Middle School Classroom Games: 3 Structures, Same Content
When I took on classroom gaming as a top priority, I looked everywhere for ludic inspiration. As I accumulated middle school classroom games over the years, I weeded through to find the joy-bearing vs. boredom-inducing games as well as the types of games I could perform with very little prep. Quick middle school classroom games do not need hours of prep work; I find that a good amount of engaging games can be made minutes before class. My brain works best when overwhelmed, so I take on as much as humanly possible and then hustle to make it all happen. Sometimes that means I’m planning a game 30 minutes before the class— and I love it! I find that it forces me to adapt flexibly and ensures my activity content is pertinent for my students.
Over the course of 6 years, I have found 3 styles of middle school classroom games that I can play with <10 minute prep (keeping in mind that thinking on my feet during classroom games is becoming second nature to me). Here are 3 different structures for middle school classroom games that have 100% success rate in my classroom. These can be adapted for any subject, although I will admit that these are particularly easy for language classes because we have tons of definitions to be memorized.
Middle School Game #1: Latin Ninja Warrior
Students are in pairs. Using a projector, I have a ton of slides with Latin words or terms that we need to review. Sometimes, I’ll put up a whole sentence and have the sentence be “What is the direct object”? Or “What tense is the verb?” I start with the team closest to the door and just start asking each team a question. I like to progress through the questions quickly because students are more likely to pay attention (If you follow Hope King’s game rules, I’m breaking the “no-turns/no-outs” rule but my game moves quickly enough to not produce boredom). If a team gets the question wrong, the next team can earn 2 points. If that team gets it wrong, it’s now worth 3 points… and so on. I am keeping score on a white board at my lectern. Winning team earns a piece of candy.
Middle School Game #2: Insidiae
I am able to use the same content (slides) for a game of Insidiae, which is the Latin word for treachery. This game is also known as Grudgeball. The students are also in pairs, answering the same style of quick questions. Instead of earning points, however, they “attack” another team with a point. The goal is to have the fewest points by the end of the game! Because they do not control their own points, I do not give a reward to the winner. It’s social, which is more fun for middle-school-aged kids.
Middle School Game #3: Sink or Swim mixed with Trash-ket-ball
I recently heard about Sink or Swim from the teacher Youtuber Pocketful of Primary. When I play Sink or Swim I have the students in groups of four. Each student as a white board and they number either 1, 2, 3, or 4 so that each team has every number once. I ask my question (these can be more detailed, since I give the students time to write and collaborate) and every student writes down their answer. I call a number, and every student with that number holds up their whiteboard. If the team gets it correct, they may either: “sink” a member of another team (meaning that sunk person may not help or communicate with their team) or “swim” a member of their own team (revive them from being sunk). The first two times I tried this, it quickly turned into a race to balance your team with smart enough people to get the right answers, but not too smart that they would be targeted first. I didn’t like that, and I wanted to add an element of chance, so I mixed in trash-ket-ball. Teams each round could shoot for a basket and if they scored, they earned an extra sink/swim every round.
I have played these enough to have stock Latin in my TPT store. Here are my favorite middle school classroom games: