I’m always on the lookout for fun review games to play with my students. When I first started teaching, I had a group of students who were very into sports and games. They would ask me almost daily if they could play games. I was happy to play more games with them as long as the games were effective at reinforcing what students had learned.
My philosophy on games has always been focus on engagement over entertainment. The measure of success of a given review game is based on how much each student is engaged, not how much each student is entertained. There is a huge difference.
While searching for new games this week, I came across a game called the Password Review Game. It doesn’t take long to explain and it is very easy to set up. In many ways this game is similar to the Pictionary review game or Guesstures review game I’ve written about in the past. Password is based on an old television show of the same name that first aired during the 1960’s where a person was given clues about a word on a card to get points.
The Password classroom game is engaging because students must come up with creative clues to get the players to guess the word. Everyone in the class listens to the clue too and is able to judge its value. For these reasons, it is not just the players in the front of the room that gain the most from playing the game. The entire class is potentially involved throughout the game. For a teacher and catechist, it is a great way to check for understanding of words based on the clues students give and the guesses players offer in response.
How to Play the Password Classroom Game
1. Select two students at random from your class. Have them stand in the front of the room facing the class with their backs to the whiteboard/chalkboard.
2. Write a vocabulary word on the board.
3. Select a student to go first. He/she must select one of their classmates to give a clue about the word on the board. Once the contestant hears the clue, he/she must guess what word is on the board. If the answer is correct, that student stays standing in the front and the person who gave the clue comes to the front to replace the competing student. If the answer is incorrect, the next student has the opportunity to call on someone to give a clue and guess the answer.
Password Game Rules
- Clues must focus on the meaning of the word. They cannot give hints based on words that rhyme or give any hints as to what letters are in the word.
- Clues cannot give away any part of the word, especially compound words.
- Players must call on a variety of students. They must not call on their friends over and over again.
Variations of the Password Review Game
Once you get the basics down, try using some of these alternative approaches to the password game to mix it up with your students.
The Class Stands Until Called Upon
Occasionally, a few players will only call on their friends. You can try to enforce a rule about this, but it can be sometimes hard to track. One way to make sure all of the students are getting a change to participate is have them stand up. Once they are called on to give a clue, they must sit down. When all of the class has been called on to give a clue, then you may decide to end the round and call up two new students to play.
Divide the class into two teams. Select players from each team to come up to the board. The players call on students from their team to give them clues. If they guess correctly, then their team earns a point. If they guess incorrectly, the opposing player gets a turn and an opportunity to score points for her or his team.
Instead of alternating between players, you may instead establish a time limit for each player to guess the word. They would be given a time limit like one minute to call on as many students as possible to give clues until they are able to guess the answer.
To try to cover a wider range of words and concepts, you might want to establish a clue limit. Players will only be able to call on a set number of classmates to give them clues. Once they use up all of their clues, they must guess the word or lose their spot in the front.
Use Cards or Slides
Rather than writing the words on the board, you may decide to write them on cards that you can use and save for other classes, later class sessions, or the next year. Or if you use an interactive whiteboard or LCD projector in your room, create slides with the words on them ahead of time to display for the class to see.
Select New Words to Assess Prior Knowledge
Password is a great review game because it allows you to check how well students understand words and concepts based on the clues they offer as well as the guesses by the players. It is also a good way to see how much students know about words and concepts you are about to teach in class. You might also use words that are not the focus of the lesson, but are crucial for understanding the new concepts you are teaching. If you are teaching a lesson about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you might write the name of each gift on the board to see if students know their definitions regardless of their significance as gifts of the Holy Spirit.