Games and quizzes for teachers and teacher aides

Teaching strategies

Games and quizzes for teachers and teacher aides:

A practical guide to implementing games and quizzes for teaching and learning.

Games and quizzes – activities that make learning fun. They often involve competition and physical activity.

Group of six students sitting on the floor of a classroom.

Games and quizzes deserve their own section in this book for one key reason: teachers (especially of younger students) use them frequently to consolidate learning, improve motivation and to get students moving. Games are a fun and interactive way to build social skills. They help to develop a positive classroom dynamic.

Games are a fun and interactive way to build social skills. They help to develop a positive classroom dynamic.

Teachers use games to build rapport. Students are given an outlet for energy, an opportunity for physical exercise and a means to release stress and anxiety. From an educational point of view, games are a favourite revision and consolidating tool. They can be used for almost any subject and age group. They are one of the few teaching and learning strategies that develop both physical and cognitive skills at the same time.

Hint: while most games are planned in advance, they are also a fallback option for when the unexpected occurs. For example, games can be used to get students moving on cold days. They can also save a lesson when an activity isn’t working. In addition, if there is a fight or other unexpected interruption, a game can help to transition students back into a learning mindset.

Games and quizzes should become a prominent feature in your teaching repertoire even if you’re teaching older students. Some of the notable benefits of games and quizzes include:

  • physical activity reduces stress and promotes a healthy lifestyle
  • having students get up and move improves their blood flow, memory and concentration
  • they promote social interaction which reduces stress and improves the classroom dynamic
  • they can be used to help students unwind at the end of the week or after a draining activity
  • games focus students’ attention
  • games can be used as a reward
  • games can be used as a distraction or to redirect attention
  • they can be used to consolidate concepts or knowledge
  • new topics can be introduced with fun activities
  • games make fantastic icebreakers
  • quizzes are excellent formative assessments
  • some students are motivated by competition and they thrive in competitive environments
  • students can burn off excess energy without getting into trouble
  • students of all abilities and backgrounds can participate
  • games can give the teacher a break from their students, and vice-versa.

Hint: a game needs to be appropriate for the students’ age, maturity level and abilities, and be relevant to the subject. For example, you probably wouldn’t play ‘heads down thumbs up’ with adults. However, a quiz may go down a treat.

Both primary and secondary students love playing ‘silent ball’ – one of the oldest games in the book. Even adults enjoy variations of this game. To play silent ball, students first stand around the room equally spaced apart. A soft ball is thrown from one person to another in no particular order. A student is ‘out’ if they drop the ball from a good throw or if they throw the ball and miss the target. They are also out if they throw the ball too hard or make any sound – hence the name ‘silent ball’. The teacher is the arbiter and no arguments or appeals are permitted. Silent ball is not really educational, but it does provide a break for students and it can help improve their gross motor skills.

However, variations of the game can be more educational. For example, in a foreign language class, a student could throw a ball while saying a number. The catcher has to translate the number before (or while) they catch the ball. Students can also practise spelling words – the thrower says the word and the receiver spells it soon after.

Hint: there are literally thousands of different games and dozens of variations on each. Keep a list of games including a short description of each. Read widely, attend short courses and regularly speak with other educators for ideas. By having more options at your disposal, you can choose the best game for what you want to achieve.

A quiz is effectively a pretend assessment. A word of warning, however, before embarking down this road. Be very clear about the rules, especially calling-out and looking at other people’s answers. Explain that calling out an answer is akin to saying, ‘look at me – I’m so smart’ and that it ruins the quiz for everyone. Any calling out (even if accidental) will mean the student gets no point for that question even if correct. Calling out twice could result in disqualification. No phones, tablets or other devices should be allowed. Explain that you will repeat each question twice only, and that you will quickly read through each question at the very end as well.

One of the best and most engaging ways to run a quiz is as follows:

  1. At the start of the lesson, tell students that the class will be doing a quiz with 10 questions.
  2. Explain the rules and expectations.
  3. Have students write 1-10 down the side of a page – scrap paper is fine.
  4. Read out the first question at normal pace and then at a slower, staggered pace. Then say, ‘you have 20 seconds to write your answer’.
  5. Give students precisely 20 seconds. You can adjust the time depending on the difficulty of the question.
  6. Repeat the process for all 10 questions.
  7. Before the final question, remind students not to speak with their neighbour afterwards as this is considered cheating.
  8. Following the final question, read all 10 questions at a fast pace and give students 90 seconds to finalise their answers at the very end.
  9. Have students swap their answers with the person to their left.
  10. Read out each question one at a time and ask for volunteers to raise their hands. Ignore anyone that calls out unless they do it multiple times.
  11. Use the quiz as a learning tool particularly as a review or consolidation activity. Provide feedback, additional information and prompt for additional details such as workings. Don’t be afraid to spend a few minutes on each question, such as modelling a worked example on the board.
  12. Students should mark each other’s answers. They will inevitably ask about half marks, borderline answers and other issues; adjudicate and have students tally up the final score.
  13. Answers and marks are then returned to their original owner.
  14. Ask students to put their hand up and to keep it up if they got 5 or more correct, 6 or more correct, 7 or more correct and so forth. This publicly displays students’ achievement.
  15. Congratulate everyone and thank them for their participation.
  16. Make a mental note of any issues or gaps in student knowledge that need addressing at a future point.
  17. Reflect on how you performed as a facilitator and what can be improved.
  18. Transition to the next activity.

Hint: think carefully about the time allocated to your quiz. An experienced teacher could easily run a 10-question quiz over a 30-40-minute period. This may be an appropriate timeframe, or you may want to shorten it to 10-15 minutes. Quizzes are a great way to break up or start a long lesson (such as those scheduled for 120 minutes or longer). Novice teachers tend to rush quizzes, so be aware of this tendency.

You may be wondering what questions should be asked in a quiz. There are 3 options:

  1. Every question is related to the topic being studied (normally revision from the day before).
  2. Every question is not related to the topic being studied (essentially, a time waster).
  3. A mixture of questions – some related to the topic and others just for fun – students tend to like this version the most.

Here is an example from a year 9 maths class using the third option. The class were revising basic maths concepts such as BIMDAS, time and area.

  1. Who was the first person to step foot on the moon?
  2. What is 3x8+4x2?
  3. How do you work out the area of a triangle with 2 equal sides?
  4. How do you spell the word ‘definitely’?
  5. How do you work out the area of a circle?
  6. What is 75x4?
  7. How many metres in a mile?
  8. How many minutes are there in 3.5 hours?
  9. Name 3 cities or countries that begin with the letter ‘P’.
  10. How many states and territories are there in Australia?

These questions are a mixture of maths and non-maths; some difficult and some easy; some knowledge-based and some computational; and several are trick questions. Students love trick questions because they can then ask and trick their family and friends. For example, very few adults can spell ‘definitely’, the answer to question 2 is 32, and question 8’s answer is 210 (not 230). Almost everyone gets question 10 incorrect as the answer is surprisingly 16 (not 8).

The teacher may stop on the maths questions to probe for details, ask students how they got their answer, ask specific students if they got it correct, and even do the working on the board (or get a volunteer to do it).

About the author

Image of the managing director of ITAC.


Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.

Source: Teaching Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners. Amazon #1 best seller in the category of Classroom Management.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.


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