Do Review Games Improve Student Achievement?

Last week, Dawn from Algebra Simplified wrote that review games rarely get prime time in her class anymore because they aren’t leading to her desired assessments results (read her post here). This struck a chord with me because I have often wondered if games could lead to student achievement. In fact, for several years of teaching, I rarely used games. I felt that games would mislead students into thinking that we only ‘played’ in class. Besides, with the Common Core’s emphasis on rigor, games didn’t seem to fit with the new curriculum.

However, after too many classes where students sat passively and unresponsive to class assignments, I decided to try using games again on a biweekly basis. The most popular game with them was Trashketball, which I used to engage them in their grammar lessons. Besides being fun, Trashketball games incorporated cooperative learning, active learning, and provided an opportunity for all of my students to be successful.

Clip art from Image Boutique

Clip art from Image Boutique

But, the question still remained: Do games lead to improved test scores? This school year, I decided to answer this question when developing my Student Learning Objective. As part of my annual evaluation, I am required to show student growth on two objectives. For one objective, I stated that students would improve their ability to identify verbal phrases including gerunds, infinitives, and participles. At the beginning of a three week unit I gave my students a 30 item diagnostic assessment, and they scored even worse than I expected; the class average was 12%! My goal was to have 85% of my students score a 70% or higher on the post assessment or improve by 25%. In a class of 16 students, that meant that if just two students didn’t meet the goal, I could be considered “ineffective.”

Each week I introduced a new verbal phrase concept through a lecture and power point. I followed this with short guided practice and then independent practice. Finally, after I had provided instruction for all three verbal phrases, I reviewed the concepts again with my best-selling Trashketball game before the post-assessment. Although students worked in groups, I held them all accountable by requiring each student to write his/her own answers. And it worked! On the post-assessment, the students in the class increased their scores by 65%, and the average score was 77%!

No doubt, games don’t always lead to student learning, but if used in conjunction with other lessons and activities, I have found that they can be a fun way to help my students achieve success. In fact, my Trashketball games are popular with both students and teachers, so I’ve created many to review a number of grammar concepts. If you think you would be interested in learning more about these games, just click on the image below!


OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKim, the OCBeach Teacher,  is a National Board Certified English teacher who is currently teaching American Literature and AP English Literature and Composition.  She shares classroom ideas and tips on her OCBeachTeacher Facebook Page.
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