50+ Academic Review Games for Learning/Reviewing Any Subject!

Like most teachers, I struggle to make learning and reviewing material as interesting as possible.  Over time, I've scoured the internet as well as the memories of my colleagues to come up with interesting review games.

What I've tried to do here is to consolidate all my researches into a huge, comprehensive list of review games that will work for almost every grade and subject area, so that others following in my footsteps won't have to spend as much time hunting as I have!

To be clear, while some of these games are things I've created or adapted, others are borrowed from other teachers (though only when/if posted in public forums) ... because unlike most other professions, 99% of teachers put the good of the profession ahead of their own intellectual property rights, which I think is pretty awesome.
  1. Traditional games.  The advantage of adapting traditional games to use for review is that you can be pretty sure the kids already know the rules.
    1. Bingo.  Create BINGO cards, filling each square with a different answer (answers can be vocab words, numbers, etc.)  Teacher asks questions; students have to figure out the answer, then check their card to see if the answer is there, then mark it if it is.  First person to get BINGO wins.  TIPS: To save time, put list of answers up on board, give kids empty BINGO cards, and have them randomly assign answers to boxes.  (It's best if you have more answers than you have boxes, as this will further randomize the boards.)  TIP: for each round, track the questions you asked.  Then have the person who shouted BINGO read off their answers so you can check them against your list.  If they have an answer for a question you didn't ask, they have to stand down while the rest of the class continues to play. 
    2. Checkers. Write questions on each box (gold glitter pen works well). Student must correctly answer the question written on the square they want to move to. To "king" themselves, they must also answer a bonus question. MIGHT WORK FOR: math drill, parts of speech drill.
    3. Dominoes.  Great for matching vocab words to their definitions
    4. Hangman.  Ask students a question, then leave blank spaces for every letter in the answer.  Students have to guess the answer before their hangman guy is completed.  To make the game easier/harder, adjust the number of body parts you're going to use (# of guesses you're going to allow) before the guy is considered "hung"
    5. Hopscotch.  Divide students into teams.  Each team works together to answer 10 review questions in writing.  Then each member of team plays hopscotch - BUT, they can't put their foot down on any # they answered incorrectly.  1 point for each member of team who successfully completes a hopscotch round trip; 1 point deducted for each member who fumbles.
    6. Tic-tac-toe.  Write 9 key vocab words (must be related to each other thematically) on 9 index cards.  Kids lay them out in random 3x3 matrix and must create a sentence that uses any three words in a row.  To make this harder, require that they use the words in the order they appear!
  2. Active games.  These games involve throwing, running, catching ... perfect for those days when everyone's feeling drowsy and/or overtested!
    1. Angry Birds.  Ideally, you want an angry bird stuffed animal or ball for this game - but in a pinch you can decorate a tennis ball or beanbag appropriately.  On chalkboard, create grid with different values - 1 point through 10 points, for example.  (I like to fill each square in my 3x3 grid with a different round creature, because the kids find my lack of drawing skills hilarious ... If you're feeling less adventurous, perhaps a dart board design might be easier!)  Each kid throws angry bird stuffie at the grid.  Whatever point value they hit is the points they get for answering the question successfully.  TIP: let the kids stand pretty close to the board, so they are sure to hit something!)
    2. Bluff.  Physically divide class into two groups.  Each team moves to one side of classroom.  Address question to Team A.  Everyone who knows the answer stands.  Someone from Team B calls on any one of the students standing up to answer the question.  If they're correct, Team A gets # of points equal to # of students standing.  BUT, if person on Team A answers wrong, Team B gets all the points!  What makes this fun is the bluffing - each team can rack up their points by having kids who don't know the answer stand, but if their bluff is called by the other team, their team pays the price!
    3. Chaos.  Be warned by the name - this can get loud, fast!  Each team has set of different questions on cards.  At "go" they turn over first card and write the answer on the card (if laminated) or separate piece of paper, then run to front of room where teacher checks it.  If correct, runner gets to roll dice (or some other method of randomly determining points).  Teacher gives team that many points.  Runner returns and they begin working on next question.  Each team answers as many questions as they can in 5 minutes, at the end of which time the teacher counts up all the points and announces a winner.  A little skill + a little luck + a LOT of competitive energy = great review activity!
