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The Epic Test Review Game You Didn’t Know You Needed


Test review can be torturous. Students hate it and we hate it, but it’s something we feel like we have to do. And engaging students in the process can be like pulling teeth. Games like Grudgeball work fine, there’s only so much higher level thinking we can get from them in that setting. They don’t really want to review any more than we do. But what if you could spend that precious time having your students create a test review game that is engaging and makes them think?

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How do you explain a classroom without using the words teacher, student, desks, learn, or school?  It’s a little tricky, right?  You have to really understand what a classroom is to explain it well without using those words. Truly understanding something is different than simply reciting it. Our goal is always to engage students in what they are learning and drive them to think more critically.

I don’t want students to repeat what I said or what they read. I want them to engage with the content and walk away with their own, true understanding. This is what led me to create this epic test review game! Click here to grab an editable copy of the game template!

Tell Me More About This Magical Test Review Game

My desire for students to think critically and truly remember content from all year inspired me to have students create their own test review game called Forbidden Lingo. This is almost identical in concept to Taboo. I needed a way to review what we learned all year long with my students so they did well on our end of the year benchmark. This game project was just the solution.


Students make their own Forbidden Lingo playing cards using terms they’ve used for the unit of study (maybe a single unit, maybe the whole year). Each card has a vocab word at the top. Then, they have to select five Forbidden words players are not allowed to say while they’re playing the game. 

Year after year, this game has been my go-to for test review! I usually set aside four days for students to work on this project in class before they take their test. With a little modification, it can also be used for any grade level or content area.

Playing Is Easy

Two teams sit in a circle with every other player being on the opposite team. When a player grabs a card from the deck, they see a main word at the top they’re supposed to get their team to guess using verbal clues. There are also five words they are not allowed to say. Each player tries to get  their team to guess as many words as possible in a one minute time frame.  The team with the most points at the end of the round wins.

Preparing for the Project

About a week in advance, tell kids they need to bring in how many notecards you’re going to use. This will depend on how many . They don’t need their notecards on the first day, so this gives some wiggle room for kids that forget them… because they will.

I also offer the opportunity to buy notecards from me for one cent. Check with your admin and email parents before you do this! I usually them the opportunity to buy half as many notecards as they actually need and cut them in half. This helps students take some ownership in the project, and I am not going out and buying notecards for all 200 of my students. 


If asking students to pay a small amount for their cards isn’t allowed, see if you have a supply closet or if your PTO will buy them. They’re not super expensive. If I end up buying them with my own money, it’s rarely more than three of four dollars.

I actually use the money I get from them to go buy more notecards for the next year. The money does NOT make its way to my Starbucks fund :).

We’re Playing a Game in Class Today!

Ask your students: How do you explain a classroom without saying words teacher, student, desks, learn, or school? The strategy is a lead-in to how Forbidden Lingo is played. I listen to their answers and talk about how they had to think outside of the box to come up with an acceptable clue. 

Then, I put a real Taboo Game card under the doc cam and model how I might describe that word while avoiding the taboo words. 

Finally, I pick up the deck and give clues so they cannot see the word I’m trying to get them to guess. This whole process helps model how they are able to give clues when they play. 

Break the class up into groups of six or eight. Give each group a small deck of Taboo cards to play with. Give them 8-10 minutes (about one minute per person) to play before bringing them back to their desks. You can give the winning teams candy, but I give them bragging rights!

Four Parts To Making An Engaging Test Review Game

Vocab Words

A vocab word is the main word students will put a the top of their Forbidden Lingo card. This is also the word they’ll try to get their peers to guess. Present students with a list of words they must include as vocab words. It’s nice to give them a list of optional words they can choose from, too.

Click the image to grab your editable test review game template for Forbidden Lingo!

Forbidden Words

Forbidden words refer to the five words they’re not allowed to say while they’re explaining that card. I let them use their notebooks and textbooks. I usually print some of the articles we used during a specific topic to use as well. Make students plan their words on a template and check in to make sure they’re on the right track. 

Students will want to use words like pizza if they’re talking about the Earth’s Crust. I don’t let them. You’ll read about why in the next section.


The idea of the game Forbidden Lingo is to avoid using those Forbidden words to explain their vocab word. But this is an academic project. I require my students to use the five Forbidden words they chose for their vocabulary word to write sentences explaining their vocabulary word

For example, say the vocab word is classroom and they forbidden words are teacher, students, desks, learn, and school. The sentence your students should write could say:

A classroom has a lot of desks where students sit and learn from a teacher at school.

This. Totally. Throws. Them. Off. (at least in middle school). They don’t understand how they’re supposed to use the words after you told them not to. Try your best to explain, model, explain again, model again, not lose your mind and keep going. Eventually I made an anchor chart with an example of this and hung it up. This seemed to help a lot.

Deck Logo

All card games have logos. I ask them to make a deck logo on all the cards like they would find on a normal deck of cards – uniform and colored. Remind (coughwarncough) them they have to make 20 to 30 cards, so their logo shouldn’t be exceptionally detailed.

