There are times in the school year when teachers really need a few go-to activities that are high engagement but also integrate whatever the class is studying. Some exacmples of those times are:

  • the day before a big break
  • the day after the semester exam
  • the end of the year

Teachers can’t really start something new, but there is too much time to not do something.

Those times are perfect for interactive games!

Some games require a lot of prep or purchasing manufactured games, but for those last minute days I recommend having a few games that are really simple and can be prepped early in the year to be used over and over.

Or even better, they don’t really need any prep. I advise teachers to pick a few games they enjoy using and train students on how to play them during the first month of school.

If students are already familiar with the games, teachers won’t need to spend time explaining the rules or expected behaviors – and prevents students from getting off task before they even begin playing.

These are five of my favorite easy to use classroom games. For my games, I gather review questions for whatever we are studying in one of these ways: have students write the questions (with answers), use quiz/test questions, write my own questions, or use task card sets.

If you would like to purchase prepared question sets, I have many language arts games for standards in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade, as well as a Civics Game Show.

1. Bell Review

Supplies Needed:

  • 3 – 5 “Ring for Service” bells
  • Review Questions
  • A way to track points (pen & paper, dry erase, chalkboard – whatever works)

How to Play:
I honestly don’t know what the name of this is, but is basically just a simple “game show” with bells. I would count off my class into 3 – 4 teams, depending on how many students I had, and we would hold a review game. During game play, the front person on each team goes to the back after each question. I might pull a few harder questions out as bonus or final questions worth more points.

Each team lines up in “batting order” behind their bell, and the teacher asks questions. The first person to ring the bell gets to answer. If he or she answers correctly, the team gets one point. If the answer is incorrect, another team can “steal” the question and get the point. (Think Jeopardy.) We just kept rotating through teammates and answering questions.

Tip: When you have even teams, the same students always end up together on questions. This can be discouraging if there is a smarty who always answers the questions. Teachers may want to have uneven teams or mix up the line ups every so often.

Keep students learning at the end of the year but playing games! Read about five fun but low prep games that teachers could use in upper elementary, middle school, or even high school grades.

2. Jenga

Supplies Needed:

  • Jenga Games
  • Review Questions
  • A way to track points (pen & paper, dry erase, chalkboard – whatever works)
Students seem to love Jenga – and one nice thing about this game is that it is portable. If it’s a nice day and the school has outdoor tables, teachers could easily take the class outside! Giant Jenga is another way to mix up the game (although it does take a lot of storage space.)
How to Play
I color the ends of my Jenga blocks with 6 different colors. (Just divide the blocks into 6 piles and use markers.) I divide my review questions into those same color categories. For example, I either randomly divide the review questions into colors or divide them by topic, then assign each one a color.
To move a block, a student has to correctly answer a question in the same color category. However, all students need to answer the selected question, then students check their answers with each other. If the student is correct, he or she gets to move a block and gets a point for the question. The student who collects the most points wins. (I switched to points because my son pointed out that he simply would miss questions, because if he never had to move a block he wouldn’t knock the tower over and lose.)
Tip: I recommend having at least 10 questions per color. I try to keep game play to 3 – 4 players.
If you would like to purchase questions that are ready to use for Jenga, I have language arts Jenga games for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade standards.

3. “Baseball”

Supplies:
A Large Room or Field
Review Questionsza
A Scoreboard
Microphone/Megaphone (if you are not very loud)
How to Play:
I play “baseball” when I have kids that need to get out and move. I don’t actually use a ball, but we play by moving around the bases. It just allows the kids get the wiggles out while they review. Decide where the bases will be (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and a home plate). Each team needs to have a line up, in order to make sure all students participate. Ask each batter a review question. If they answer correctly, they go to 1st base (and anyone on base moves to the next base.) If someone gets “batted” home, the team scores a run.
If the batter misses the question, the other team gets a chance to “catch” it. The person at the front of the opposing line up gets one chance to answer the question. If he or she answers correctly, the ball is caught and counts as an out. Three outs and the teams switch sides.
Tip: Teachers can also make a rule that teams switch once the entire batting line up has been asked a question. That prevents one team from dominating the game.
Keep students learning at the end of the year but playing games! Read about five fun but low prep games that teachers could use in upper elementary, middle school, or even high school grades.

4. Yahtzy Games

Supplies:
Yahtzy Games
Pencils
Surface to roll the dice
If playing outdoors, I recommend having one of the following for each team:
Hula Hoop
Small Plastic Garbage Can as a shaker
Clipboard (for each students)
How to Play:
I love, love, love Yahtzy. It is a really simple game to learn, but it forces kids to practice adding, multiplying, and probability. In addition to the manufactured game available in stores, I created Yahtzy games for other math skills (Order of Operations, Fractions, Decimals, and Exponents), as well as a Grammar Yahtzy. If you’d like to test a Yahtzy game, Place Value is available as a free download.
Teachers can buy large wooden dice or large foam dice to play the regular Yahtzy game outside, or simply use the regular game. For my games, teachers will need to prep the Yahtzy dice. I printed them on card stock and taped them around foam dice from a dollar store. The foam die adds weight to the dice so they don’t blow away – and helps prevent them from getting crushed. Teachers can also put a layer of packing tape on the dice to seal them.
To play, students simply need a score sheet, pencil, and a group of 2-4 players.
Tip: If playing outside, have students use a hula hoop to define the game play area. Any die landing outside of the hoop needs to be rolled again. (This prevents students from getting wild with their rolls.)  I also purchased cheap little garbage cans so it was easier for students to shake the large dice.

5. Minute to Win It

Supplies:
Varies according to the challenges
How to Play:
When you want to have a class reward or simply need a day of fun, Minute to Win really rocks! We used to challenge another class to a Minute to Win It hour – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same grade level. Minute to Win It really levels the playing field, and older kids are not necessarily better at the events!
For my classroom, I researched the Minute to Win It challenges and selected about 10 that worked well in a school setting (and didn’t need a lot of supplies.) I purchased the supplies needed for those activities and kept them in a plastic tote, along with a print out of the directions for each challenge. Having them ready made it easy to quickly plan a challenge with a teacher buddy or pull them out for a rainy day recess.
Tip: Here are a three great blog posts on Minute to Win It Games.
What are your favorite classroom game to play throughout the school year?