    4. Flyswatter Game (aka Whack a Word, Slap, Stomp).  Hang vocab words or key concepts on pieces of paper and hang them either on a single wall or chalkboard (to minimize chaos) or around the room (to maximize chaos).  Divide class into two teams.  One person from each team gets flyswatter.  Ask question. First student to "swat" the answer with their flyswatter earns a point for their team.  Then they pass their flyswatters onto next person on their team for another round.
    5. Four Square.  I'm not sure why we call this "four square" at our school, except that it involves using all four corners of the room.  Designate each corner A, B, C, or D.  Call out a multiple choice question.  Students move to the corner that indicates their answer.  If they're right, they get # of points equal to # of students standing in that corner.  But if they're wrong, they subtract # of points equal to # of students standing in that corner.  TIP: there's a tendency for students to go where most of their peers are. To combat this, you may want to give double points if correct answer has less than 50% of class.
    6. Hoops.  Students can choose to answer a question or shoot a basket from the foul line.  If student shoots and scores, team gets 2 points and student doesn't have to answer question.  If student misses, they are given question & if they get it right earn 1 point.  Students who opt for question first get 2 points for right answer; if they get question wrong, they can shoot basketball & try for 1 point.  Not as complicated as it sounds, I promise!
    7. Lineup.  This is a good game for reviewing topics that lend themselves to a particular order.  First, create cards for each member of your set.  At "go", students must line themselves up, from smallest to largest (or whatever order you specify).  First team to successfully sort themselves wins.  I've used this for teaching scientific classification (Kingdom, Phyllum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species) and I know of more than one math teacher who's done this with unsolved equations - the kids have to solve the equations & place themselves in order from smallest to largest answer.  I've always wanted to try it with parts of speech: each team has a kid assigned each part of speech, then I throw a sentence up on the board and they have to sort themselves to match the same order as the sentence. (If someone tries this, let me know how it works!)
    8. Pass the Chicken.  A basic quiz game, but instead of giving each student 1 minute to answer the question, they get only as long as it takes for the class, arranged in a circle, to pass the rubber chicken (or whatever other prop you happen to have lying around) all the way around the circle until it returns to the person who is answering.  5 points if they beat the chicken, 3 points if they answer just a little too late, 0 points if they don't answer. 
    9. Quiz-Quiz-Trade. This Kagan activity requires cards, so am including it here. Idea is to create a set of cards with question on one side, answer on other. At "go," students rotate through room pairing with different partners. They quiz each other, then trade cards, then find new partner.
    10. Toss Across1.  This utilizes a "Toss Across" tic-tac-toe beanbag game that's sold in most toy stores.  Attach a question to each block.  Students take turn throwing beanbags BUT only get to keep the square they've successfully turned over by also answering the question: if they don't answer correctly, the square is returned to "neutral".  Fun!
    11. Toss Across2. In this review activity, students take turns reviewing each other. First, they write down three questions and answers that think might stump their classmates. Then line kids up across from each other. First person on one side tosses ball to first person on other side. Student who catches ball has to answer question. If correct, they get a point. If incorrect, person tossing ball gets a point. Person who caught ball then gets to throw it to next person in line on opposite side of room. TIP: you don't necessarily have to form lines - or, having formed lines, you don't have to start with student 1, then student 2, etc. - but you should have some mechanism in place to make sure everyone gets a turn - otherwise, there's a tendency for friends to keep throwing the ball to each other, excluding others.
    12. Trashball. Divide your class into two groups. Ask first student on team A a question.  1 point for correct answer + they have opportunity to add another point if they successfully throw a wadded piece of paper into the trash can from a designated distance.  Then first person on next team gets a turn.  If you want to add another level, make correct answers worth 2 points and offer students option of shooting trashball from close distance (worth 1 point if successful) or further away (worth 2 points if successful).
    13. Twister.  Each color is a word or concept.  The teacher shouts out a question and then rolls for a body part - students have to place the appropriate hand/foot on the appropriate square.  If you choose the wrong answer (or fall down, of course), you're out of the game.  Last man standing - or twisting? - wins! 
    14. Who Am I?  Pin to the back of each student a name, vocab word, or concept.  Students DO NOT know who they are, but must find out by asking yes/no questions.  Since they can ask only 1 question of each student, they have to keep rotating through the room finding new students to quiz.  Winner is the person who guesses who they are first.  This game is a hoot if you don't mind a little chaos!
