Stress-busting Exam Revision Game

Exam season is in full swing, so you are probably seeing a lot of zombified students in your lessons. They usually come in two flavours -- dead-eyed nihilists, and panicky zealots who want copies of every past paper that's ever happened and for you to mark their unsolicited work.

Is your classroom full of these?
If you're still making meaningful progress with these kids, then by all means, keep doing what you're doing. I salute you. 

If, however, you are at that point where there are still one or two lessons left before the exam and there is literally no more that you can stuff into their heads -- not that they're in any condition to learn anyway at this point -- then BOY do I have the lesson for you. 

It'll blow the cobwebs out of the heads of your nihilist zombies and satisfy the obsessive revision urges of your zealots. You'll all laugh, bond and do some intense revision. Sound good? Cool. Presenting -- the Best Revision Game I have Ever Found.

I actually learned this game at a party for regular, non-teaching adults, and I was instantly blown away by HOW FUN IT IS and also HOW GOOD IT WOULD BE FOR REVISION. You may have even played it at one of your regular, non-teaching adult human parties.

Here's how it works. The game is played in three rounds. All you need is a bunch of scrap paper, something to keep score on, a timer, a hat or empty quality street container, and a class full of exam zombies. The game neatly expands and contracts to fill a single lesson. If it sounds complicated, don't worry. The kids will catch on fast. Much faster than you expect. Just make sure they know what the rounds are going to be in advance so they know that they have to PAY ATTENTION even if they aren't guessing.

1. Divide your zombies into two groups. The child that absolutely can't bear to stand up in front of the whole class and be a little silly can keep score. 

2. Distribute a piece of scrap paper to each zombie. Get them to rip it into three pieces (for a class of about 25 kids this is pretty manageable. For bigger classes, two is fine). On each scrap of paper, get them to write a word/character/concept/bit of vocabulary/exam technique/whatever they're trying to learn. So, for example, 'Photosynthesis', 'Jump cut' or 'Inspector Goole'.* You should contribute your own, because you have to play, too. Trust me, it's more fun this way. There will be repeats. This is fine. It makes the game funnier.

3. It follows the basic pattern of Charades, Pictionary or any other big party guessing game. Slips of paper get folded up and put in the hat. You alternate, with one team guessing at a time.

4. ROUND 1: Taboo/Catchphrase. One student from team A gets up and has one minute (adjust as necessary) to get the rest of her team to guess as many slips as possible. Only the team of the spotlighted student can guess. The student can describe what's on the slip, but can't use any of the words on it. If they accidentally break the rule, the slip goes back in the hat and they draw a new one. At any point, she can give up on a slip, and put it back into the hat and draw another one. If they're getting bogged down, encourage them to move on. Slips that are successfully guessed are kept by the team that got it. When your timer runs out, the first kid from team B gets up and gets his minute. Alternate until all of the slips have been guessed. 

5. Scorekeeping: Tot up the number of slips each team has, and then put them all back in the hat. Hopefully everyone was paying close attention during the first (easy) round because...

6. ROUND 2: Charades. This is exactly the same as before except now students are not allowed to speak. They must act out whatever is on each slip. Just like before, they can give up and pick a different slip. You must let them do this, because otherwise you and twenty four students will end up watching as Dillon tearfully and desperately mimes the word 'ketosis' for a full minute. Letting Dillon put 'Ketosis' back means that when Ella draws it a few turns later, he'll be able to put her out of her misery and guess it. When all of the slips have been guessed, do your scorekeeping, restore the slips to the hat and then move on to round 3. 

7. ROUND 3: One word. Now students are allowed to say a single word to get their team to guess the slip. This is not as impossible as it sounds, because by now something amazing has happened. Your students have memorised the contents of 75 slips of paper.

8. Add up the final scores, wipe the tears of joy and hilarity from your eyes, and go on your merry way. 

As your students play the game, two wonderful things will happen: 
  • Your students will freely invent very sticky mnemonics for difficult and abstract concepts. They will work together to invent coded language, inside jokes and specific gestures to remind themselves of each bit of vocabulary or idea. These mnemonics will be a billion times more effective than the ones you teach them.
  • They will laugh. You will also laugh, because, my friend, you have not lived until you've seen a a giant year 11 boy acting out out the word 'onomatopoeia'. A little of the greyness will fade from their faces. They will bond with their classmates, which is lovely because they've spent a year together and they're about to go their separate ways. 
I've played this game with five or six different exam groups, and it's really worked for me. You can play a less exam-focused version with younger kids on the last day or something, where they can just write something they remember from the year on their slips instead. This can be really adorable too. I did it with some year 10s and it kind of backfired because half the slips were about my cats**, which I may have mentioned to them at one point or another. 

If you try this, I would love to hear how you get on. Tweet @smartrubric or leave a comment.

I'm a big fan of games in the classroom, and I have a lot more. I'm happy to write about them if you are interested! 


*If your students are a bit helpless, you can do this for them, but if you write your own slips you must distribute a couple to each student and give them two minutes to memorise them. Trust me.
**In case you are making assumptions about me, I can assure you I have a socially acceptable number of them - two. 

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