Throughout my teaching career, I have always tried to come up with practical review games that were also fun. I love games that get my kids up and moving, and most importantly, laughing. I devised this game about 9 years ago, and it has held strong as my favorite History review game of all time!
If you came of age in the 90s, you remember the TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” I always loved this show for two reasons. One, the show was reliably hilarious, and two, I’ve always thought that I would be good at improv.*
My favorite improv skit on the show was called “Party Quirks.” One of the comedians would “host” a party, and the other comedians would play guests with really odd behaviors. The host would have to guess the particular quirks that the party guests were displaying.
For my class version, I decided that I would assign my students particular history characters, or people from history engaging in historical tasks. For instance, one student might play Andrew Jackson, a second might play an overworked woman in a textile factory, and the third would be cast as a man pulling a stubborn mule on the Erie Canal. The part host is actually assigned their role before any of the characters. I always ban them to the hallway so that they can’t hear any of the character descriptions as they are assigned. All of the students are made aware of the roles that the students are playing except for the party host.
Then, I call the party host back into the classroom, and he or she begins to host the party. I ring a fake doorbell noise, and one at a time, the “character” enter the party. The characters are advised not to reveal their identities immediately, and to just gradually give the host clues. Hilarity inevitably ensues.
Over the years of playing this game, I’ve found particular ways to structure the process to make the game even more fun. Here are some of my suggestions:
Plan those characters-
If possible, I give each of my students their character the day before and tell them to write a few lines for themselves. Obviously, even my funniest students aren’t natural improv actors, so this gives them a chance to prepare. I tell them that they have to uphold absolute secrecy, and not reveal their characters until the next day.
Pick actors by personality-
I always allow students to volunteer for acting roles. I purposely choose students to play particular characters. By this point in the year, I know students personalities fairly well, and I know which students will “get” which characters. The kids love finding out which characters they will be playing.
NOTE: Students should never be typecast into their roles. Any students can play any character.
Create a list of Characters throughout the Unit-
If I know that I’ve had time to play this game at the end of the unit, I make sure to be brainstorming a character list as I’m teaching the Unit. That way, when I come to improv review day, I’m not sacrificing a prep period trying to brainstorm a list.
NOTE: I make sure to never to include characters who experienced real trauma in history. “Native American on the Trail of Tears” is not funny and not appropriate.
Vary the Experience-
Sometimes, I mix it up and have students play the “Dating Game” instead. It’s a similar situation, except I have a list of premade questions for students to ask their historical “dates.” In this instance, I give the students who are playing the characters both their character and the list of questions ahead of time. This way, they can prep historically funny answers. Obviously, the list of questions is school appropriate, so that I can keep things PG. (Would you like the list of questions? Make sure you’ve signed up for my newsletter. The list of “Dating Game” questions is one of my freebies!)
This review game probably isn’t the most rigorous. It also doesn’t review as much information as other games might. Still, students REMEMBER these characters. At the end of the year, they still remember who played whom and what they did that made them laugh. That’s worth sacrificing a little rigor.
What do you do for your review games?
*This is not based in reality, I just “think” I would be good at improv.