  3. Board/boxed games.  These games are adapted from board/box games sold in toy stores.  The disadvantage is that they often require preparation/setup, but the advantage is that they've already been proven to be fun and engaging.
    1. Battleship.  Great for reviewing coordinate planes!  Create your own with positive and negative numbers on each axis (x,y) for a more complex challenge
    2. Candyland.  Create an all-purpose review game by using a Candyland board and marking every 5th space or so with a star (or question mark, or whatever).  Students who land on these spots must successfully answer a review question.  If they do, they get to advance to the next space of the same color. If they don't, they have to move backwards to the last space of the same color.
    3. Connect Four.  Great for compare/contrast activities.  Students have to create row of four chips that all relate to the same concept/person/idea.  (For example, the person who links four math problems that use distributive property win.)
    4. Guess Who. The board includes cartoon images of 24 people with all the images standing up. Tape your own pictures on top of these. The game starts with each player selecting a card containing one of the images. The object of the game is to be the first to determine which card one's opponent has selected by asking each other only yes/no questions in order to eliminate candidates. To make the game easier/harder, restrict the types of yes/no questions that can be asked (example: to make it easier, allow kids to ask questions about physical appearance; to make it harder, require that all questions relate to their accomplishments).
    5. Jenga.  In order to withdraw a block of wood from the tower, the player must first successfully answer the question.  You can write the names (or math problems, or whatever) on the blocks of wood, but if you want to reuse the game for various subjects, assign each block a #, then provide list of #d questions for the kids to refer to.
    6. Mad Libs. A perfect way to review parts of speech and grammar!  I have created one that I use the first day of school to help me quickly assess how much they've remembered from the previous year.
    7. Monopoly.  Admit I've never made my own Monopoly-based review game, but I know they sell version that review all sorts of subjects. I love the idea of using the game as a way to help kids build associations - for instance, red properties might be "Jane Addams Ave", "Hull House Heights", and "Progressive Parkway"; while orange properties might be "Rockefeller Road," "Standard Oil Blvd" and "Monopoly Mile". 
    8. Password/Taboo. In Password, one student has to describe a key vocab word until the other student guesses it.  Taboo takes this idea but makes it harder (therefore requiring kids to engage in higher levels of critical thinking) by forbidding the person doing the describing to use a certain set (usually 5) key words. For example, a student might be required to describe the word "Civil Rights" without using: Jim Crow, Martin Luther King Jr., 1960s, discrimination, or segregation. Each team gets 1 minute, during which time they work their way through as many words as possible - 1 point for each one guessed, -1 point for everytime the person giving the clues accidentally uses a forbidden clue. This one requires some advanced planning - you'll have to create the cards and (for Taboo) decide on the 5 words they can't use - but the kids love it.
    9. Pictionary/Charades.  Create slips of paper containing all your important vocab words or key concepts.  One person has to draw them while everyone else guesses what they're drawing.
    10. Scattergories.  Divide students into teams of 3-4.  Call out a letter of the alphabet.  Then call out a category (example: photosynthesis, the U.S. Constitution, exercise equipment).  Studnets have to come up with a word that belongs to the category and starts with that letter.  The catch: they don't get a point unless they are the ONLY group with the word.  This ups the critical thinking level by requiring them to think beyond the most obvious answers.  
    11. Scrabble.  All words have to relate to whatever is being studied.  Justifying why their word is related prompts students to engage in critical thinking.  To make the game easier/shorter/less intimidating, divide all the tiles between 2-3 teams at the outset, so they have plenty of letters to choose from.
    12. Trivial Pursuit. Another obvious review game format: simple create your own categories and questions.
  4. Card games.   Simple review games based on simple card games.
    1. Concentration/Memory. Write vocab words (or key concepts) on a number of index cards, then write their definitions (or answers) on an equal number of index cards. Turn them all upside-down and lay them out in a matrix. Each turn, students may turn over two cards. If they match, they keep the cards. If they don't match, they turn them back over WITHOUT MOVING THEM. Person with the most matches at the end wins. game show games
    2. Go Fish.  Customize a deck of cards so that each set of similar #s (example: all four "8s") are members specific, distinct category.  (Example: 1s are animals, 2s are plants, 3 are fungi, 4 are protists; or, 1s are real numbers, 2s are improper fractions ...).  Then, play as you would play fish, with students asking for cards by category rather than #.