Students Play Each Others Test Review Games

As students finish up working on their Forbidden Lingo, they form groups and play. They should be able to combine decks because they should all have their own logo and it’s easy to sort cards out once it’s time to turn them in. 


THIS IS THE BEST PART! They’ve made all the cards. Each card has the Forbidden words they’re not allowed to say during the game. They had to justify those words by using them to explain their vocab word. Since each student’s card is different, they have to think of their feet! Now, they have to use new words and make new connections to get their team to guess the vocab word.

This is the easiest, best test review game ever. The kids think deeply. They make connections. They have to synthesize information very quickly. It’s all hidden in a game they’re really excited to make and play with friends!

Forbidden Lingo is one of mine and my student’s favorite projects every year! Click here to grab an editable copy that will work great for any topic!

Middle School, Projects

Create Interactive Content for your Digital Classroom with Genially

Genially templates on computer screen

Every year, I teach my students the difference between observations and inferences using a “soil sample” from another planet I happened to visit over summer break. I started to wonder how the heck I was going to pull that off in a digital classroom. Taking such a tactile experience and making it digital is not the same.

That’s when I found Genially!

Genially is a super cool, interactive content creation tool used by teachers to create digital content for their lessons and activities. I knew Genially’s interactive image feature was exactly what I needed as soon as I saw it. Before I go further, let me show you! 

As you can see, I uploaded a photo of my soil sample and added interactive icons on top of each part of the soil I wanted to highlight. Could I have posted just a photo of the soil? Absolutely. But I used this simple tool to engage students in creating observations and inferences about a planet that happened to be Earth! 

Do you sell on TPT? Keep reading – there’s something in here for you!

How could you use an interactive image in your classroom? 

The box I chose to add one simple image to can be so much more complex. I can add so much interactivity to one image. Look below at the options you can select from:  

Genially types of interactivity are tooltip, window, go to page, and link.

I used the window option. Don’t let my simplicity of one small photo fool you – look at all the features in the window menu bar! Font size, color, and type. Videos, photos, HTML code – if you want to add it to that box, there’s a way. 

Genially Window interactive menu bar in Genially Window interactive

In a social studies classroom, create an interactive map of historical battlefields. Inside of a window, add images, descriptions, and links to websites with more information. Or, use that interactive icon to send students straight to a clip from Youtube. 

I used this image to create a simple tour of Google Classroom for parents who visit my class website. How many parents would love to see what you’ve got going on in that password protected Classroom? I’ll tell you – a lot! 

Students can use Genially too

 If students are working on an ELA project descriptive writing assignment, ask them to find an image and create a Genially interactive image using icons to describe their image according to a rubric. They can even invite other students to collaborate on their assignment via email. This is not your standard assignment in a digital classroom!

Genially animation options

Add some animation

Did you notice how those little icons on my images moved and the font kind of pulses? I added some simple animation to my image to make certain elements stand out. You can animate how elements enter and exit, which direction they come from, and what they do when they stay on your page. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m constantly looking to find ways to make what I’m teaching online engaging for students. I love Genially’s interactive image feature because it gives control and exploration back to students! 

Step it up! 

Now that you’ve successfully created an interactive image, use your tools to create a little more! Genially has a ton of free templates including games, presentations, and escape rooms to use if you’re stuck or maybe, designing things is not your strong suit. 

Add an audio clip or change the timing of certain elements. Check out this snippet of the variables lesson I made using one of the guide templates. Really pay attention to the animation features. 

It’s as easy as… 

  1. Signing up for a totally free Genially account
  2. Get inspired by their super awesome plug-and-play templates
  3. Make unlimited creations! 

I’m serious – Genially is something you should add to your digital classroom toolbox. Here’s an extra cool bonus – if you sell on TPT, you can add your creations to your store! 

Don’t wait, sign up for Genially today! 

Computer screen with Genially game templates
Digital Learning, Middle School, Projects, Uncategorized

Scale Diagram Layers of the Earth Project for Middle School

Inside earth scale diagram banner

How far down is the center of the Earth? Is it 5,000 miles? Or as big as the moon is?  Really… I want to know! These are the exact kinds of questions we get from our students. Curiosity drives the questions, and this awesome layers of the Earth project answers them!

How big are the layers of the Earth?

Student is using a chromebook to work show how

My middle school students never seem to grasp the idea of how vast everything around them is. When I teach the layers of the Earth, we draw the diagrams, cut out the foldables, and look at those pie chart like pictures where the layers are so dang even. But I wanted them to really get it. This layers of the earth project has something that the others don’t – the scale size of the layers! You can grab this for your classroom here!

Do you see the picture of the Chromebook and think this isn’t right for your classroom? Keep reading! I have a solution for you!

Let Them Predict

After kids have learned the order of the layers, the project asks them to predict how large each layer actually is. How cool! Students show exactly what they are thinking. You’d be surprised! No matter how much you stress that the crust is really thin, students always overestimate how big it is. 

Integrate Math Concepts

Cross Curricular science and math assignment with a scale diagram of the layers of the Earth.

