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Instructional Practice

Review Games – The Academic Olympics

Are you finding it hard to get your students to review material from the first half of the year? Whether you are prepping for mid-terms, common assessments, or state tests- reviewing material can be challenging. What do the students remember? What have they completely forgotten, and what do they just need a refresher on? How do you keep your high performing kids amused during a recap of material they have already heard? The Academic Olympics is an effective and fun way for you to review and prepare your students for important assessments.

Each year before state tests, I would hold the iLEAP Olympics. I taught in Louisiana, and our state test is called the iLEAP. Feel free to insert whatever test you are prepping for; the STARR Olympics will work just as well. The general premise of this review was students would break into teams named after Olympic participating countries and complete short review quizzes to earn medals (a gold for a 90-100%, a silver for 80-90%, and bronze for 70-80%). Each quiz or “event” was named after a skill we had learned that year, and all questions on that day’s event quiz related to that topic. For example, the first day of competition might be the GCF event, and the second day would be the Ratio event. For a teacher who loves to track, this is a dream come true. It easily allowed me to see what skill students still had mastered and what I needed to review or reteach. It also motivated all students to stay engaged during review lessons and to help others on their team. A team of 4 could potentially earn 4 medals per quiz, so high performing students in the class always wanted to help out peers on their team in order to help them “medal” on the quiz. Below are some quick tips that helped me make this fun and successful in my classroom. I do caution you to make this an organized system that will work for you. Competitions like this are really fun, but do take a great deal of organization from the teacher on the front end. Plan it out so that students are invested and it is a system you can keep up with.

  1. Break students into teams by ability level- do not let them pick their own teams! If all 4 of your highest performing students are on the same team, then it will quickly leave the other teams feeling like they have no chance and they could lose motivation to participate in the completion. Make teams as evenly matched as possible so that the competition stays lively throughout the entire review period.
  2. Keep teams to approximately 4 students, and let them pick their own country. You will be surprised how excited students get about picking their team’s country. I would also print out pictures of country flags and let each team make a sign with their country name, flag, and team members’ names on it to help start team pride. This also comes in handy when posting the standings.
  3. Print out a list of countries that participate in the Olympics. You would be surprised how many groups of students want to pick London or Paris as their country…
  4. Use foil star stickers to keep track of medals. (You know the old-school packs of star stickers that come with gold, silver, red, green, and blue lines of stars. If you can’t find them in stores, you can order them on Amazon for super cheap). When you hand back each quiz, give students the corresponding color foil star sticker to their score. They can post all stickers on a tracking sheet for their country or on the sign they made when they picked their countries to keep track of how many medals each country team has earned. Downside of foil stars- there is no bronze star; we had to use blue to represent bronze. Upside of foil starts- they are super cheap, easy, and all students love getting stickers- even if they say they are too cool and don’t care- they do. J
  5. Students take quizzes independently. The beauty of this review challenge is that although they are technically on teams or countries, they do not really have to work together throughout class. However, I always found that teams wanted to work together during group practice before the quiz in order to help out their teammates. If you are unable to make the number of students on each country team even, assign a point value to the medals, and then find an average number of points to determine the winner. Students working independently during the quiz will allow you to get unbiased data on how much they remember about each skill.
  6. Make multiple choice quizzes. Trust me, you will regret it if you have to grade short response answers every day. Students get really excited about this review competition and will want their quizzes back the very next day. Make it easy on yourself by designing multiple choices quizzes that are either 5 or 10 questions. This will allow you to easily calculate percentages and assign medals to quiz scores.
  7. Post standings every week or every few days in the hallway. Other classes will start to ask about this fun Olympic competition going on in your room, and students love to see who is in the lead. I usually made a bulletin board for the hall that said “iLEAP Olympics” and listed Gold, Silver, and Bronze underneath it. Every few days I would count up the medals and move around the signs students made to reflect who was in the lead.
  8. Have student helpers! No, you do not need to do this all alone! Have a student who helps you grade, or have students trade and grade in class. Another student job can be to hand out all the medal stickers or to count the number of medals and change the standings every other day. Make this easy, not hard on yourself!

Make this your own and have fun! I have seen variations of this competition done successful in so many different classrooms. As long as you are organized and excited about it, your students will be excited about it. I have done this with both 6th and 7th grade students, and they always LOVED it. Even if you teach high school, trust me, everyone loves a good competition and stickers. J

Do you have other fun review game ideas? Post them below; at TE we love new ideas!


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