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Avoiding "Formative Appetizers": How to Genuinely Engage ALL Students When Reviewing

In the rush to find meaningful ways to use classroom devices to engage students, I have seen Kahoot come to prominence as an easy-to-prepare, quick to set up way to involve students in active review. The premise is simple enough to introduce in a short period of time: a large group individually answers a series of multiple questions in which faster correct answers are rewarded with higher point values. Scored are compiled and updated after each question, with the top 5 scored presented to all as a way to build dramatic tension on the way to crowning an ultimate victor.

Rounds of Kahoot are genuinely entertaining to observe when you watch it in action in the classroom, and it's a welcome gateway to deeper application of classroom devices. The social inspiration is familiar to anyone who has ever ordered artichoke dip or onion rings from a Buffalo Wild Wings: digital bar trivia. The format, like Kahoot, involves devices linked to a series of multiple-choice questions, timed responses, and updated leaderboards connected locally or networked.

Trivia games like these are great in these venues because they provide a playful way to pass the time. However, the purpose is very different between your local Applebee's and a 5th period class. With bar trivia games, the desired outcome by those running the games is to keep you otherwise occupied while your food is being prepared; there is no expectation that after your meal you will be evaluated by how much knowledge was retained. In the classroom, however, these activities are chosen to bring the content to students as a ramp-up to some sort of assessment.

Thought experiment: Imagine these are educators describing the latest tech tool.

Let's revisit Kahoot, then. Its item types come in three forms: binary (true/false, yes/no, e.g.), multiple choice, and sequencing. Think of your state's summative assessments and how your students may be asked to interact with content: matching tables, multiple-answers, numeric response, evidence-based selected response, etc. Additionally, Kahoot rewards a speed component, and if you're familiar with Jo Boaler's work, you are aware that timed assessments (even formative) generally increase student anxiety. I'll also call out that if you aren't in the Top 5 by the mid-way point, there is essentially ZERO incentive to continue playing.

Activities like Kahoot, Quizizz, and Plickers have their high-leverage applications, such as in "Blind" pre-teaching situations where the content therein is entirely new leading into a lesson or unit. This is where the term "Formative Appetizer" derives: an activity that should serve as a conversation piece before the main learning. Many times, though, these activities are presented as major review sessions before CFAs or summatives, leaving students disengaged and isolated at essential moments of content affirmation.

There's another component missing with "Formative Appetizers" as review: collaboration. This time before a quiz or test should be when the most collaboration should be taking place, and by making the review individually competitive the shared experience is lost.

To this point, here are a few ideas I've used in review to bring the idea of total engagement and collaboration to gamified review:

1. "The Doomsday Clock"

This is a game I created to support students with fact fluency without instituting timed worksheets. For this game I created a SmartBoard file containing a six-sided die and a clock set to 11:59:50 PM. Students would line the perimeter of the room and a randomizer chose the first student. The student has 5 seconds to process a fact, otherwise they would be seated and the clock would advance one second. Once the clock strikes midnight, the die is rolled and that many students are also counted off to be seated (introducing luck as a victory element as opposed to simple skill). A second round is instituted, with 3 seconds now given. After the second round reaches midnight and the die is rolled, anyone still standing has survived "Doomsday" and wins. This game is best played with groups of about 30 students, and allows for multiple victors as opposed to just one.

2. "Trivia Night"

This models the more collegial trivia activity that you might attend at a local establishment, and invites creativity and a laidback atmosphere within a class period. Students form teams of four, name their own teams, then work on presented questions one at a time. Give teams one or two minutes for each question (play music between each question to keep the positivity going!), then collect, correct, and announce the victorious squad! Feel free to award points for best team name and bonus questions relating to pop culture to include all students in the conversation.

A new player on the digital engagement scene puts a collaborative twist on the Formative Appetizer that brings it into the category of meaningful review. Students sign in and are RANDOMLY placed on a team. Each student on the team is responsible for answering the same question, so conversations only facilitate the team's chance of success. Instead of getting the most questions right, the winning team is the first squad to correctly answer 12 in a row. If one member of the team answers incorrectly, the streak is reset to 0. Accuracy and discussion take precedent over speed in this method. Quizlet also presents a rundown of the questions at the end of the game most likely to require a conversation, allowing you to facilitate reflection moments.

Whatever route you choose, keep the main course in mind. There are more ways to keep engagement with the devices in your room, but more important than the medium is the message: revisiting content isn't a sprint to a finish line but a relay to bring everyone to a goal.


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