After they estimate how thick each layer is, they find the scale size of each layer. The boxes on the grid represent 200 km and using simple proportions, students calculate how many boxes each layer should take up. All of the boxes will be filled to the top of the grid. Bonus: Anytime I can use a math concept for a cross-curricular lesson is a golden opportunity! 

Creating The Diagram

Next, they’ll use the scale measurements the found to fill in how think the layers actually are. They have to start at the bottom and work their way up, otherwise they’ll get confused (trust me!). When they’re done, they should label each layer on the diagram. 

Finally, they have a chance to reflect on the differences between their two diagrams. I love this part of the project because they get to see how thin some of the layers are. The crust seems so big to them, but when they compare their hypothesis to the 35% of ONE box the crust actually takes up, their minds are blown. 

Completed layers of the earth scale diagram by middle school students.

At the very end, they’ll write an informative paragraph explaining the layers of the earth and how scientists find out what is inside, showing what they’ve learned. 

Let’s get real for a sec. As you’re asking your students to complete these rather simple tasks, they’re likely to try and talk over you. Check out these tips to manage a chatty class if this is a problem you face!

Snag this project here!

But I don’t have and tech!!

Don’t worry, I see you looking at the picture of the Chromebook thinking, I don’t have any tech! 

Students are completing the layers of the earth scale diagram on a printed version.

Great news! You don’t need any! You can absolutely use this layers of the Earth project with your students on Chromebooks. There’s even a quick start page in the file showing them which buttons to use. But, there are pages in the file specifically for printing!

I’ve used both. In fact, I had a class that was SO SLOW and so difficult to manage one year, four of my classes used the Chromebooks and that class used the paper. Truthfully, I really like both options. 

If you’re looking for a project that is relevant and engaging, yet shows students a perspective they rarely see (much less create) this is the project for you!

Pin the Layers of the Earth Scale Diagram Project!
Earth Science, Hands On, Middle School, Projects

The Best Middle School Animal Adaptations Project

Tundra Rainforest Desert Middle School Animal Adaptation Project

Do you know what a Beargle is? Neither did I. Not until one of my students turned in this fictional creature as a project. In case you were wondering, it’s half bear, half eagle. This middle school animal adaptations project is pure magic. 

I created this out of sheer desperation, knowing I had to teach animal adaptations and having no idea what to do. It turned out to be one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. There are about a hundred different versions of this project online. The students create an animal with different adaptations, draw it, and write about it. This is that. 

The Beargle. Part bear, part eagle.

Except, this is NOT that. 

Teaching 8th grade science, I knew I needed something that was going to not just be fluff. It needed to be rigorous, yet capture their imagination. 

Nailed it! 

Imagination Meets Research

My students were super interested when they heard they were going to create their own animal!

I mean, who doesn’t want to make a scorpion wolf?! Their animal had to include five structural adaptations and three behavioral adaptations that addressed specific survival needs. 

They got a planning sheet, helping them detail some of these requirements. Each student completed their own research on animal adaptations. If they wanted their animal to be an herbivore, they looked up what herbivores needed to survive. They really did a good job finding adaptations and meeting the requirements. 

After they finished their research, they named their animal and created a Google Slides presentation addressing each adaptation and it helped their animal survive. 

If you’re looking for the perfect, no prep activity to teach structural and behavioral adaptation before introducing this project, you can find one here!

Ya’ll, these projects were bomb!

The Striped BeeveCoon

I was so impressed! I did not have high expectations (and that makes me a terrible teacher). Come on. It’s a middle school animal adaptation project… it can’t be that great. 

I got a Beargle. One student made a Butterfish – half butterfly, half fish. I will never forget the sound BeeveCoon makes… because every time the student said, “BeeeeeeveCooooon!” she would make the sound effect too. They made models out of Legos, clay, dog toys… you name it! 

Imagination Meets Rigor

The same day the slides presentation on their animal was due, they completed the second phase of the project, answering the question, “Can my animal can survive in a mystery environment?” Based on the adaptations they gave their animal, would it survive in the rainforest, the taiga, or the desert? However, they didn’t have the locations until the last day of the project.

After some quick research, they made a claim – their animal could or could not survive in that environment. They completed two prompts using their animal’s adaptations as evidence to explain their reasoning.

Their responses were impressive! I read well thought out, clear, and accurate arguments. They told me exactly what adaptations allowed their animal to live there. Definitely a winning moment for me!

The Sleer. Middle school student made with dog toys.
The Sleer. Complete with paper claws and made from three different dog toys.

Show It Off

Once I realized HOW COOL these turned out, I knew we had to display them. We added their presentations to a QR code and put them in the display case in the hallway. I wish I had taken a picture, because they looked SO AWESOME. Parents came through at conferences and could scan the QR code to look at the presentations. 

Finally, here’s my last favorite part of my project. It takes about a week of class time to complete. I’m all about having kids work instead of talking at them.

I’m serious. This middle school animal animal adaptations project is a MUST HAVE if you teach life science. Imagination meets rigor. That’s the only way to do it. Grab your copy of this project here!

Shows a picture of a snowy mountain, rainforest, and desert. The best middle school animal adaptations project.

Middle School, Projects