New Year “Game” Plan

In my quest to wisely use those last few minutes of class time and bring joy to my little Room H-9 learning community, I’m adding a new element to my classroom routine this year – Quarter Trios.

Here’s the plan: At the end of the second week of school, I’m going to announce that students will work in assigned teams of three, or “Trios,” over the quarter marking period to occasionally complete a variety of fun, rigorous, and random tasks. At the end of the first quarter (roughly early November), members of the Trio team with the most points will have their lowest assignment score (up to 20 pts.) dropped from the grade book. For the second quarter, I’ll scramble the teams and a new round of merriment will begin. And we’ll repeat the process for the third and fourth quarters.

Occasional incentive “bonus” prizes will also be offered in the midst of each quarter’s competition to keep energy high through the mid-quarter doldrums. In addition to earning points that go into the Trio’s quarter-long tally, some challenges will include bonus prizes, such as:
• Homework passes
• Positive phone calls home to parents/guardians
• Donuts for the Trio team members to enjoy during S.S.R. on Friday
• Mystery Box prizes (Candy? Dollar store treasures? Who knows?)
• Win the right to choose your next quarter’s team members

If this plan is the hit that I hope it becomes, I may take a cue from reality T.V. programming and allow teams to mess with each other in the third and fourth quarters. For example, additional bonus prizes later in the year may include:
• Win the right to change another team’s name
• Win the right to remove three points from the tally board. (Might take three from one team or one from three different teams – their choice.)
• Win the right to scramble the members of three other teams.

Standing offers for Trio team points will include:
1. I witness a random act of kindness/awesomeness. I plan to make a big deal about such moments early in the year as I award points to deserving students with the hope that this will encourage positive classroom behavior.
2. Snap a real-life grammar crime and email me the shot along with an explanation of how to fix the error. The photo needs to include at least one team member’s face. Only errors on professionally printed signage will be awarded points. Sorry, no handwritten grammar crimes accepted.
3. Donate a yearbook or dance photo (an actual photo, not digital) of you from this year to add to our classroom display wall.

Challenges: (I’ll toss one or two of these at them each week)
1. On announcement day, does anyone have a purple pen? Earn a point! (Purple = Our school’s color)
2. On announcement day, can anyone name every person in the room? Earn a point!
3. Brain Teasers (I’m going to fit these in at the end of class on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays, depending on the weekly lesson plans.)
4. Content-based review games (Jeopardy, Flyswatter, Quote Races, etc.)
5. “Just Give the Word” game
6. Word ADDiction game
7. New film connected to our literature studies being released? Submit a movie ticket stub and one-page review to earn a point.
8. Local book signing by an important author? (We live in the S.F. Bay Area, so this happens a lot – lucky, I know.) Submit a photo with the author or bring a signed copy of the book for me to see.
9. Any team with at least three (five? ten?) donations during the school’s November canned food drive earns a point.
10. All three team members wear purple on our first school spirit day? Earn a point!
11. All three team members dress in Hawaiian garb on Aloha Day? Earn a point!
12. All three team members dress in a costume on Halloween? Earn a point!
13. Selfie including all three team members and our principal (or Mrs. C., our campus supervisor) (or Mr. B., our hallway’s custodian)
14. Selfie including all three team members taken at the Homecoming Dance.
15. Perform in the freshman class Homecoming Skit? One point per Trio member, so up to three possible points here, folks.
16. I’ve hidden a talisman in the library. Follow the clues I post on the class website. The first team to bring me the object tomorrow before 10:15 a.m. (the end of our brunch break) wins a point. All three team members must be present when submitting the hidden item.
17. I’ve posted a passage from a book on my website with one word or phrase missing. Figure out the author, the book, and the missing word/phrase. Submit that information to me via the Google Form link on our class website by the deadline.
18. I’ve written two stanzas of a poem. Finish the poem and submit your stanza/stanzas via the Google Form on our class website by the deadline.
19. I’ve posted a random trivia question about an author on the class website. Submit answer via Google Form by the deadline.
20. I’ve posted a random question from a TED Talk I want students to watch. Submit answer via Google Form by the deadline.
21. Post a line from Shakespeare on your social media account and send me the link via Google Form.
22. Spot one of our Words on Wednesday vocab. words in a book, highlight or mark it with a sticky note, and post a photo of that passage on your social media account. Send me the link via Google Form.
23. Create a piece of Blackout Poetry based on our current novel. Physically submit your poetry/art piece to me in class by the deadline date.
24. In the last three minutes of class, build a tower using only your Trio members’ six shoes. Tallest, free-standing structure when the timer goes off wins the point!
25. Post “Randazzo is the best teacher ever!” on your social media account and send me the link via Google Form.

