Dot Game Review

Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 11.19.28 AM.pngI love working in familiar games to review and practice vocabulary. One simple game my kids get excited about is the Dot Game.

In the Dot Game, you have a grid of dots. Partners take turns drawing lines, connecting the dots. If you draw the fourth line completing a box, you score a point and put your initials in the box. The objective is to make more boxes than your partner.

So how to turn this into an activity?

I create a grid of dots. I choose a word from our Unit to be in the center of the boxes that will potentially be formed.


Students take turns drawing lines and making boxes. Once a student has made a box, their partner must use that word in a sentence. Sometimes I just do this out loud as oral practice and sometimes I have them write sentences using the word. It just depends on our focus.

It’s a nice way to review vocabulary while staying in the target language. Today I wanted my students to prepare for tomorrow’s writing assessment (I’ll be using a variation of Martina Bex’s BINGO writing activity). For the assessment, students need to write a paragraph about television and movies using the target vocabulary in their BINGO card (using words correctly to form at least one BINGO).

After we played the Dot Game today, I had students make a list of the words in their partner’s boxes. Then, they had to use those words to write a paragraph about television and movies—essentially the same standard that I am grading tomorrow. Today was all about practice. How can I use this list of words into a paragraph? What do these words mean? How do I use them?

Students in this class circled the words they needed to use on their vocabulary sheets; in other classes I just told them to write their list on their paper.

Today this worked great for me as a Monday activity. It’s largely student centered so my job was to just facilitate the activities. I also love getting them to review vocabulary while staying in the target language and not thinking just about the straight translations of everything. Today they were focused on how to use the words to express thoughts rather than just trying to be a dictionary of terms. I feel like it gave them some good practice for tomorrow’s final writing assessment.



Recently a tech colleague passed along a great free online resource to use for formative assessment and classroom activities.  I’ve done little quiz games or review games in the past using online resources like Socrative, but this one has a new twist.  The website is called Kahoot.

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Kahoot reminded my students a lot of the quiz games played in restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings.  A question is displayed on the front board and each student selects an answer to that question from their personal device.  (I’ve had students use computers, IPads, Kindles or phones for this activity).  If you get the question correct, you get points.  If you answer faster, you get more points.  After each question, the student sees their ranking on a leaderboard.  It’s a lot of fun and provides great motivation for the students.

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Teachers can create “Kahoots” from  It gives you the option of creating quizzes, discussions or surveys.  Right now I’m only using the quizzes.  The teacher creates multiple choice quizzes and has the option of adding in pictures and video in the questions too.  After a Kahoot is made, you are ready to share it with the students.

The students just go to  From there they will type in a pin code that is assigned to the Kahoot the teacher is running.  The quiz is teacher paced, meaning that the questions only appear when the teacher is ready.  Once ready, the teacher shows the students the question on the board.  After 5 seconds, answer choices also appear on the board.  Each answer choice is color coded.  On the student’s individual device, they see the color coded choices but no words—they have to look up at the board for the question and the answer choices.  They select the color associated with the choice they think is correct.  Once all students have answered, they find out how many points they earned (if any) and what their ranking is in the leaderboard.  At the end of playing a Kahoot, the teacher can download the results, which gives you question by question analysis of how students did and you can easily see questions that were the most problematic.

We loved using Kahoot and now I’m just under pressure to create more Kahoots for us to do in class!

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Nearpod: Mobile Learning + Interactive Presentation App

For classrooms that have 1:1 access with IPads, Nearpod would be one of those tools I would say absolutely had to be used in classroom instruction.  Mandatory use in instruction.  It combines presentation and lecture, quizzes, polling and formative assessment, video and hands on demonstrating.  There are two sides to Nearpod: the teacher side and the student side. From the teacher side, one can create interactive lessons by creating a presentation in Nearpod that is like a PowerPoint on steroids. There are six different types of features a teacher can add into a presentation.  The presentation can have multiple features, all one feature or a mixture of whatever the author wants.

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A few observations about the features:

  • If a teacher already has PowerPoints created and wants to incorporate those slides into a Nearpod presentation, it would be complete possible!  Just go to PowerPoint and save the PPT as images (this is an option in the File Menu).  Now each one of your slides is an image file that can be uploaded to Nearpod.  I think the whole “Save as Images” option is key in using Nearpod with materials you’ve already created.
  • The quizzes and Q&A make great formative assessment.  It’s a little bit tricky to do an open ended question or a question with multiple answers, but it is do-able.
  • “Draw it” is pretty awesome.  I tested it out in a math presentation at halfway through the presentation, the teacher included a “Draw it” slide where the students had to work through the problem.  The teacher sees all responses on his/her IPad.

The teacher creates an interactive, instructional presentation or lesson on the web.  When it’s time for the lesson, the teacher uses and IPad and logs in to the Nearpod app as a teacher.  The students type in a code assigned to that presentation and are immediately taken to the lesson.  It’s a teacher-paced presentation, so students are only able to see the part of the presentation the teacher wants.  When the teacher is ready to move on to the next screen of the presentation, the teacher swipes the screen and all student screens will go to the next feature.  It’s a great instructional app that allows the teacher to move through content while allowing students the opportunity to get involved and participate, all while collecting data on understanding.

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Nearpod is one of those progression instructional tools.  Content used to be delivered through lecture.  Then overhead.  Then PowerPoint presentations.  Now the presentation includes interactive elements and is right there in each student’s hands.  It’s best used in situations where there is 1 IPad for every 1 student involved (either a 1:1 environment or a small group setting).  I think that in the future of IPads in Education, Nearpod will be the instructional tool that all others are measured by.

