Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fighting the -itis: a look at review games

The time of year from the beginning of April through the last day of school can be major crunch time for Latin teachers, or any foreign language teacher. Final exams must be written and revised, year-end paper work piles up, and phone calls to parents must be made. Many teachers assign final projects, assignments, or tests in those final weeks. Students get tired, irritable (well we all do), and willing to do anything to bump that grade up a few points. Even in my two and a half years teaching, this pattern has been easy to pick up on and easy to become a part of. This year, I wanted to do something different. We spent 3 weeks prior to the last two weeks of school doing Project Based Learning (which I plan to post on after some more experiments) and the last two weeks reviewing. In this post, I plan to lay out some very basic, yet completely customisable review games as well as my rating of each. Some schools have already let out, some (like mine) have one week left, and some have a few weeks left. I hope that, either way, you find some things you can use and I'd love to get some ideas from you as well!

  1. Progressus -- This game was introduced to me by my father, Bob Patrick, although I am not certain if it is his originally. The rules are fairly simple. The goal is to get all students into the "safe zone" which you designate in the classroom. Each student gets asked a question. If the student gets it right, they go into the safe zone where they wait. If they get it wrong, the question is asked of the safe zone. Those students not in the safe zone do not get to collaborate and mus answer on their own. Students in the safe zone are allowed time to collaborate (I give 20 seconds). If they get it right, they are safe. If they get it wrong, they go back to their seats and must earn space in the safe zone again. I have found that many students really enjoy this game. They get exposure to many questions in one class period without a lecture or simply filling out a review sheet. They can see what other students know, learn from them, and are often surprised and just want they do know themselves. The game can go on a whole period (and often does), but if you offer an incentive and let kids know the day before, most of the time they will review and come prepared. I don't like this game for every chapter test, but I do enjoy it for a cumulative review. 
  2. Speed Dating -- I learned this game from this website. I love many of the games and ideas this website has to offer and I encourage you to give it a look! I am able to adapt most of the activities to a spoken method classroom as well. In this game, you have students fill out a time card. One person for each time slot (I do 1 pm- 8 pm). I often require that they never use the same person more than once except in odd circumstances. The teacher calls out a time and students move to that partner. The teacher asks two questions with time to answer between each one (I give two minutes). I like this activity because it gets the kids moving and talking to people they normally would not. Students bounce ideas off each other, ask each other questions, and work together to get the answer. You can simply do this as a review or collect it for a grade. I have found that most students enjoy this game, but those who prefer a passive role in the classroom will complain about moving or working with people they don't like. This game takes the whole period, but you can review a lot of material in that time. 
  3. Mala Malis -- The lovely Rachel Ash made Apples to Apples for Latin and I took the time this year to print out the cards and use it to review vocabulary for my kids. Next year, I plan to let my kids make their own decks as an assignment to review vocabulary from the previous year. The rules are the same for basic Apples to Apples. Each player gets 5-7 red cards (which all have vocabulary on them). One person chooses a green card (with another word on it) and the other players put down cards they think make the best, funniest, most logical, etc connection to the green card. The person who chose the green card, chooses their favourite and a new leader is chosen and a point given. This game give the students an opportunity to make their own connections to vocabulary and imagine new uses for words. It gets them thinking. I like to use this game in stations where students rotate and play many games in one class period. I have yet to find a student who does not enjoy Apples to Apples... in Latin or English.
  4. Jeopardy -- This is often the go to for teachers doing review. Most students recognise the game and can easily follow along. You can do a variety of questions and it includes a "betting" aspect which makes the game more interesting. I rarely use this game. Some students want to play the game just as they do on TV and argue with students who don't answer in question format. Some students argue about how many points one can "bet", etc. For me, there are too many places where students can get upset over minor details. Set-up can take a while too: choosing teams or choosing students to go first, etc. I enjoy being able to put questions into categories, but find it difficult to to make them harder and harder each step without overdoing it or underdoing it.
  5. Volo/Nolo -- This game came from a website that Rachel Ash led me to. I like that this game comes with cards and instructions already to go. The game was easy to play and the students really enjoyed it. For upper level courses, I changed the "volo/nolo" part to a "spero/dico". This way they had to practice indirect statements. I'd love to see other versions of this game that practice sentence construction in a controlled way!
  6. Simple Silly Sentences -- This game is also from this same website. While students also enjoyed this game, many found the directions a bit hard to follow. That being said, it was easy to explain and once they understood it, they really enjoyed it. This game is really easy to modify for upper levels, and since it includes animals, the kids really enjoyed making the sentences and getting the points.
  7. Vocabulary Boggle -- This is a game that I got from Patrick Yaggy. Very similar to the idea of Boggle, this game review vocabulary and, like Mala Malis, gets kids thinking about ways vocabulary words are used and how vocabulary words go together. Students are put into groups and the teacher chooses the vocabulary list. Students are given a set time (I give 5 minutes) to place words into categories (i.g. Dinner cena, vinum, cibum, mensa, triclinium). After this, students compare lists in the group and for each unique word and category, students get points. I find that it challenges students to start thinking about how words play off each other. They want to beat their group mates, so they get creative with their categories. 
This is not, by any means, a complete list. These games are the ones that I used this year and have used most often. I fully recommend that you check out the links listed. They are very cool websites with lots of ideas! I find that these seven games are very easy to play with all levels and every level can get some sort of review out of it.
So, I'd like to ask you for some feedback here (shameless begging really). Did you have a different experience with these games? Are there games not listed here that should be? I am always looking for new ideas and I'd love to feature some of your suggestions too!


  1. I really like the idea of setting up several tables of these and letting students work on different tables round-robin style :) Something to think about for next year's learning stations!

  2. This list is very rich! If your school is still in session, you should seriously print up a few copies and leave them plainly displayed in teacher lounges through the school; a mass e-mail blast might work too. I know I would appreciate this kind of thing landing on my desk no matter what subject I taught!

  3. @Rachel -- I am definitely going to repeat the game stations. We rotated twice during the class, so each kid got to spend time at 3 stations per day (we did it over 3 days). They got roughly 15 minutes of time at each station, which, in most cases, was more than enough time to complete a round or two! Let me know how it goes :)

    @James -- Thank you! I love sharing ideas... Perhaps I should put together of review games and post it somewhere.... My best and you all's best?