The Trio team’s first mission?
Decide your Trio team’s name. Fill out a simple Google Form (link will be posted on the class website) announcing your new team’s name, which is what I’ll use when updating the weekly standings. Also, exchange phone numbers/email and set up a team Instagram or Photobucket account. For the next quarter (nine weeks), you’re a team!

Details to help manage this chaos:
• By requiring students to create a team Instagram or Photobucket account, they’ll be able to post the photo evidence from different challenges and then just send me the URL instead of attaching the full photo to an email. To make things much easier on my end (just say no to email clog, people), students will fill out a simple Google Form and one of the questions will include a space for them to post the url/link of the photo they posted. All of this info will dump into an easy-to-navigate spreadsheet, including clickable links to each of their photos. Huzzah! Those Google Form addresses will be posted when needed on my class calendar, but teachers without websites who want to use this Game Plan could just write their Google Form url on their whiteboards and have students submit their entries to that address.
• To keep things efficient, Trio members will be placed somewhat near each other on the seating chart. No more, “When are we getting new seats?” The answer will always be at the end of the quarter, when we change seats and Trio teams.
• I’ll update the weekly tally every Friday before I leave campus. Any discrepancies (I do make mistakes, y’all) need to be reported to me within one week.

So that’s my plan for new school year. Whaddya think? This shouldn’t be too hard to manage, right? Any ideas to add to my list of challenges? I need to have 36 weeks (or so) of challenges at the ready and I’m only at 25 right now. Happily, two other teachers in my department have decided to take a similar “gamification” approach to their classes, so we can compare notes and may even have some down-the-hall competitions. Oh, it’s gonna get noisy…

Teach on, everyone!

104 thoughts on “New Year “Game” Plan

  1. How will you keep up with the points for each class?

  2. Great question, Kim. I think I’m going to keep a weekly tally on the whiteboard behind my teacher desk where the kids can see it and then just transfer those points to the ongoing tally on the front page of my class website each week. I also could just set up a spreadsheet on my laptop and update at the end of each day, but I’m hoping this won’t turn into too much of a bookkeeping hassle.

  3. During this past school year, I have been thinking about implementing a “gamification” approach to my classroom since my daughter’s history teacher does this, but with a social studies theme. They were extremely competitive, and the winning team earned bonus points on their tests. My daughter often exclaimed how much fun–yet very competitive and cutthroat–this was!

    Will you please share more information on #16, your talisman idea, especially examples of the clues. Will you also please explain the Quote Races in #4?

    For additional challenges, you can maybe add small activities, projects, etc. for Earth Day, Veterans Day, Administrative Assistants Day, etc. Students can do something nice for the secretaries or lunch ladies or another student in the building. They could also perform a “Pay It Forward” activity that students can somehow document. Maybe, for more points, they can come help you reshelve books or organize papers for you during their study hall time.

    I wish you the best of luck with this new approach and would love to hear any updates as your year progresses. It will comforting to know that I am not alone in this new endeavor!

  4. meganmcrae727 says:

    Ahh Laura this is a genius idea!!! I am definitely going to try this with my 7th graders. I have a smaller crew this year and they seem like a good test class for this.

  5. I’m loving this, too. Can’t wait to work out the kinks and see what they can do.

  6. Great, Michelle! For the talisman idea, I haven’t completely thought that one through, but I figured I would have a distinctive item (my Poe figurine, perhaps?) and then, with the help of my campus’ fun-loving librarian, come up with a groovy hiding spot somewhere in the library. Maybe behind a Poe anthology or tucked into the base of a potted plant? I’m thinking this challenge will be sort of a geocaching-meets-treasure hunt based on the clues I give on the class website, all in the quiet stacks of the library.

    For the Quote Race, that’s a review game I use where I pick 30-to-40 distinctive quotes from a piece of literature and then teams need to identify the speaker of the line. They are allowed (encouraged!) to use their text to look up their answers. It’s a “race” because the team with the highest number of correct answers in the allotted time will win, but in the case of a tie it’s the team that turned the paper into me first that wins the race.