The Hunger Games Review Game

I resist most cultural phenomena on principle, but when a sixteen year old boy talks to you about how amazing a book series is, you have to take notice.  I only recently embraced “The Hunger Games” (as in I read the first book last week).  Coincidentally, I came across a review game activity based on “The Hunger Games” in my Edmodo World Languages community last week.  With a little tweaking, I knew it could be a major hit in the classroom.

The Set-Up

  • Arrange 12 desks in a circle/semi-circle.  If you have more than 12 students, place extra desks in tight clusters so that there are 12 little clusters of desks in a circle.
  • Prepare Questions:  I planned on playing five rounds during the game with 12 questions per round.  You could do random questions and pull them out of a hat too.
  • Fill 12 cups with beans.  I used jellybeans and put 5 jellybeans in each cup.  Label the cups with numbers #1-12.
  • Prepare the Cornucopia (see later)

The Beginning

  • Separate the students into the 12 separate districts (12 separate groups).  I always choose the grouping.  If numbers allow me to do so, I put my advanced students alone and match up my lower ability students so they may work with each other.
  • Give each district their cup of beans, stressing that they should not eat their beans.  The objective of the game is to acquire the most beans anyway, so they shouldn’t want to eat their chances of winning.
  • Begin with District 1 and ask the first review question.  If the student answers incorrectly, just move on to the next District.  If the student answers correctly, they may go and 1/2 of another District’s beans.  Continue by asking the next District a question.
  • After District 12 has answered their first question, the Capitol (the teacher) makes an announcement by drawing one of the Capitol cards.

Capitol Cards

I was preparing 5 rounds of the game and therefore I prepared 4 Capitol cards: one card to be read at the conclusion of Rounds 1, 2, 3 and 4. Here is what I used:

  • Redistribution of Districts: The Capitol has decided to change the resources of each district as a reminder that the Capitol is in control.  All cups rotate one District to the right.
  • Quarter Quell:  The time has come for districts to face each other in battle.  During the next round, each District must challenge another District before the question is asked.  Whichever of the two districts answers that question correctly gets to take 1/2 the losing District’s beans. In case of a tie, the win goes to the lowest numbered District.
  • Cornucopia: All Districts are in need of something to make their success in this game easier.  These items are in bags in the Cornucopia.  At the signal of the Capitol, team members may go and retrieve one bag from the Cornucopia.  Bags may not be opened until the Capitol permits.  These items may be used for the entirety of the game unless otherwise noted.
  • Silver Parachute: Sponsors have agreed to give aid to one struggling team.  Give extra beans to the team with the lowest number of beans.  In case of a tie, the tie goes to the highest numbered District.

I filled 12 bags with a variety of things for the bags in the Cornucopia.  I had some bags filled with a few jellybeans, bags with vocabulary or notes and some filled with empty paper.  I also had an “Auto-Win” card, where students could play it and automatically get a question correct.  There was a “Blockade” card too, where a team could block others from taking their beans for an entire round.

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The Victor

After playing all five rounds of the game, the student with the most jellybeans was declared the victor.  I gave out extra credit to the winner.

The Fallen Tributes

I wondered about how to deal with “killing” other districts or being eliminated from the game.  In one class, we played that if a student was down to one bean, you couldn’t take that one bean.  That kept players in the game.  My second class was much more inspired by the notion of eliminating their competitors, forming alliances, etc.  It made for a more interesting game.  But, since it was a review game, eliminated players still had to answer questions, but they couldn’t take nor receive jellybeans.  They couldn’t win but they were still forced to play.

I thought it went pretty well.  It took awhile to count out half of the jellybeans when we got towards the end of the game but I can’t figure a way around that.  It was a nice review activity and I would probably do it again in the future.  It took some prep time but it was exciting and the students really enjoyed it.

Vocabulary Jenga

Normally I write about new technologies and projects I am using with my students.  This post isn’t further from technology.  Straight out of the ’80’s, I brought my Jenga game into the classroom for a vocabulary review.  According to my end of the year student surveys, this vocabulary game was by far the most fun and exciting for my students. 

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The planning and preparation is the hardest part of this review game.  You need one game of Jenga with all the little blocks.  Then place a piece of scotch tape on each block.  I write a vocabulary word onto the tape (so that I can reuse the Jenga blocks for years to come).  Since I write one word on every block, it is necessary to have about 66 vocabulary words, so I like to use this activity as an end of semester review.

The class is split into two teams.  One member from a team one comes forward and pulls a block out of the Jenga tower.  Then, without any help from their teammates, that student must correct identify the vocabulary word. 

If they get the word correct: they put the Jenga block down on the table and a teammate from the opposing side comes up and has to add that block to the top of the tower.  Then that student pulls a block from the tower and cycle begins again.

If the student gets the word incorrect: they put the Jenga block down on the table and another member from their team must come up and put the block on the top of the tower.  Then that student continues the process.

At first the game seems pretty simple but eventually students will catch on that a they do not want any of their teammates up there with a wobbly tower.  It is in their best interest to get the words correct and force the other team to go.

Note on effectiveness of vocabulary review: I “stack the tower” a little bit in my favor.  Students will usually start by pulling blocks from the middle or bottom.  Then as the tower grows taller, they will want to pull from the near top.  I place difficult vocabulary words or words that I want them to review in the middle at the beginning of the game.  After a few successfull rounds of row building, students will begin to pick those same blocks again.  The more a word gets repeated in the game, the more they seem to remember it.

There is also some research out there (which I don’t have the time to cite at the moment) that suggests that adolescents learn best when under stress.  When this game gets intense, there is yelling, pressure and spotlight attention.  Almost always, a student that has a word in one of those pressure situations will mention it again a few days later.  He or she might not remember anything else from the game, but the words review during the tensest moments of the game seem to stick.