Human Buzzer Quiz

A ridiculously fun review game, if you can trust your kids not to get overexcited and hit their human buzzer a little too hard. This is also fun for a larger class. Very good for days when you have a lot of material to review, especially before a big test.

Before class, prepare a list of review questions. You’ll need a lot – two to three questions for every student in the class, if you want everyone to get a turn at the buzzer.

To set up the game, divide the class into two to six teams. Place one chair per team at the front of the class, facing the class. Two people from each team can play at a time. One person, the human buzzer, sits in the chair. The other person, the contestant, stands behind the human buzzer. The buzzer’s role is to make a noise indicating that their contestant can answer the question. The contestant then answers.

When the teacher asks a question, the contestants have to push their buzzer by patting the human buzzer on the head. Then the buzzer makes a noise (bzz, honk, tweet, whatever – something unique for each team is best) to let the teacher know that the contestant is ready to answer. The contestant whose buzzer “rings” first must answer the question, and the teacher awards points for correct answers.

This would be fun enough on its own, but as the kids get excited, the human buzzers make mistakes and buzz out of turn, forget to buzz, or make the wrong team’s buzzing noise. I make the contestants answer if I hear their team’s buzz, even if it was a “misfire”. Pretty soon the whole class is giggling, and some buzzers will deliberately mess things up for their contestant. Make sure you change roles every few questions, so that each student gets to play both as a contestant and as a buzzer.


Spelling Hopscotch

This one is a great way to review spelling and get kids out of their seats! Before class, take a dry-erase marker and draw 26 large squares on the floor (not necessary if your school happens to have 1′ (30cm) square floor tiles). In the corner of each square, write a letter. (Warn the kids to step on the blank spots in each square, not on the letter, because it’ll erase. I tell my kids they have to start over again if they erase part or all of a letter.)

Spelling Hopscotch

For game play, each student is assigned a word to spell. The student has to hop around the game board (on one foot, for added entertainment) from letter to letter, spelling the word aloud as they hop. When they finish, they jump off the game board and spell the word aloud one more time. (This final step is necessary because there’s a fair amount of down-time during the jumping as students look for the next letter and lose their place in the word.) For safety, one student plays at a time. If you trust your class not to get overexcited, you can let two students race to spell different words at the same time (but make sure their words are the same length).

Variation – for short spelling words, try spelling twister! I haven’t tried it, but it’s got potential, I think!

SAFETY WARNING! Unless you have soft foam floors, DO NOT have students play hopscotch by jumping on pieces of paper with the letters on them. Papers slide, kids fall, heads crack open. Not cool.


Spelling Target Practice

Set-up: Draw two rectangles on the whiteboard, of equal size, where the students can easily reach them. Mark a line on the floor about two to three meters (six to ten feet) away from the board.

The targets, with students' vocabulary words spelled inside them.

The targets, with students’ vocabulary words spelled inside them.

Divide the class into two teams. One person from each team comes to the front of the classroom to compete in front of the whiteboard. The teacher calls out a spelling word, and the students race to spell the word correctly by writing it in their team’s rectangle. Then the students run back to the line on the floor, grab a sticky ball, and hit their team’s rectangle with the ball. After hitting the word, they must spell the word aloud and pronounce it correctly to earn a point for their team.

Note: Because this game practices multiple skills (listening, running to the board, writing, throwing a ball, spelling aloud, and pronunciation) it makes the playing field a little more even – chances are every student in the class will struggle with some part of the challenge.

In lower level classes, I recommend writing the vocabulary on the board and going over the correct spelling and pronunciation before starting the game.


Word Relay

Divide students into teams. Students line up in front of the board, and each team has a starting word written on the board. (A fun way to start is for each team to choose a name – Elephant versus Tiger – and the team name is the starting word.)

For game play, each student on the team has to write a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word. For example,





and so on. If this is the first time playing, make sure students understand that each word depends on the word before it – some kids get confused and think every word should start with the same letter. The game ends after a time limit (two to three minutes works well) or when one team reaches a target number of words (20, for example).

Note: I allow team members to help each other out with word suggestions or spelling, and don’t allow repeated words (including words that the other team used). A good rule to institute is that students may not shout out the spelling of a word that the student is struggling with, but have to shout out the sound of the letter that comes next instead. For example, a student is struggling with the word Mexican and has written only Mexi____. students can shout “Kuh! Kuh!” (student writes c) “Ah! Ah!” (student writes a) “Nnn! Nnn!” (student writes n). 



A pair of students stands back to back. The teacher holds a set of flash cards between them. The teacher counts to three as the students take three steps apart, and then when the teacher shouts “go!” the students turn around to face each other. The students look at the flash card that the teacher is holding up, and have to name the word and then shout “bang, bang!” at the other student while making an imaginary gun with their fingers. The faster student is the winner.

Alternatives to flash cards:

  • The teacher does a gesture and the students name the corresponding word.
  • The teacher says a word and the students do the corresponding gesture.
  • Before saying go, the teacher says a word and on go, the students have to spell it out.
  • The teacher says a word, shows a flash card, or writes a word on the board, and the students have to use it in a sentence.

Note: Yes, this is against all the rules in American schools where you’re not allowed to even pretend to have heard of making a gun with your fingers. Can anyone suggest an alternative to the gun thing? Make a silly face at the other student, maybe?