Lower School math students are going head-to-head with test review and practice with an assist from a game called "trashketball."
“In math, we like to make review fun,” Grade 4 Teacher Shannon Pristoris said.
She splits her class into two teams. Boys take turns selecting a review question and solve it together. If they get the correct answer, they get a point. Then they have a chance to score an extra point or two (depending on the distance) when one teammate shoots a small basketball into the trashcan.
“Basketball is one of my favorite sports, so I technically get to do that and still remember the math skills. I’ll probably do better on a test if we did trashketball to review it than if we used math packets. When I play trashketball, I remember more because I’m more engaged,” Dylan ’32 said.
“Not only is it motivating for the boys to get up out of their seats so they can move around, but it also motivates them to get the problem correct. Rather than staying in our seats the whole time and just reviewing problems on the white board, this gives them one extra incentive to really focus on the problem,” Pristoris added.
It is an idea that is backed by research. In “Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” and “Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning,” the authors discuss retrieval practice.
Retrieval practice is described as a “powerful research-based strategy that boosts learning by pulling information out of students’ heads, rather than cramming information into students' heads.”
Classroom games are an engaging way to accomplish that. The games also help emphasize that the time is a learning opportunity, taking away the stress that could come with an assessment.
It’s a practice that extends across divisions.
“I empathize with a middle schooler's perspective, having been an eighth grader here myself. I recognize that traditional methods like whiteboards and textbooks don't cater to everyone's learning style,” said Middle School Spanish Teacher Agustin “Gus” Umanzor ’08. “My goal is to ensure that young learners engage their minds and stay active, making the education process both enjoyable and effective.”
Upper School science students have enjoyed trashketball, escape rooms, and even mazes when reviewing material.
“It’s really easy for students to take what they’re doing seriously when it’s for a grade, so I look for ways to give them an incentive while they’re doing the ungraded practice,” said Upper School Chemistry Teacher Matt Beckoff. “If I can make it a game, the competition will give them an incentive, and I find that this motivates them to put their best foot forward.”