    I also like your “pay it forward” idea and will chat with our leadership teacher about ways my freshmen might be helpful to the campus. I’m sure he can come up with a long list of more “challenges.”

  7. Thank you. This is a fabulous idea. Thank you for all you share!

  8. I’m in with my 8th graders! I want to have FUN this year!

  9. THIS IS AWESOME! We had a Hunger Game aka Phoenix Games last year on our campus with a series of sports towards the end of the year. We are hoping to incorporate some sort of Brain (Masterminds type) aspect to it this year and you have filled my head with ideas! Maybe add a community service type challenge to it?

  10. Ah yeah, Bianca! Let’s take this school-wide! I actually sent printouts of some of my Brain Teaser slides to my tween while she was at Girl Scout camp this summer and those little quizzers were (apparently) the talk of the camp. The girls took turns passing out the questions and loved being the one to hold the answer slides/pictures. Slowly, those slips of paper made their way around the entire camp, she said. Maybe something like this would work as a lunch competition? Hmm… And I REALLY like the public service angle, too. Thinking…thinking…

  11. This is such a great idea! Another challenge you could have them complete is have students choose an educational YouTube video (TedTalk, crash course, etc.) to watch and leave a meaningful comment (in a grammatical correct paragraph of course). This would also work great for online articles or blogs. They could take a screen shot to prove they completed the activity

  12. Love it! Great idea, kmiller7792, and the screenshot requirement is a perfect time-saver. Plus, there’s even a bit of writing for an authentic audience here. Genius!

  13. Great idea! I’m returning to the classroom after maternity leave (and to the high school arena after an extended break). Love your idea.

  14. Welcome back, Nicole! Looks like it’s time to get your “game” face on. 🙂

  15. Create a game sheet that includes the name of each guest along with 2-3 statements that can be true or false next to each name. Give each person a game sheet about an hour into the evening.

  16. Thanks, Newton, for this addition. It sounds like a dinner party game idea that we might be able to turn into a two-truths-and-a-lie game for our classes. I’m glad you wanted to contribute.

  17. I’m going to implement this in my AP English class this quarter. Are there any suggestions/warnings you have now that you have been doing it for a little while?

  18. Great, Lisa! Nine weeks into this, I think my biggest piece of advice is to be ready to commit. Even if we get busy with the million curricular things I need to include each week, my students will make it a point – an urgent point! – to remind me to include a Quarter Trio task in our week. They look forward to the break from the routine and, since we’re nearing the end of the first round, they’re very competitive as many of them are hoping to squeeze out a last-minute victory. It’s been great fun, but it’s not something I can set aside for a few weeks before I get back around to it. It’s become surprisingly important to them.

  19. Thanks Laura! Has it been difficult to track?

  20. Hey, Lisa. Not at all. I just entered all of the teams’ names onto the front page of my class website and I update the tally each week. I do this while the kids are reading SSR books on Fridays and it takes five minutes, max.

  21. Laura,

    What do you do if you have to create a pair and not a trio?

  22. Hey MB,
    Only one of my classes has ended up with perfect trios, with all kids fitting neatly into threes. For the other classes, I have situations needing either one pair or two pairs to make the numbers work. For those classes, I just told the “duos” that they’ll sometimes be at an advantage and sometimes be at a disadvantage, depending on the series of games/tasks. I also told them that, if they win the whole quarter game play, I’ll give “extra sparkles and glitter” to their bonus point prize and no one’s had a problem with that. If the main prize was, say, 10 bonus points in the gradebook, then I’d probably give a duo that won 12 bonus points instead. You know, that sort of thing.

    Interestingly, we just wrapped up the first quarter trio competition last week and the prize wasn’t nearly as important to them as just playing the games/completing the challenges. Yes, the prize is nice, but everyone’s having so much fun with the different tasks that the prize, at least from what I’m seeing on my end, doesn’t seem to be their main motivation anymore. They’re really bonding and having a good time trying to solve demanding content – I’m calling this a win!

