Top 5 Social Studies Review Games


Regardless of the content you teach, students have A LOT to learn throughout high school. According to the Professional Learning Board, “Neurophysiological studies show that one of the important components of learning is repetition or practice which helps to strengthen the connections of the wiring in the brain.”

Essentially, we know that review is important.

However, as a modern, “with-it” educators, we also know that traditional methods of repetition and practice no longer engage secondary learners and are often fixated on rote memorization rather than skill acquisition.

So how do we blend the two?

Enter, the review game.

Who doesn’t love a game? Seriously, you would be hard-pressed to find a chuck of content that I can’t turn into a game. Students spend such a significant amount of time absorbing information that when it comes time to review, games are much more likely to have a positive impact on learning outcomes than a worksheet. Not to mention, they’re fun!

Below, I summarize my Top Five Social Studies Review Games. These are my go-to review activities that can be adapted for any topic or course. These games will change the way your students feel about reviewing content and make learning more enjoyable for you and your kids!

The Eras Game

One of the things I’ve noticed my student’s struggle with the most is placing people, places, and events in the correct era of U.S. History, otherwise known as chronology.  I’ll ask my student’s, “What modern president lowered the voting age to 18?” Their answer? “Lincoln?”.

Instead of spending the following five minutes in a frustration-driven lecture-rant, I created “The Eras Game”. There are basically two levels to this game. Level One is relatively simple. I write out different eras of U.S. History on card stock and give one to each student. Students then work together, to place themselves in chronological order. If your students are anything like mine, the first round will be long are painful. Keep playing. Each round, I redistribute the cards and each time, the students get better. They speed up, the communicate more effectively, and they begin to work cooperatively.

The Eras Game Part 2

Level 2 is a bit more complex and requires some additional planning. Level 2 can be played two ways. You can keep the same cards from Level 1 or you can create an Eras Game Board like the one shown below. Next, you’ll need individual vocabulary words which I print on colored paper and cut into slips (see below). Students are put into groups of four and are distributed a set of ten vocabulary terms. They then work together to place the vocabulary terms in the correct era. The basic rules are relatively simple and can be adjusted for any student, in any classroom, on any day.

  1. Students have three tries to get it right. Each time the teacher checks their answers, remove any terms that are incorrectly placed.
  2. UP THE ANTY-Each time the teacher checks their answers, do not remove any terms, simply tell them how many are incorrectly placed.
  3. Students are timed for each round. This ensures students are working effectively and helps with engagement because there is a deadline. If this doesn’t work in your room, give them as much time as you need.
  4. There are as many rounds as there are groups. At the end of each round, record which team won and then rotate the vocabulary terms.


The key to Level 2 of the Eras Game is knowing your students. If they struggle more with chronology, as my students tend to do—they may require more teacher intervention (sometimes, I’ll remove incorrect terms without the students asking for a check). Remember teachers, differentiated instruction doesn’t end when review games begin!

MultipleChoice Race 

This is a team game structured like Ms. C’s version of “Jeopardy” or “Hot Seat” from my former post, 5 Ways to Incorporate Competition into Your Secondary Classroom. Students sit in vertical rows and the student in the front desk is in the “Hot Seat”. “Hot Seats” are super important in managing behavior while simultaneously engaging your students. The student in the “Hot Seat” is the only student the teacher will accept an answer from. I usually create Quizlet flash cards with multiple-choice questions on them. Students are shown the card and must race to find the correct answer. When a team has the answer, the student in the “Hot Seat” stands up. If they are correct, the team receives a point. If they are wrong, they lose a point. This ensure students don’t just guess answers to be first.

Knowledge & Finesse

At the end of every school year, I have my students complete a survey. Hands down, every year my students tell me this is their favorite class activity. Knowledge & Finesse is based off the popular soccer activity, Power & Finesse. In this game, teams are arranged in the exact same order as the Multiple-Choice Race, but that stakes are much higher. Teams receive either a multiple-choice question or a definition and must race to find the answer. Teams are timed, and all teams must provide a response at the end of time allowed. Those that are correct have displayed that they have the knowledge, but do they have the finesse?

Time to bring out the trashcan.

Students that correctly answer earn the chance to shoot paper balls into the trash can. If they make it, they get to stay in the game. If not, they are out. As the game progresses, teams that make their baskets not only stay in the game, they can also bring back a teammate that is currently out and sitting in what we call, the Abyss. The last team standing wins. This game moves very quickly and you can play multiple rounds if desired.

Who, What, Where, When 

As you may have noticed by now, the basic structure of most of my games are the same. Student sit in vertical rows usually in teams of four with no more than six team members. Some of this is due to the architectural restrictions of the classrooms and simply the fact that consistency is always key in minimizing confusion and giving your students something solid to go off. After that, you can alter rules or the way the game is played. Who, What , Where, When is a vocabulary based game where teams work to identify the “Who”, “What”, “Where”, or “When” of a certain vocabulary term depending on which card their team has for a certain round. The teams that answer correctly in the time allotted (usually 60 seconds in my classroom) gets a point. The team with the most points wins. Who, What, Where, When engages students with content vocabulary in a new a specific way. They aren’t being asked to simply define a term, they are being asked to apply the meaning of those terms into a certain context. This increases the rigor and improves their content knowledge all the way around.


Teaching students to review their notes and work with the course content is another skill that often lacks in my classroom in the beginning of the year. Because of this, I allow students to use their notebooks, textbooks, and other class materials as resources. By allowing this, students learn how to use their class materials to study, without realizing they are studying. Pretty sneaky huh? Of course, when times get tighter and the test gets nearer I may take away their notes without warning. Panic ensues. It’s a great time.

After all, a teacher’s gotta find entertainment somewhere.


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