    3. War.  This works as a great drill/review game for math. Create cards where you have to solve equations to figure out the value of the card.  In War, you split the deck in two (or three) and each player turns up their top card at the same time.  The person who has the card with the highest value gets to keep all the overturned cards.   The winner is the person who collects all the cards. Tip: What makes this game fun is that it moves so quickly, so make sure your equations aren't too difficult. (If cards tie, then players turn over another card - winner gets to keep all the cards ... so if you want the game to move more quickly, make sure multiple equations yield the same answer.) 
  5. Game shows.  Review games based on television quiz/game shows.
    1. It's Academic. Another obvious choice for review games, except students work together as teams to answer the questions
    2. Family Fued.  Organize your class into two teams.  Place them in a specific order: team captain, 2nd person, 3rd person, 4th person, 5th person, etc.  Ask question.  ONLY 1st person on each team is allowed to give final answer, though they're allowed to confer with their team.  First person to get it right gets 5 points. Repeat with 2nd person on each team, then 3rd people on each team, etc.  Though they can consult with rest of team, they're responsible for answer given.  TIP: This works best when teams are relatively small - no more than 5 people per team.  I'm sure, however, there's some way to adapt it to larger groups if you really want to!
    3. Jeopardy.  Tons of customizable ppt version of this review game available on the internet.  If you want to make this a whole-group activity, issue each student a mini-white board.  They write their answer on the board and then, when prompted, everyone holds them up at the same time; everyone with the right answer gets the points.
    4. Who Wants to be a Millionaire?/$64,000 Pyramid.   These game shows adopted slightly different formats but both require contestants (students) to answer questions of increasing difficulty.  Obvious choices for reviewing any subject! 
    5. What's My Line?  Great game for reviewing people - modern day authors, historical personages, scientists, even characters from books.  Each student studies the person they are meant to represent.  Then, students in class are allowed to ask that person yes/no questions.  First person to guess who the student is representing, wins.
  6. Other games.  Teacher-invented games that you'll only find in classrooms.
    1. Baseball (or, Football).  Split your students into two teams.  Draw a baseball diamond on the board (or smartboard).  Have team "at bat" draw cards from pile.  Be sure to rank level of hardness - easiest questions are 1 base, hardest questions are home runs.  Each team gets 3 at bats; then next team gets their turn.  If team fails to answer a question, call "fly ball!" - team that is pitching can end the other team's turn by successfully "catching the fly" (answering the question), but if they miss (fail to answer), the team at bat gets to keep hitting.  Team with most home runs wins.  I like doing this on smartboard and letting each team pick a clipart "avatar" to do their running for them.  One day I had team Octopii taking on team Zombie ... very funny, watching octopii and zombies rounding the bases! TIP: You can easily tweak this and turn it into a football game, if that's how your class rolls.
    2. Bazinga.  I love that this is named after Big Bang Theory, because it gives me a chance to talk about the show!  Idea is simple: divide students into teams and have them play each other.  Each time one team/student gets a review question right, they get to pick a "Bazinga card" - basically, a wild card with instructions sure to arouse celebration or indignation: example - double your points, steal 2 of your opponents' points, miss a turn, get 2 turns, etc.  My favorite wild card: "earn 2 bonus points by shouting 'bazinga!'"
    3. Daily Double. Each team (or individual student) has three cards: TRUE, FALSE, and DAILY DOUBLE. Ask true/false questions. At "go", students hold up their answers. The catch: if they are SURE of their answer, they can also hold up their DAILY DOUBLE card, which means they get double the number of points if they're correct ... but, double the number of points are deducted from their score if they're wrong! Student with most points at end wins. TIP: assign lower point values for easy questions, higher point values for harder questions. 
    4. Doubles. You'll need two dice for this game - preferably an oversided set of nerf dice so it's easy for everyone to see each roll.  Create a set of problems. Assign easiest questions 2 points ... all the way up to hardest questions, worth 12 points. (Be sure you have at least 5-6 questions for each category.) Each teams rolls dice and has opportunity to answer question equivalent to their roll. If they answer correctly, they get all the points. If they don't answer, they get zero points. If they roll doubles and answer correctly, they get twice the number of points!
