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Ball Toss Review

This is a copy of a comment I left on Mrs. Gannon's Social Studies blog about review games.

When I was in grad school one of the ideas for math was to take a black and white soccer ball and number it 1-12 on the blank white hexagons (pentagons?). Then students tossed it back and forth to each other and had to multiple, divide, add or subtract (depending on the skill level of the students) whatever two numbers their left and right hand thumb was on.

I got the ball from Walmart (the only place that seemed to have the old “black and white” soccer balls) and did this with my math class when I was student interning.

I moved into science and still had the ball so I decided to come up with 24 “must know” science questions for each unit and play the ball toss game that way. I would list 12 questions for the right hand thumb and then 12 questions for the left hand thumb. At the begining of class, for a warm up, I would have students stand and I would toss it to the first student, they would tell me what number their right hand thumb landed on and I would read the corresponding question off my list. If they got it right they passed the ball to another student and sat down. If they got it wrong they passed the ball to another student and stayed standing. I would alternate days – one day right thumb the other day left thumb.

By the end of the year I had about 120 questions that students should be able to answer cold. We would play the game more frequently as we got closer to the end of year state test.

The kids love to get up and moving and any opportunity to throw a ball in a classroom is usually a winner.

Some rules I discuss ahead of time – They stand up behind their seat with their seat tucked in. They are not moving around the classroom. They are not to throw it so high that they hit the ceiling or so low they hit another child. We practice throwing the ball so that studnets can see what “normal” throwing looks like. They are to be very careful around any student near computers. They can not take forever to throw the ball to another student they are to release the ball as soon as possible after answering the question. You are not allowed to talk after you sit down. That doesn’t take long to establish and enforce. If students start acting up I just take the ball way and say “We’ll try it again tomorrow”. They like doing the ball toss so normally the next day I get much better behavior.

I highly recommend this as a fun warmup for any class!


- Make questions with short answers. I mistakenly put "Name all the planets in order" and that requires too much think time and slows down the review drastically.

- To speed up the review don't leave people standing. If they get it right they sit down. If they don't know it have someone in the room help them out and have them sit down.

- If you don't have time in class you can do it during homeroom in the morning or in the afternoon right before dismissal. Another option is to only do it on Friday's and do the round twice - everyone stands for the right thumb question and after that round everyone stands for the left thumb question.

- Spend some class time and have students work with one of their clock partners to come up with questions using their notebook. Let the partner groups run the ball toss review for the week.


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