After-School Games

*These games have a worksheet or gameboard available to download.

This activity adapts the TV game “Concentration” to almost any subject.

Using thirty 3x5 index cards, create 15 questions/problems that relate to a targeted area of study. Write each problem or question on a card and write the answer to each question on another card.

Arrange the cards in random order in six rows of five cards on a bulletin board or have small groups of students play at desks arranged in quads. Place a 3x5 sticky note on top of each card to cover the content and number the sticky notes in order from one to 30.

If playing whole class, start the game by calling the name of a student. You might use the popsicle stick method of calling on students. That will help keep all students focused on the game. (If playing in small groups, play rotates clockwise.) The game continues in this way:

  • The student calls out a number.
  • Lift the sticky note with that number on it to reveal a question or an answer.
  • If a question is under that sticky note, students call out another number under which they hope to find the matching answer; if the number they called out reveals an answer underneath, students call out another number under which they hope to find the matching question.
  • If the cards under the two numbers reveal a matching question and answer, then the student earns 1 point. If the cards do not match, the sticky note with the number on it is returned to its spot and all students do their best to recall what question or answer was revealed under each number so when they’re called on, they will be able to make a match.
  • Keep playing until all matches have been revealed.
  • Store each edition of the game cards in an envelope labeled with the skill the game teaches. Keep them all in a “Concentration” file so you can use them from year to year, or repost an old game from time to time.
  • Let a different student serve as emcee each time the game is played. That student can select popsicle sticks to determine which student’s turn it is, and reveal the puzzle questions and answers.
  • After your students are familiar with the game, why not put them to work creating Concentration game cards that the entire class can play? Have a team of students create a game. Check their work and have them make editing revisions before creating the actual game cards. The students who create the puzzles can serve as emcees when it is time to play their game.

Concentration Across the Curriculum
Following are just elevenideas, out of thousands, for adapting the Concentration game to review skills across the curriculum:

  • Adapt for any kind of math skill you are teaching—from addition facts to algebraic equations. Write the problem on one card, the answer on another.
  • If you are studying phonics, write the word on one card, its phonetic spelling on another.
  • For a book you are reading aloud, match the names of different characters with a statement that tells something about that character.
  • In chemistry, match the chemical symbol with the name of the element. For example, H matches hydrogen, Ag matches gold, and so on.
  • If you are teaching students to tell time, have them match the card that shows the time on a clock face with the card that shows the time in digital format (for example, 7:45). Or match the digital form to the words that tell the time (for example, quarter to 8).
  • Use vocabulary words. Students match each word card with its definition card.
  • If you teach a foreign language, have students match a vocabulary word in that language with its English translation.
  • Studying geography? Match states and their capitals.
  • Homonyms can make a fun theme for a game. Match there with their, hour with our, I with eye, and so on. (Other ideas: match synonyms or antonyms.)
  • To bolster spelling, match two words that clearly attempt to spell the same word. For example, school and skool or mispell and misspell. Students match the two words, then tell the one that is spelled correctly. (Resource: Spelling Test ( for word lists.)
  • Are you teaching about inventors in science class? Match the name of the inventor with his or her invention.

Popsicle Stick Method
To use this popular method of selecting kids, simply write each student’s name on a popsicle stick and place the sticks in a jar or can. Draw a stick; the person whose name is on the stick responds next.

Note: In a game such as this one, you do not want to lose students’ attention once they have been called on. If their popsicle stick is selected and you leave it out of the can after they have responded, they have no stake in paying attention to the game after they have had their turn. However, if you return their stick to the can, they know they have as much chance as anybody else to be called on again.

Out of the Box
In this vocabulary game that can be adapted to focus on any subject matter, the teacher places students into small groups. A topic is presented, and the students are given a few minutes to brainstorm unique and unusual words related to this topic.

Let students use their dictionaries. It will be good practice for developing solid dictionary skills.

When the instructor announces that time is up, s/he reads a list of 10 words that have been preselected for this topic. If the subject is “cheese,” “cheddar” might be on the teacher’s list, but “Camembert” is not as common and will likely win a point for the team. Students check their lists as a group and cross out every word that is also read by the teacher. They then award their team one point for each word that does not appear in the teacher’s list. Each group reads its list of original words. The students draw a line through any words shared by another team and give their team another point for every word that no other team mentions. A new word is given and play continues.

Create a version of this game for any classroom subject by choosing categories that the students have encountered in class. Topics for social studies might include climate and transportation and music could feature opera or rhythm. The possibilities are limitless!

This commercial game in which letter cubes are tossed and players form words using adjacent letters can be played whole class or in small groups. Add a twist—once a list of words is created for a throw, see who can use the most words just created in a single sentence.

Number Boggle
In number boggle, players must use three adjacent numbers and any operation to create a valid number sentence. Using the printable game board , for example, a student could use 15 - 3 = 12 as a legal, valid expression. But they cannot use 5 + 1 = 6 because the numbers are not adjacent. Expressions are to be recorded on the lines provided. The game can be played individually with a target set for most expressions created or as a two-player game. If one player cannot create any more expressions at some point, the other player gets to try. If he can, he wins. If not, the game ends in a tie.

Just the Facts, Please
In this game, students form a circle and throw a ball to someone else, saying a number as they throw. The first person may say “6,” the second “plus 3,” and the third would then give the sum “9.” If the sum is correct, he starts a new number fact; if he is wrong, he sits down. Last person standing is the winner. (This may be played with any operations.)

Easy Facts
To help children learn facts where one or two are added or subtracted, make a set of cards that has the answers to each number plus one, plus two, minus one, and minus two. Distribute answer cards to 10 students. The other students are referees. Ask the person to stand who has the number that is “one more than six” or “two less than five.” If someone stands, the referees verify whether the response is correct. If correct, the student writes the equation on the board (6+1=7).

Buzz (or Pong)
Students form a circle. Select a factor. Students will count by ones in turn but for any number that is a multiple of the number chosen the student must say “buzz” (or “pong”) instead of the number. If the number is spoken, the student is eliminated and stands or sits in the center of the circle. Good practice for single digit multiplication and division. Promotes quicker recall. For highly proficient students the game can be extended to include multiples of two numbers, the second requiring a response of “bizz” or “ping.” Some answers will then be “bizz, buzz” or “ping, pong.” This version generally produces fast eliminations and lots of laughter.

Bowling with Numbers (download the worksheet )
In these games, bowling pins are set up and numbered. Students roll two or three dice, pick cards or spin spinners and use those numbers to create number sentences that result in 1 through 10. Students may use appropriate operations with the numbers to knock down as many pins as they can. For example, if they roll 1, 6 and 4 they can get a strike this way:

1 = 6 - 4 - 1
2 = (6-4) x 1
3 = (6-4) + 1
4 = 6 -√4 ÷ 1
5 = 4 + 16
6 = 6 x 14
7 = √4 + 6 -1
8 = √4 + 6 x 1
9 = 6 + 4 – 1
10 = (6 + 4) x 1

Games can be scored like regular bowling (highest score after 10 frames) or each round can be discrete, allowing for more “winners.”

Contig (download the rules and game board )
In Contig, players roll three cubes and use one to two operations using the numbers rolled to cover a number on the Contig board. A cumulative score is kept for each player.

Fractions Construct a Sum (download the worksheet )
Using a pool of numbers, students construct fractions where the sum comes as close to 1 as possible without being one exactly.