    Have a great Thursday!
    🙂 Laura

  23. Thanks so much, Laura. I have this all ready to roll out tomorrow for our Quarter 2. You continue to amaze me!

  24. Melissa Morton says:

    Ok—-i sooo love reading your posts and ideas and would enjoy coming to observe your class someday. Bravo to you and your great ideas you share with all of us! QUESTION: How do you give them the weekly challenge? Email it? Write on the board. Just tell them? What day do you give to them and did I miss—they must complete task by end of the week to earn the points? THANKS AGAIN!! M

  25. Hey Melissa,
    I love that you love the blog! Yea! Early in the year, I started off by giving the challenges each Monday and they were due Thursday or Friday, depending on what we had happening that week. I always just announce them at the beginning of class. As the year rolled along, though, it became less scheduled; whenever I had a pocket of time in my calendar or a sudden burst of inspiration, I just threw down the gauntlet and issued a challenge. By the fourth quarter, most of the “challenges” were weekly sessions of Brain Teasers because we were all just white-knuckling it to the end of the year. Still, it was a ton of fun. One random challenge late in the year, though, was to build the tallest tower they could in five minutes using only the contents of their backpacks. I ended up giving some points for height and some points for style because some of them were so creative in what they were quickly able to pull together. Creative teamwork for them. Goofy fun for me. That’s a win, for sure! 🙂

  26. Hi Laura,
    I love your ideas!!! I would like to try this with my classes this year. I just have a couple of questions. The trio teams just compete against their class period correct? Or do they compete against all your classes throughout the day. Also, all the teams who make a correct submission get points, or just the first team to submit an entry?

  27. Thanks, Gloria! Yes, I had the trios compete only within the same class period, though you could easily add a Grand Champion layer of competition that covers all of your sections. And, yes, almost all of the games/competitions were run so that every team could earn the point/s on every round. I harp on my kids a lot about “fast doesn’t equal smart,” so I try to steer away from competitions where the quickest to answer wins the point. If I have to, I usually only use that as a tie-breaker strategy.

    Hope this helps with your planning!
    🙂 Laura

  28. Thanks Laura! That helps me understand the game better. One more question. You have a google form for each period correct? I am new to google form, so I am doing a crash course. 🙂

  29. Hey Gloria,
    I actually only used Google forms once in a while for teams to submit answers or urls of their online postings/photos for specific challenges. To keep track of the weekly standings, I just typed up the team names and updated the points manually on my main class website page each Friday while the kids were reading the SSR books. Easy peasy! 🙂

  30. Thank you!

  31. Do you have a standing Google Form for the Quarter Trios? Do they just continuously fill it out or do you change it every week?

  32. Hi Susan,
    I actually needed to use a Google Form only about once per nine weeks, so I just made a fresh one each time, depending on what I needed for that specific Trio Challenge. All of the other games/contests were easy to track just within the class period by scratching down points on a Post-It Note and then entering those points later on our class website. Easy peasy!
    🙂 Laura

  33. Okay, I’m preparing myself mentally to start our own Trio games. Do you have any advice about forming the groups? I’ve spent so much time creating and recreating groups. I vacillate between drawing names out of a hat to alphabetical order. Nothing seems quite right. Does anyone here have any advice? Not sure why I’m letting this hold me up…

    Thanks! I love all your stuff!

  34. Oh, I know, Dana, group-clumping is tough. For the first time through, since it’s the beginning of the school year and I don’t really know the strengths and quirks of everyone, I just did it alphabetically in groups of three running down my attendance roster. Then, for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th qtr. groups, I did it by scrambling my seating chart and then making edits when I saw a group that just wouldn’t work at all. For the most part, though, I let the computer randomizer do its job and tried not to fret too much. It was mostly just for game-play, after all, and it all worked out fine. Hope this helps!

  35. Great, that’s what I was thinking I would do. This helps so much! Thanks!

  36. Hello! Thank you so much for these ideas and all the additional clarification. I’m in a new school district with kids I’ve never met before, so this is exactly what I needed. I can’t wait to see how it goes.

  37. Have fun, Suzie! I’m sure your new kids will love the game approach. 🙂

  38. Hi Laura. Thanks so much for your inspiration. Do you have a form or handout that explains the Trios Game? There’s so much to take in here that I’m stuck trying to put this game down on paper to explain. I’d like to hand out something at the start so everyone understands the concept.

  39. Hey John,
    Thanks for finding my blog! Unfortunately, I don’t have a handout or anything like that to share this time. I kept the process pretty casual, telling my students at the beginning that we’re going to have a quarter-long competition where they’ll be assigned to a group of three students who’ll compete each week in a series of challenges. At the end of the quarter, the team that’d won the most points would be awarded 20 (yes, count them twenty!) bonus points in the grade book. Yup, that got their attention. Then, each week I hosted a game or challenge or activity and kept track of the earned points on our class website. In this case, the less formal the procedure, perhaps the better? Because then you’ll have the flexibility to try out different things with the Trio teams.

