A Teacher's Guide To Playing Games in Class
Classroom Versions of TV Game Shows Are A Novel Way To Review For A Test
"Games?" you ask in horror, "in the classroom?"
"Absolutely," I say with the assurance of one who has played classroom games numerous times with success. When I was teaching English, whether it was in middle school or high school, I learned that when I adapted various popular games for a test review of whatever we had been studying in class, students paid attention on review day and consequently were better prepared for the test. Another benefit was that it added an element of fun and even excitement to test review day for both me and my students.The two games that worked the best were content-oriented, teacher-created versions of the popular TV shows Jeopardy and Do You Want To Be A Millionaire?
How to Create Classroom Jeopardy
- Since a Jeopardy round consists of six categories for both Single and Double Jeopardy, you have to be extremely organized right from the beginning. Begin by making a rough draft of the answer sheet for Single Jeopardy , then do the same for Double Jeopardy . (Remember , the game gives answers for which players are expected to provide the correct questions.) Across the top of a piece of paper, write six categories that apply to the topic you plan to review. For example, if the topic is a novel such as Tom Sawyer, categories could be characters (or people ), settings (or places ), elements of plot , Twain's life , things ( a great catch-all category) , and vocabulary . Down the side of the page, write $200, $400, $600, $800, $1,000. The rough draft for a Single Jeopardy round should look something like this:
- The rough draft for the Double Jeopardy Round should look the same, except with different categories (or more difficult "answers" for the same categories as Single Jeopardy) and doubled dollar amounts. Now comes the challenging part. Fill in each category and dollar value with an answer. (Examples for the people category: "Tom's Aunt"; "Tom's girl friend"; "boy who has an alcoholic father"; etc.) The answers for the Double round should be a bit more difficult than those for the Single round. You should have two rough drafts for both Single and Double Jeopardy, if you hope to fill most of a class period with the review game. Setting up the game with questions can be very time-consuming. Having the students come up with questions as a homework assignment works well and also helps them study for the test.
- When Review Day arrives, write the categories with all dollar values underneath each category on the board. You do not need to write out the answers; it's much easier to read them orally. When an answer has been chosen and a question provided, simply erase that particular dollar value from the category. (Pick a student to keep score. If a correct "question" is given, have him or write the name and dollar amount of the player who provided it.) It's up to you to decide who plays the game. You can simply go around the classroom and give each student a chance ; you can draw lots to see which two or three students get to play each round; or you can do a "boys vs. girls" format. (This works well in middle school.) If you want to add some excitement, guarantee the winner(s) a certain number of points which will be added as bonus points to their actual test scores.
How to Create Classroom Millionaire
- This game is a bit easier to set up. First, decide how many "monetary" categories you want and write them, with spaces next to each for a question, on a piece of paper. (For example, $500,$1,000, $2,000, $5,000, $10,000 on up to $1,000,000, with a total of about ten categories.)
- Come up with questions of increasing difficulty that correspond with each monetary category and four multiple choice answers for each question. The $2,000 question should be more difficult than the $1,000 question, etc.
- Decide who will play. (This game is best played one player- or one team- at a time, so make sure you have several sets of questions, or at least of the lower-value questions. Again, students can help with this as a homework assignment. As soon as a player or team answers a question incorrectly, they are out of the game, and a new player or team starts from the beginning with different questions.
To sweeten the pot and increase student interest, you can tell players that if they get to $32,000,for example, they can choose not to take the test and receive a grade of 80%. (Rest assured-if you have challenging questions, few students make it this far; the ones who do usually would have earned an 80% anyway.) You can even promise a grade of 100% if they make it to the $1,000,000 mark. (I don't think this happened more than once or twice throughout all the years I used the game as a review.)
- Don't forget the three lifelines, which are an important part of Millionaire. The current lifelines have changed on the TV show; I still prefer the old ones: Ask the Audience, Subtract Two Answers, and Phone a Friend. To Ask the Audience , repeat the question to the entire class and have them vote on answers by a show of hands. If the contestant chooses Subtract two Answers , do just that: repeat only two of the four choices (make sure that one of the two is the correct answer). Phone a Friend probably is the most entertaining option. I allowed the contestant either to ask one classmate what he/she thought the answer was or to use the school phone in my room to call another teacher. The results were amusing when a student would call a science or math teacher to answer a question relating to a novel that teacher had never read, or an obscure grammar rule which had been learned many years ago (and had since been forgotten).
The task of creating games to use in the classroom can be daunting, but I definitely found it worth the effort. ( In fact, I used this strategy several times when I did multi-day substitute teaching in various subjects for a few years. I actually learned quite a bit after creating a Human Anatomy Millionaire game.) My students certainly appreciated occasionally changing the tempo of the class, and I appreciated their enthusiasm.