Boxes Review Game

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SWBAT quickly answer questions about intermolecular forces in a competitive review game.

Big Idea

Competitive review games stimulate student thinking about IMFs.


My toolbox for student reviews is sorely lacking.  I tend towards paper and pencil reviews that mirror the format of the unit assessment.  However, I am frustrated by my students' tendency to rely upon their notes, rather than recall, to answer the review questions.  Since recent educational research shows the need for students to practice recall, I like to incorporate some gaming aspects to my reviews, but sometimes students don't care to participate.  This is one of the most successful review games I have for my classroom.

The prior day, students completed my written IMF Test Review.  Since our first two unit tests didn't go so well, I wanted to spend an additional day reviewing.  As a way to add some urgency to the lesson, I turned to a review game introduced to me by a colleague from a sister school in my district.

The Boxes Review Game is fairly simple.  It requires a document camera, student whiteboards, markers, and a projector.  It is a competitive, strategy review.  When a group gets a question correct, they can assign up to 6 "X"s to the other groups.  When a group gets a full row of X's they are semi-eliminated.  The eliminated group can continue to play and play the role of spoiler for another group, but they cannot win the game.

In this sample scoring sheet, team 7 has a full row, so they can still participate to help knock off the other teams.  They cannot win, but their knowledge can prevent another team from winning.  Team 3 is in the lead, and would be the winner if the game ended at this point.

It is interesting to see how different classes respond to the game.  Some are determined to get every question correct, and put a target on a specific peer group to knock them out.  My 8th period class this year was spreading the Xs out evenly every time, and had they allocated correctly on the last turn, would have had a 5 way tie for the win.

As this is a review of the whole unit, its major NGSS alignment is with our dominant Performance Expectation: HS-PS1-3: Plan and conduct an investigation to gather evidence to compare the structure of substances at the bulk scale to infer the strength of electrical forces between particles.  The 2nd High School Structure and Function Cross Cutting Concept also applies strongly throughout this unit: The functions and properties of natural and designed objects and systems can be inferred from their overall structure, they way their components are shaped and used, and the molecule substructures of its various materials.

Startup and Rules

5 minutes

When students enter the room, I have our 1'X1' whiteboards, markers, and the Boxes Review Game Rules on each table.  I remind students that the written test review is due tomorrow prior to the exam, but that I wanted to take some time today to do a review game.

I direct students to read the rules, while I get some paper towels passed out to use as erasers on the whiteboards.  Students get confused about whether having lots of X's or a few is the goal, so we review that.  I also get some chuckles about the no complaining rule.

I offer students the chance to form their own groups, if they'd rather work with a team they aren't currently sitting with.  While students are shuffling around, I turn on the projector and show them the boxes game board.  I then assign each group a number, and have them write it on their board.  Once everyone is settled in, we begin the game.

Review Game

29 minutes

To show the questions, I have printed the IMF Test Boxes Review Game PowerPoint slides and cut them out.  When students are ready for the first question, I put it on the screen and read it aloud to them.

When every group has put up an answer, I reveal what the right answer is, and then which group won that question.  They get to assign their X's to whichever group they like.  I mark them on the screen and then ensure that they have rotated their whiteboard to the next person in the group.  When the groups are ready, we proceed with the next question.

The video below doesn't show the screen well, but gives you the sense of how this looks in class.

As you can see, while the whiteboard will travel from student to student, the group can collaborate on what answer to put up.  I do warn them that if they want to talk out an answer, they need to so quietly, so another group doesn't steal their answer and write it faster.

Throughout the review, students get to see the various diagrams that will appear on the unit exam with different questions.

Sometimes it is hard for me to keep track of who puts up the correct answer first.  Students get more upset if they think I've missed their chance to win, so the clip below shows a compromise.

The game continues through all the questions.  When we are finished, I tell them that I put the PowerPoint with the questions on my SchoolFusion page if they want to review it outside of class.

You may have noticed some empty tables in the video.  To understand why, please see the Student Choice reflection attached to this section.

Closure- Final Questions

8 minutes

At the end of the game, I remind students that the test format tomorrow is 25 multiple choice questions, and that they will see the same data tables and graphs from the review game.  I give students a chance to ask any other questions they have about the unit.  If there is time, and students have opted out of the game, I circulate through the back of the room to check in with them prior to the end of the period.

On average, the students who participated in the review game scored 10% better on the unit exam than those who did not.  I did notice some students who opted out of the game following it closely from the back of the room, so I am anticipating better participation the next time we play it.