    So, short answer, is sorry, no handout. Hope you find a way to bring a version of this to your classes, though. Quarter Trios ended up being a favorite in my classroom last year. 🙂

  40. Hi Laura, it’s me again! I’ve finally created my groups and we’re so excited. I cannot figure out the Google Form / add to Google Classroom thing. I know it’s because we just got Google classroom and no one here uses it and we’ve had no training. I keep searching help but I just am having trouble visualizing and figuring out how the form/classroom/student connection works. I know you’re not the right person to ask this but I was wondering if you’d mind sharing your form just to get me started. Thanks!

  41. Hey Dana, I’m a visual learner, so I totally get why seeing one would make this a lot easier for you. Unfortunately, my Qtr. Trio forms have been disabled so I can’t share them. They were really simple, though. Just a fill-in-blank question style “quiz” (that was really just information gathering) and then I’d post the access url for students to click on my class website. If you’ve never used Google Forms before, try not to let yourself feel intimidated; they’re really much easier to build than you think they are. There are a lot of YouTube tutorials out there that can help you. I like this one:

    Hope this helps!
    🙂 Laura

  42. VictoriaH says:

    Hi Laura, I’m currently student teaching while working on my master’s and certification, and I’m a fairly new reader (though I’ve been devouring your posts). My mentor teacher from last semester recommended your blog, and I love it!

    This post in particular inspires me so much for when I have my own classroom. I am hugely into role-playing games (I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons for 4 years), and my action-research project (which is taking the place of a thesis for my degree program) is actually on using tabletop role-playing games in the literature classroom. My husband and I talk all the time about gamification in the classroom, and I’m very interested in the topic. Your Quarter Trios sound like exactly the sort of thing that would suit my style!

    This is definitely going into my future teacher ideas notebook!

  43. Welcome to the party, Victoria! So glad you found the blog and that I’m helping to supply some seeds of inspiration. Definitely keep checking back in as your first year unfolds! 🙂

  44. Hi Laura! Did you ever do a post on how this turned out for you/do you continue to do trios? What did you learn your first year doing them that you’d like to pass on? I’m trying to get a head start on next year, and classroom culture was an issue this year!

    Thank you!

  45. Hey Brittany,
    Great question! Yes, indeed, I still use Quarter Trios in my classes. Sorry, I don’t think I ever circled back for a reflection post, but that’d definitely be a good one to write. Basically, I love the trios and they’ve gone a long way toward helping me build community in the classroom and absorb those occasional random 5-to-10 minutes that show up at the end of some periods. I keep a running tally of points for the teams on our class website and the kids get pretty competitive, especially toward the end of each nine-week grading period. I throw a few extra credit point on the grades of the winning team each quarter and then re-shuffle the kids into fresh trios for the fresh quarter, careful to sort them into high-medium-low performers as I try to balance the teams and separate the chuckleheads. That’s when I update my seating chart, too. Works like a charm! 🙂

  46. I love this! I am definitely going to do try this this year. As you know, however, sometimes one period has a few extra minutes, while the others do not. Does this become a problem? Do you try to make sure that each period has equal challenges or does it not matter?

  47. Great question, EnglishtheMcKelvyWay! It doesn’t matter to me at all if different class periods have different opportunities for Quarter Trio challenges. Once the kids realize I use different Brain Teaser questions for each of my different class periods and there’s no way for them to cheat, they stop talking about it with their friends in my other class periods. Even my actual grade book always ends up slightly off; second period Eng. 9 might have 1200 possible points in a semester, while fifth period Eng. 9 ends up with 1380 possible points. I’m always adding and cutting curriculum to make things work/fit the clock. It’s perfectly fine. Hope this helps! 🙂

  48. Hi! How do you think I can best implement Quarter Trios in my classes? I want to try this with my students next year, but I am especially worried that my students won’t care or think this is a waste of time. Thanks! 🙂

  49. Hey, Robert, in my experience, my enthusiasm for everything we do in the classroom becomes my students’ enthusiasm, too. Sell it! Interestingly, Quarter Trios serve the self-interests of a variety of types of kids. Slackers like the weekly game play because it breaks up the routine of what’s otherwise a pretty rigorous class; over-achievers like Quarter Trios because bonus points are on the line and they’ll do pretty much anything to grab those points. I always introduce this at the end of the second week of school. That way, we’re starting to get to know each other and I have a sense of which kids might be a good fit for each of the Trio teams. Then, we let the games begin!

