Written by Sarah Stecher published 6 months ago
A few years ago, I started using mini games as a way to get students talking right at the start of class, take the pulse of the room, and build camaraderie among group members. Mini games are quick 1-2 minute games that require very minimal prep but can have a BIG impact on classroom culture. Most of these games are variations on other well-known games, and others I made up! Most games will require a scratch piece of paper for the group member recording their team’s answers. Here are the ones I use most often:
1. Family Feud
In this classroom version of the popular game show, students have 60 seconds to come up with the top responses to a Family Feud question prompt. Each table group of students is considered a family and all families compete simultaneously by discussing and then writing down their top answers to the prompt. Tell students ahead of time how many answers there are. Students can only write down as many answers as there are answers to the question. If they have extra answers, they should pick their best ones and scratch off the rest before answers are revealed. After the 60 seconds are up, call out the top answers and how many points each answer is worth. The group with the most points wins. You can find more Family Feud questions in the slide deck below.
2. Word Jumble
In this game all group members work to unscramble a list of jumbled words. The first group that has them all raises their hand. If they have unscrambled all the words correctly they win the game. If no group has won after 2 minutes, the game ends and whichever team has the most words wins.
Students will need one scratch piece of paper for their group and one group member who is recording answers. Give your students a category and then each group will try to come up with a word that fits into the category for every letter of the alphabet. They do not have to do them in order. The first group to find a word for every letter wins. Because this is pretty challenging, you can also cut the game off after 2 minutes and give the point to the team with the most words. For example, if the category is “food,” students may write down apple, banana, carrot, dates, egg, fish, grapes, …etc. We usually let students write the alphabet out on their paper before beginning the game.
4. Million Dollar Pyramid/Catchphrase
This is a fun one and will bring out your students’ competitive sides! Each group chooses one group member to face the front screen or whiteboard. Other group members turn around facing the back of the classroom. Project a set of any 5 random words onto the screen or write them on the whiteboard. The student facing the screen must describe each word in the order that it appears and his or her group members must guess the word. Once the team has guessed all the words, they raise their hand. The first team to raise their hand wins. Feel free to throw some math vocabulary in there if you like!
This mini-game is based on a game I played all growing up called City, Country, River. First, decide on five or six categories and set up the game board as shown below. Students should copy this onto their paper. Each board can be used for many, many games, so students should hold on to their paper for the next time you play the game.
Have one student say “A” out loud and then continue saying the alphabet in their head.
Have another student say “Stop.” Whatever letter the student was on when they heard “Stop” is now the magic letter. Now it’s a mad rush for teams to come up with a word for each category that starts with the magic letter. The first group to finish yells “Done!” Everyone must now put their pencil down and it’s time to score responses! The group that finished first may not actually be the winner! Go through each category and have teams give their response. For each category, a unique answer earns 10 points, and a repeated answer earns 5 points. If a group didn’t have a word in that category, they earn 0 points. Whichever team has the most points wins.
Points and Prizes
The winning team of each day’s mini-game gets one point, regardless of how many points they scored during the game. Students keep track of their own points throughout the semester. At random points throughout the year, I will institute a “day of reckoning” and small prizes are awarded to the team with the most accumulated points (generally candy bars or cookies, but you can get as creative and silly as you want). The next day, every group starts again with 0 points. I have found that students don’t generally care about the prizes as much as they do about the points. Some groups don’t even keep track of their points from one day to the next. The goal of a little light-hearted fun at the beginning of class is achieved regardless of if points ever get converted to prizes or not!
Get the full slide deck with instructions for each game to display for your students, plus sample rounds of each game.