Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Move over Jeopardy and Blingo, this review is a Space Race

While I like to give the students an opportunity to do a game-like review (Jeopardy and "Blingo"* are two popular formats) before a test, the time and resources are not always available for me to create an appropriate amount (and type) of questions. But now I have the students generate the questions and then it just takes a cut and paste to build the review into Socrative.com.

The review session is done in pairs with students sharing an iPad (or netbook). In a couple classes there was an odd number of students so there was one group of three, but the third person seemed a bit left out and could not read the screen very well with the others. In most cases, as they worked through the review, one student read the question out loud and they both discussed the answer before selecting.

The review game in this case is Space Race, which is part of Socrative.com. At first appearance it may seem a little "young" for high school students but my freshmen and senior classes have found much enjoyment in it. Student pairs are assigned a colored space ship and with each correct question it slowly advances. The display is projected from my laptop on the LCD projector and students can see (and comment on) the progress of all the space ships. It is the lack of progress of certain color ships that garner the most comments. There are usually two or three teams assigned randomly to each color and then they ask out loud who else has the same color to figure out who they are working with. The game continues with words of "encouragement" for each other which adds a fun and competitive spirit.

To build the question bank, students were asked to create one or two multiple choice questions (with 4 or 5 possible answers) that deal with main points or themes of the readings. I tried to get them to focus on what they thought was important and relevant (hint, hint - our notes) and not random, minute details. Reading over their questions gives me a chance to see if they are on the right path in looking for the ideas (as opposed to the trivial facts) that matter in the readings. Some of the questions end up appearing several times in different form, depending on how the student worded it. One student commented on how helpful that was to him in remembering some of the key points. Heading into the last test, students asked to do this review game again because many of them thought it was a great help in preparation. But the student generated questions can create some controversy.

These sessions have been very lively. The student generated questions are included, warts and all, which creates constant debate. At first I thought that this was something that was not going to work but that changed.
"That's a (insert your choice of adjective here) question!"
"They spelled that wrong."
"That is NOT the correct answer!"
These were just a few of the comments directed at the question creator/offender, even if he wasn't in the room at the time. Would they feel as comfortable discussing these problems and mistakes out loud if I had created all the questions? Probably not. It seems they have no problem letting each other know when they have made a mistake and I think a lot of good connections comes from these comments and the discussions that follow. It reminds me of the way gamers comment to each other, whether they are playing together in the same room or online. Certainly it has some similarity to group study and the way they argue, discuss, and, hopefully, laugh. In any case, it is not a quiet, individual activity and that is exactly what I was looking for.

The process: The students create the questions in a Google form I have created. I copy the information from the Google spreadsheet to the spreadsheet template from Socrative. At that point I upload the quiz through Socrative and it is ready to go. The process has become so quick that on the last one, I completely forgot to do this before class and was able to complete it as they walked in the room.

*Blingo is very similar to Bingo and gets its name because the middle "free" space features a picture of Mr. T. The game card was designed by my brilliant colleague, Sam Haller. 


  1. I just found out about Socrative at a teacher's convention in New Jersey. Wow! A free student response system. Our kids here love it. Would you be willing to share the Google form you created. It's the one you use to import student-created questions / answers the Socrative spreadsheet template. I'm just a bit stymied as to how the form should be set up for multiple choice questions. Thanks and I'll let you know how it goes.
    My email is glouderback@camden.k12.nj.us
    Greg Louderback
    Technology Coordinator
    Camden City Schools
    Camden, NJ

  2. Greg,

    I'd certainly be willing to share. Here is the link to the current live form that my students are using to create review questions for the midterm exam. http://bit.ly/w43YBf
    They fill in the boxes and press submit and it is placed in a spreadsheet that has a column for the question, each possible answer, and the letter of the correct answer. I just copy these columns directly into the Socrative template spreadsheet.

    I have been wanting to try a screen capture tutorial so this may be the perfect opportunity! Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.


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