Musical Chairs Without the Chairs: Classroom Review Game to Reinforce Learning Retention

Musical Chairs Without the Chairs: Classroom Review Game to Reinforce Learning Retention
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When I was a senior in high school my French teacher was an inspiration to me. She was always creating exciting new games for our class. She would even get the big football players to crawl around on the floor imitating animals as we guessed the French words for each one. But do you know what? We laughed, we enjoyed the class AND we remembered the vocabulary words! That’s why I believe that learning can be fun.

How Do You Make This Game?

For these classroom games use large file cards, construction paper or flash cards. If it is a game you will use often, you may want to laminate the cards.You will also need to use a CD player or your own singing voice. Store cards in labeled plastic zippered bags.

Let’s suppose you want to review states and capitals: Write the name of one capital on each card. Students move around the circle and stop on a capital. You call out a state and whoever is standing on the capital is out. Reverse it by putting the state cards on the floor and calling out a capital.

Perhaps you want to reinforce addition facts: Write a different number on each card from 1-20 (or whatever sum is appropriate for your lesson) Call out a number problem like: 2+8. Whoever is standing on 10 is out.

Reviewing geometric shapes: You can cut the cards into the appropriate shape or just draw them on the card.

How We Play

This game is in the form of musical chairs but without the chairs! For the purpose of explanation, let’s play this game using states and capitals identification as the skill we are trying to review. Place the cards with the names of each capital on the floor in a large circle. Each student in the class should stand on a card in the circle facing the designated direction (clockwise or counterclockwise). Begin the music or the singing as the students “parade"around the circle. When the music stops, each student should stop on one card. They should stop right where they are. No darting around the circle to find a card. The teacher(or designated leader) calls out a state. Whoever is standing on the capital of that state is out. That person sits in the center of the circle.

Let’s suppose you are reviewing addition facts. You may choose to write a number on each card. Put the cards in a circle, students parade around the circle, music stops, teacher calls out an equation and the student standing on the answer goes into the center of the circle. But this could be reversed,too! Write the equations on the cards, call out the answer and student must decide which equation has that answer.

Here’s more examples:

Write vocabulary words on the cards. Read the definition. Who is standing on the word that matches the definition?

Write words on the cards. Call out the antonym or synonym. Who is standing on the answer?

Write foreign language words on the cards. Call out the English of a word. Who is standing on the matching word?

For younger students use cards in a variety of colors or shapes. Call out a color word or shape word. Who is standing on that color or shape?


If you feel that students are restless in the center of the circle (the students who are “out”), you can add a variation to these games. You can designate a round when someone can earn their way out by calling out the answer before someone else. Or you may designate a round when the player standing on the correct answer can “free” someone in the circle.

The Role of Classroom Games

Since students have different learning styles, you never know which technique will “click” with which student. That’s why it is important to try lots of different ways of imparting information and reaching your objective. I like creating review games that actively involve every student both physically and mentally when possible. Make the learning fun! Make the students WANT to come to school just to see what you will do next! You never know if review games may be just the thing that helps them achieve.

Activities offered in this article were developed by the author based on her experience as a classroom teacher.