Monday, December 14, 2009

Review game: Trashketball

I know that many teachers out there play some form of Trashketball, so this isn't really groundbreaking. However, I always have problems with these kinds of review games. Structuring them so that the higher-skilled students don't dominate or pressure the other students can be quite difficult. Or, looking at it the other way, there are plenty of lower-skilled students who are happy to sit back and let others on their team get the work done for them.

I developed Tic Tac Toe Battle Royale a couple years ago which addresses some of these concerns pretty well. But you can only do the same game so many times. My experiments with Trashketball in the past haven't been that successful, and so I thought about how I could improve it to work more effectively in my class. This is what I came up with:

  1. Break students into groups of 3 or 4 - for me, this yields no more than 6 groups in my Algebra 1 classes. Give each group a letter, and each person in the group a number. Write these in a grid on the board. (If there is an unfilled spot in a group, that spot becomes a wild card - any person can take that number.)
  2. For each round, create 6 separate problems that all target the same concept, but that are slightly different. This prevents the copying problem found in board races.
  3. Hand out a template for doing the work on. My freshmen need an organizer for everything. "Get out a sheet of paper" just doesn't fly.
  4. Show the 6 versions of the problem, giving the class enough time to get it done.
  5. Call for silence. Block the projector. Randomly (or not) call a number between 1 and 4. The student in each group with that number comes to the board - all 6 at once. Have the board sectioned off so they know where to write. They are allowed to bring their own graphic organizer up with them, but no one on the team may offer help at this point. The idea here, of course, is that students must make sure that all group members have done the work. Students who tend to slack off have to at least write down the work that others in their group are doing. Not ideal, but it's better than spacing out.
  6. Have the trashketball basket set up. As students complete their work on the board, tell them if they are right or not (make sure to have answer keys ready!). Right answers get a point, and they get to take a shot for a bonus point. There is less waiting around time this way - some students will still be writing their problems as others are already lining up to shoot.
  7. Record the scores and move on. Winning team gets a whatever.
How it looks:

I did this for the first time today, and was amazed by how well they did. There were only 2 students in the class that I couldn't get totally engaged. The rest did all their work, were excited to take their shots, and so on. It takes longer to make this activity due to the multiple problems, but it was really worth it. Man, do they love tossing paper balls into the recycle bin.

I know it kind of breaks my respect class norm, but it really warms my heart to hear a kid (who I can usually barely get to sit down, and who really wanted to win) say to his teammate who hadn't done his work on the board carefully: "Fool! I told you it was negative eleven!"

Trashketball Problems (Keynote) (Powerpoint)
Answer Template (Word)


Bradley said...


This is a great idea! I teach Biology and I plan to use this when we do genetics review (punnet square practice and so on...skills heavy) before the end of course exam. Thanks!

Unknown said...

WOW THIS IS AWESOME. Thanks for the great content, good luck with the rest of the year.

Unknown said...

This version of Trashketball trounces all other review games. My kids go craaaaaaaazy for it, it caters to all levels, and it incorporates quality practice. One tip: you can make it more interesting (and give hope for a group that has fallen behind on points) if you make two lines on the floor for students to shoot baskets from--one worth one point, and one worth two.