Secondary English – Board games as a revision tool

You know that point when you’ve finished teaching a novel and know you have to go back over key events, themes and characters before a controlled task or exam? The point where your pupils groan that ‘we already know this’ and turn off? I was trying to think of fun ways to engage pupils in revision, as well as having lessons where I wasn’t leading and the pupils could get on by themselves, and lo and behold ‘board game revision’ was born!

My two GCSE sets had just finished To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel with a fair amount of context. The weekend before the lessons I popped to a pound shop and stocked up on cardboard, glitter pens and snazzy paper, you may have these things ready in the stock cupboard. You’ll also need glue and scissors.

As the pupils entered the room they had a selection of resources on their tables, their set texts and their exercise books, I then pitched the idea. They were going to make a board game for the novel we had just read. They could make any kind of board game they liked but it must involve questions on the novel, they have 2 lessons before we play the games.

I was delighted with their responses. Most groups chose to make a monopoly style game which meant that there was heated discussion about characters and social class to determine which properties would cost the most, The Ewell’s shack was brown (Old Kent Road) and rent was paid in cobnuts whereas the Judge’s house was purple (Mayfair) with rent at $500 or a spell in jail. The markers displayed main themes in the novel, a cross for religion, a tiny mockingbird for injustice, a ball for childhood, a knife for violence and book for morals. Question cards asked us about Mayella’s motives for kissing Tom and who we felt most sorry for in the novel and why. I was especially pleased with my EAL pupils’ responses, they enjoyed the visual aspects and revised key words and phrases. The class were also interested to learn new games and it helped them all to bond with each other.

Not only did the pupils have to revise the novel in detail, they also played each others games which meant they had to remember additional details. The games themselves were beautiful and were ideal to use as a plenary or reward on a rainy Friday afternoon. When we had finished with them I used them as wall displays which prompted other classes asking questions and wanting to make board games when we’d finished their class readers. We now have an entire wall of games, including Top Trumps for Holes, Snakes and Spells for The Witches and Mouse Trap for Stone Cold.

Joanna Fliski
Teacher of English, Media and Drama, Lliswerry High School

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