Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jenga as a Review Game

Is it terrible that I saw this online and can't remember where I got it from?  If you know someone who has posted this game, let me know so I can link to them!

This is a new game I tried out this week as my students prefer for Midterms.  Basically, this game is Jenga with content questions that students need to answer each time they place a block.  

Obviously you'll need some Jenga sets.  I purchased six sets with the idea that groups of 3-6 could play (covering up to 36 students).  I shopped around and found out that buying six sets of Jenga was actually somewhat expensive...  But then I found Pavilion Jumbling Towers at Toys R Us.  They're about half the cost of actual Jenga sets, though they don't actually line up correctly.  Even so, they work well enough for what I need (and were even on sale when I happened to get them!).
They don't quite line up....
After you get the Jenga sets, you'll need to mark each piece with a number.  I gave each block a different number (1-48).  I had toyed around with the idea of repeating numbers because I was worried about having to come up with 48 questions.  Once I actually started writing questions, however, it ended up not being a problem (especially for midterm review - there are SO many topics to cover that they each only ended up getting about four questions).  

Number on one side, color coded on the other
I also color coded my sets.  On one side there's the number and on the other it's colored in.  I thought I might need to be able to keep sets separate in case they got mixed up.  This extra step was actually the most time consuming, but I think it'll be helpful in the long run.  

Game Set Up
I'm not going to lie - this takes time to set up.  You'll need 48 different questions... AND the answers.  I typed up all the questions and answers and printed them out (front and back).  This takes 3 sheets of paper per set.

I folded each paper in half and cut along the question side.  This way students could fold up the sheet to see the answers... but only to whichever question they were answering.

I was extremely thankful for having two student aides to help cut these out.  I might even go so far as to use card stock and laminate these before cutting them out next time - I did re-collect them and will store them for next year's midterms just to avoid setting them up again.

I also recommend using different colors if you have multiple class sets - there's a lot of paper (3 pages per set, up to 6 sets per class, and for me 5 different subjects) and it's just an easy way to keep it all organized.

Game Play
Basically students pull a block of their choice and answer the corresponding question.  If, for example, I pull out the block labeled 6, I then must answer question 6.  

Students use their score sheet to keep track of group points.  They get points for removing and placing blocks without knocking over the tower.  They also get points for answering the questions correctly, but lose points if they knock over the tower.  This makes it fun even for students who may not be able to get as many questions right - they can earn points no matter what!

There are actual rules for Jenga (such as only using one hand, not taking blocks from the top three rows, etc) that might need to be explained.  Most groups seemed to have someone who knew how to play and would enforce these rules - for the other groups I would just explain them as needed.

All of my classes, from my 33 students in Latin 1 to my AP German students, played this game this week.  While I like this game as a review activity, there are definitely some things to keep in mind for next time. 

Some students are more interested in playing Jenga and not in reviewing.  Some of them even tried just building random structures.  This was more true for the larger, lower level classes - it only happened in Latin 1 and German 1.  I had given the classes a lot of time to play, but I think to eliminate this problem it should be limited to 15-20 minutes for these classes.  My upper level students, however, played for 50 minutes and were able to balance playing Jenga and answering questions.  

I had a few students - actually, just one - who was unable to play at all.  He for some reason compulsively just knocked over the whole thing when it was his turn.  There were other students who  Somewhat surprising since these are High School students, but oh well.  In the future I think I'll need an alternative activity ready for students who - for whatever reason - can't handle this activity.

Overall it was a lot of fun and gave me a chance to step back and support them as opposed to lead them in an activity.  It still needs some tweaking to get the activity where I want it to be.

If you're interested in any of the materials I used to play these games, they're available for free on my TPT account - just click here.  

- Frau Leonard

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