    5. Hop.  On 20 cards, write various point values (1, 2, 3 ...).  Then insert 5-6 cards that say "Hop!"  Divide class into 2 teams.  Give question to first team.  If they answer correctly, they choose card & are awarded that number of points.  BUT, if they draw "Hop!", all their points "hop" to the other team! 
    6. I Have/Who Has?  Invent a set of questions, as many as you have students.  Then create the same quantity of cards.  Each card should have answer to one of the questions on top, then a different question on the bottom.  Hand out one card to each student.  Designate a student to start the game.  They stand and ask their question.  Then, person who has answer stands up, reads answer, then asks their question and sits down.  Person with answer to that question stands up, reads answer ... and so it goes, until everyone has had a chance to answer and ask a question.  TIP: If students are missing, you (the teacher) will need to play their cards, as the game doesn't work unless the whole set of cards is "in play".
    7. Lightening.  Students can do this individually or in teams. Call out a topic, then have kids brainstorm/write down as many words or concepts as they can related to the topic.  After 1 minute, call "stop!" and have kids count their responses.  Take answer sheet that has the most responses and check it, eliminating responses that aren't correct.  This adds to the suspense because sometimes so many answers are eliminated, 2nd place team (or 3rd place team, or 4th place team) actually ends up winning.  I've used this successfully in English ("name words that start with -un"; name synonyms for "said") and science ("name organs in human body").
    8. Manic Matching.  This game is great for matching vocab words to definitions.  create and cut out multiple sets of words and definitions.  Break class into teams.  At "go", each team opens their bag full of words/definitions and starts trying to match them.  Each time they make a match, they glue the match onto a piece of construction paper using a glue stick.  When they've matched all their words, they call teacher over to check them.  If they've got some wrong, teacher checks ones that are right and students race to fix the sets that are wrong (that's why glue sticks are necessary - they stay tacky for a long time, allowing pieces to be moved). First team to get all right answers wins.  Besides words/definitions, I've also used this as an inference activity: kids had to match first and last half of common aphorism (example: "A stitch in time..." "... saves nine".  TIP: use one font for words, another for definitions, so kids can tell them easily apart.  TIP: To keep kids from making changes the moment you check their answers, do "shake test" first - all pieces must be glued on well enough that they don't shake off when construction paper is lifted off table and shaken a couple of times. Then you have time to walk off and check other teams before they call you back.
    9. Snowball Fight!  Have each student write a question on a piece of paper, then crumple it into a ball.  Separate students into two groups, one on each side of the room.  At "go", students throw "snowballs" at each other!  At "stop", each team has to answer the questions on their side - 1 point for correct answer, 0 points for incorrect answer.  TIP: one of my classes figured out that if they never threw a snowball, all the questions would be theirs and they'd automatically win!  Ever since, I've added a rule that each team must answer 5 questions.  Not only is the game fun, but since students write the questions, adds another layer of review.
    10. Student Created Games.  Why save all the fun for yourself?  Assign kids the task of creating review games.  Then set aside a day or two for them to play each others' games.  TIP: Give them a head-start by discussing different types of games they might design. TIP: Assign each team of game-makers a different skill/concept, so that when kids play each others' games, they will emerge with comprehensive review of range of concepts.
    11. Two Truths and a Lie.  Students write three statements on a card - two of them true, one of them not true.  (Obviously, statements must be related to the subject being reviewed.  For math, you can have students include 2 correct problems and 1 incorrect).  Collect all cards and shuffle them.  Call on kids one at a time, asking them top question on pile.  Have them guess the false.  Then person who created the problem stands up (revealling themselves) and tells them if they're right.  If guesser is right, they get 3 points.  But if question-maker stumps him, HE gets 3 points!  (That's the incentive for creating challenging questions.)  TIP: If you don't want a lot of similar questions, assign each row of seats a different category.
    12. Word Wall 20 Questions.  This is an ideal game for filling those blank minutes at the end of class, but only works if you keep a pretty robust word wall.  Give clues, starting hard and getting progressively easier, and have kids guess which word you are describing.  Alternatively, you can have the kids ask you questions to try to narrow it down, but sometimes this doesn't work as well because the kids' questions tend to be at lower Blooms levels.

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