example a color or an adjective in Spanish.

Each group has a speaker and a drawer. The speakers have a maraca or sound maker–you could have them raise their hands when they know the answers, but no shouting out and only the speaker can give the answer to the judge (which is usually me, but you can have a student fulfill the judge /scorekeeper role). The drawer comes to the board, draws a piece of paper with the vocab word from the hat, shares it with the other drawer. They might discuss for a few seconds if it’s a tricky word, or the first time you play. Sometimes I would offer an idea on how to draw if a student was stuck.

On your mark, get set, go! Drawers begin drawing. You may put a 30 second time limit on this part if you’d like. As soon as a team has the answer the speaker may shake the maraca/raise the hand. Once the judge/teacher calls on them they can answer. If correct the answering team gets one point. If incorrect the other team may attempt an answer. You can go back and forth until the answer is arrived upon or you’re ready for another round.

Team speakers pass the maraca to the next student and a new drawer for each group comes to the front of the class. I would typically give some item to the drawers so that they can pass a physical item off to keep track of whose turn it is.

I would typically play for 15 minutes or to 10 points. Sometimes in a challenge round I would pick something really hard to guess.

5-3-1 Chain Attack

This game is from Alexis Jackson, a high school math teacher. It does take a bit of prep. Make up a list of 10-20 problems for each group in your class–aim for groups of 4. You’ll need to cut the “chain” of problems–See the following document ch4-review-5-3-1-chain-attack. The problems are not cut apart completely, just on the blue lines.  The problems are ripped off one at a time as students go through them.    There is no reason that all the groups need to have different problems, but you could differentiate here.

Each group gets a problem from their chain and they work to solve it quickly with their group. When they are done the spokesperson brings the work to the teacher to check. If the problem is correct the group is awarded 5 points and gets the next problem in their “chain”, if they’re wrong they have to go back and try again. If they’re correct on the second attempt the group gets 3 points, if not back for one last try. They can gain one point if they complete the problem on the third try. If not they move on to the next problem in the chain with no points.

Make the students take turns being the spokesperson. After the problem is checked the spokesperson also adds to their score on the board.  So, the teacher sits in one corner to check answers and the students do the rest!

Royal Corners

This game is also from Alexis Jackson. This works best if your class is set up in desks in a grid. The front left- or right-most desk is designated “Royalty”.

You’ll need a list of review problems.  Post one problem on the board, overhead, or whatever you use, that each student in the class completes (on their own). You, the instructor, tell them whether it’s a horizontal problem or a vertical problem–you could choose this ahead of time, or strategically choose when to offer a horizontal or vertical problem.  When all students have finished, correct the answer as a class.  All students who complete the problem correctly raise their hand.  In the case of a horizontal problem, have the students look left and right. Students with hands raised move in the direction closer to royalty, while students with no hand up move away from royalty.  If all hands in a row are raised, there is no movement.  The same would happen if no hands are raised.  If 2 students raise their hand for correctness, the one that is closer to royalty will stay closer to royalty than the other. The only way to “jump” over another is the get the problem right while they get it wrong.

(The king or queen can get a problem wrong and stay in their position as long as no one else in the row gets it right.)

This continues for whatever amount of time you allot.


Attack works as a review game with whatever questions you’d like. Here’s a free PDF download, directions for the game.


Similar to Attack (Wilkins, K. 2013). The blog that has Grudgeball has a lot of other resources for middle school social studies.

Snowball (or paper airplane) Review

Have each student write a review question on a piece of paper. Divide class in half. Have students either crumple up the paper (snowball) or make it into a paper airplane and toss it across the room to the other side. Each student retrieves a paper and must answer the review question on the paper in turn. Points for correct answers. You can give the other team a turn to answer if the first team answers incorrectly.


Divide the class into two teams. Give a student on Team B a stuffed animal or soft ball. Give a vocabulary word or a question to Team A. Everyone that knows the answer on team A or bluffs that they know the answer stands up. Count the number of students standing and write it on the board as the score for Team A. The student with the stuffed animal/ball throws it to someone standing. If that student knows the answer then that team earns the number of points that written on the board as a score. If that student was bluffing and doesn’t get the answer correct, subtract all the points from the score. Then pitch a word or question to Team B and start the process again. (Evans, 2007)

The No Name Review Game

(I’m sure it had a name at one point…) Divide students in groups as for ATTACK. Groups of 4 or 5 work well. Have them get out a piece of paper and a pencil. Ask a review questions. One student  writes the answer on the paper–with input from the group.  As the writer finishes he/she raises the paper in the air. That is the teachers signal to check the paper. If the answer is right I have the student put a point in a small points area on the same sheet. If you’re doing an question with calculations you may have to use a separate sheet for tallying the score. For the next question the paper is passed to the left and a new writer answers the next question. Students never cared if there was a tie, I just awarded points to each team.

Other resources

This page has a great list of review games that are pretty well explained.

This week’s comments:

Hi Theresa,
I think using games is a great place to start. Even if one doesn’t end up gamifying one’s class, I’ve found using games a great motivator. For my reflection this week I posted a bunch of games I’ve used and some from my friend Alexis, who uses games extensively in her high school algebra class.

I love finding ideas on Pinterest, too.

Hi Gerald,
Maybe games are the place to start rather than gamification. If you had some success there you might want to investigate other options. I checked with my friend who uses games in her high school algebra class and she had a couple of suggestions which I posted on my reflection this week. There are two games for math there. I’d love to hear if you give them a try. I also like Pinterest and YouTube for game ideas–it doesn’t even feel like research :-). Sometimes it’s easier to see how a game works than to read about it.

Hi Kate,
It sounds like you are consciously engaging your students. I’m going to research some of the games you mentioned for the STEM Halloween activities for some challenges on my upcoming gamified walks with my kids. You mention how hard it was to let go and let the students “goof off” when they were coding. I can relate. I consciously remind myself that students don’t have to take my preconceived path to a learning outcome.


Evans, R. 2007 24, May. Comment on Quick and Easy Review Games. A to Z Teacher Stuff. Retrieved 2016 5 November from:

Wilkins, K. 2013 20 February. Grudgeball review game where kids attack. To Engage Them All. Retrieved 2016 5 November from


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