Review Games – All Play and No Work?

Is it a waste of time to play review games to prepare for tests?

“I pray thee, spare thyself at times: for it becomes a wise man sometimes to relax the big pressure of his attention to work” (Augustine, Music, ii, 15). St. Thomas Aquinas uses this quote from St. Augustine to respond to the question of “whether there can be a virtue about games?” (IIa-IIae, q. 168, ad. 2) His point is to say that games are fun and important because just as the body needs rest so too does the soul. Quoting Aristotle, St. Thomas writes, “‘in the intercourse of this life there is a kind of rest that is associated with games’: and consequently it is sometimes necessary to make use of such things.”

Challenges of Review Games:

  • Play is to be pursued as an end in itself. Don’t allow winning to be more important than enjoying the game.
  • When a student doesn’t know the answer, other students may be angry with them.
  • The games may hurt a student’s confidence if they are unable to answer a question correctly.

Benefits of Review Games:

  • Games can be a nice break from the seriousness of study.
  • Use them throughout the unit, not just the day before the test! They can be an excellent form of formative assessment.
  • In my experience, students may pick up a few answers to questions they didn’t know, but the actual learning depends greatly on the games you choose.
  • Test out some of the questions you have for the test. If they are struggling, then you may want to rethink the question.

Here are some of my favorite review games (inspired by Linda Tilton’s The Teacher’s Toolbox for Differentiating Instruction)

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