It’s the end of a unit, and you need to make sure students have grasped the information you covered. You assign a review worksheet for homework, and students file into class the next day to review it.
You ask students for their answers; they give their answers. It’s all very functional, until you look around and see bored faces with a few students falling asleep. “Teacher, we’ve studied this before. We already know this,” you hear a few students say. How can you make review more exciting so that students actually get the practice you want them to have? Here are a few activities that work for any review or homework exercises with very little preparation ahead of time.
Try These 4 Engaging Ways to Review
When reviewing any homework or practice exercise, allow students to work individually on the assignment or give it as homework the night before. Then, split them into two or three groups (three groups is the ideal number for this game, although four groups is possible). Give students time to discuss their answers and instruct them to have only one answer for the entire group.
While the students are checking their answers with each other, draw a grid that is at least 5 rows x 5 columns on the board. Although you could have a slightly larger grid if needed, smaller grids won’t work as well. Inside each box, write the number of a question. If you have more than 25 questions, you can leave some questions as “bonus” questions, or draw a larger grid; if you have less than 25 questions, you can put up 12 “question” boxes where students must answer questions, and 12 “explanation” boxes where students explain why the answer is correct (this set up works great for error correction sentences), and a free space.
Explain to the students that the object is to answer four connected questions in a row, column, or diagonal line. Allow them a few minutes to plan a strategy of which four questions they would like to answer. Start with one group and allow them to choose one question to answer. If they are correct, they get their team’s initials in the space. If they are incorrect, the space remains open for another team to answer. Then, the second team chooses a space. Remind the teams that they should play offensively to fill as many spaces as quickly as possible, but they should also consider choosing questions to “block” their opponents. The first team to connect four spaces wins!
If you have extra questions, these would work well as bonus questions. Have the numbers listed on the board outside of the grid, and tell students that if they choose to answer one of those questions, they can erase an opposing team’s initials from any box. To put their own initials in the box, they must wait for their turn to come again and answer a different bonus question.
Another interactive game to play with students is Tic-Tac-Toe. This game could work well with reviewing homework questions previously done with students, or this could be done by writing review questions the students haven’t seen yet. To set up this game, arrange nine desks in the middle of the room in a 3x3 grid. Draw a 3x3 tic-tac-toe grid on the board as well to help students visualize the set up. Divide students into two teams and have them stand on opposite sides of the classroom (or sit in any extra desks off to the side that you may have).
Explain the strategy of tic-tac-toe to your students, and inform them that since the middle space is the best location, that is where the hardest question will be, the corners will be medium difficulty questions, and the middle-outside locations will be the easiest questions. I find it helpful to number the grid on the board 1-9 so students can choose questions easily.
The first team nominates one student to choose a spot on the board based on which location the team wants and how difficult of a question they would like to answer. Tell the student to stand by the chair that (s)he wants. Walk over to the student and show the question written on the note card, and set a time limit for that student to answer the question. Instruct the class that only that student may answer the question; the teammates cannot help. If the student answers the question correctly, they may sit and remain sitting in that spot. If the student answers the question incorrectly, they return to their team. You can either use the same question again for that chair, or have a new replacement question for someone else to try. (I prefer having replacement questions as it can be too easy if students know the question in advance). The game continues until a team has three members sitting in a winning format.
I usually have enough questions prepared to play at least three rounds as students get very competitive with this game. After we have finished the rounds, I have a paper with all of the questions printed on it. Sometimes we review the questions as a class, and sometimes I just allow the students to take it home and study from it in case they missed any of the questions asked to a different classmate.
Everyone’s favorite classic game can also be used as a review tool. Most obviously it can be used to review vocabulary, but it can also be used to review grammar and other skills as well. For example, you can show questions on a projector individually that might be fill in the blank (e.g. Tom __________ to the store yesterday; and students would look to see if they had went on their bingo sheet). Just be careful if more than one answer could fill in the blank to mark your master bingo list accordingly. Creating bingo sheets is easy by using any of the free online bingo generators, and you could review all kinds of topics: any of the verb tenses, phrasal verbs, gerunds/infinitives, adjective clauses, noun clauses, etc…
Classic Game Shows
Of course, there are also the classic TV game shows that make for great review activities. Turn a PowerPoint into a Jeopardy question board and allow students to write on individual white boards to answer. Or, for less teacher preparation, play Family Feud face-off style by having a bell or a Staples’ “That was easy” button when you ask a question and whoever hits it first gets to answer.
Review is a critical part of language learning, and yet it’s easy for students to tune out.
Creating a little competition will motivate students to pay more attention to the review process and hopefully improve retention. Just remember to save time for extra explanation of some difficult questions if necessary as students can become too focused on the competition and not on the learning.
What kinds of activities do you do to make sure students understand?