Five ways to test students that require no preparation.

Build up/knock down.

A student comes to the front and recites everything they know about a topic.  There is no time limit.  A mark is given for every ‘bullet point’ they remember, e.g., the capital of France is Paris.  Once they’ve finished, the rest of the class put up their hands and say ‘they didn’t say […] about that topic’.  For every one thing the class mention, one mark is deducted from the student’s score.  They may well end up with a minus score like -7.  This task is good for squeezing out absolutely every detail the class know about something.

Class champion.

Divide the class in half (I tend to do just left and right side of room to avoid faff).  These are teams.  Get both teams to elect a champion of a particular topic (the Weimar republic, quadratic equations, language devices).  Team A ask Team B’s champion a question.  Team B then ask Team A’s champion a question.  Have someone at the front keeping track of who’s answered the most questions right.  Continue until you decide time’s up, or until a particular score has been reached.


This is really simple.  A student comes to the front.  The rest of the class ask him questions about a topic.  If he gets one wrong, he goes back and sits down, and someone else replaces him.

Just A Minute.

As in the Radio Four show, students have to talk about a topic for as long as they can.  They cannot repeat words (apart from the topic name, e.g., Picasso), hesitate, or deviate from the topic given.  It’s really hard to speak for the whole minute.  If you want to make it a proper thing, play them examples from iPlayer/YouTube.  It’s really hard to speak for the full minute.

The Unbelievable Truth.

As above, this is based on a Radio Four show.  Students have to give a speech about a topic that is entirely lies, except for one or two pieces of true information.  E.g., Shakespeare was a black man from Boston who left his wife their second-best bed when he died (the second bit is true).  It requires students to know a topic incredibly well – not just all the general and obvious stuff, but the trivial details as well.

These games are fun and would work well as plenaries.  I definitely think there are more worthwhile things you can do in the classroom though; I use these at the end of maybe a lesson where students have done loads of writing.  That said, the testing effect is something I believe in strongly, and you can make an AfL argument for using these too.


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