  50. Oh, okay, thanks! 🙂 By the way, I was just wondering, for Quarter Trio prizes, have you already let students change another team’s name, erase points from other teams, or scramble the members of three other teams?

  51. It’s funny, Robert, but I never ended up using any of those three options. My classes weren’t as competitive as I’d imagined when I first had this idea and wrote the post; my kids were happy to just play the Brain Teasers and other games I offered. A few kids even forget about the end-of-quarter bonus points until I brought up the prize announcement. For the fourth quarter, I surprised them and let them choose their own Quarter Trios for our last round of competition and they thought that was super-fun. I imagine a lot of our plans bend and curve to meet the personalities of our kids/campus/community.

  52. Hey, again, Laura! Do you still have students make Instagram accounts and post pictures for Quarter Trio challenges? How often do you have students upload their Quarter Trio pictures? For what reasons would you have them take Quarter Trio pictures? And what other challenges have you come up with for Quarter Trios? Thanks! 🙂

  53. Also, do you tell students ahead of time that they have to dress up on spirit days/Halloween to get points?

    For the movie and review, do you have students do 1 review per trio or 1 review per member in each trio to get up to 3 points? How long do you give them to watch the movie and write up a review? Handwritten? Double-spaced?

    For the local book signing, do you require all 3 trio members to be in the photo? Do you give 1 point per student if they go separately? Do you give 2 points for a photo AND a copy of a signed book?

    Finally, what do you do if students in trios don’t like each other? Feel forced to do things they don’t want to do together?

    Thanks again 🙂

  54. Yes, Robert, the Instagram challenge lives on! We do this only about once per semester, and here are more details that should help you see how this might work with your classes: The comments section on that post also has some cool ideas other folks have used to make this work for their kids; some of those might inspire you, too!

  55. Yes, Robert, I let them know ahead of time that points will be offered on school dress-up days. For the movie review and book signing, I haven’t yet actually used those two ideas. Feel free to set whatever parameters feel right to you! Finally, I haven’t had any Trios unravel on me; they might not all be best friends by the end of the quarter, but they always get along. I try to keep Trio games lighthearted and everyone’s usually so glad for the break that there haven’t been any discipline or management issues – hallelujah! If I know two students are just oil and vinegar, I’ll make sure they aren’t placed together when I match up the teams in the first place. For the first time around, I usually base the assignment on alphabetical order most of the time and keep my fingers crossed. So far, so good. 🙂

  56. Susan Sullins says:

    Hi Laura,
    Did you continue with this Quarter Trios this last year? Are there any additions or adjustments you would recommend? Thanks,

  57. Hi Susan,
    Yes, indeed, I ran Quarter Trios with all of my classes this year. I try to give them a challenge at least once a week, but in reality it usually ended up being more like once every two weeks in the spring semester. We just get so busy with other units and the testing season threw my schedule all out of whack. For the most part, we used the Brain Teasers and mini-games. Hope you can find a way to bring this idea to your classes, too – it’s a lot of fun!
    🙂 Laura

  58. Carla Corbin says:

    I love this idea and I am thinking about tweaking it to use for my math classes. I am curious how you decided on groups of 3. I am thinking about teams of 4 since I have tables that seat 2. I am also thinking about awarding points for in class activities that they get all correct as well as the the challenges. If I use groups of 4, then they can break up into different groups of 2, divide and conquer the activity, and then check each other, before they submit it. Do you have any other suggestions?

  59. Love this idea for your room, Carla! Sounds like it makes perfect sense, given your layout. I think teams of 3-to-4 is the sweet spot for this sort of activity/ongoing gameplay. Once the groups get to five members, there’s always someone who starts to slack. Follow your gut instinct and you’ll be fine! 🙂

  60. Amanda Davidson says:

    Hi Laura! Just found your YouTube channel, which then led me to your blog. Thank you so much for all the resources! You mention your classroom website, and I was wondering what format you use? Is it a blog, a wordpress site, or Google Classroom? Is this where you include your daily activities and discussion posts? Just trying to find a good way to encourage student engagement beyond the classroom and something parents could possibly access to see what we are doing.

  61. Hey, Amanda, welcome to the party! So glad you found me. My class website is one I built with Dreamweaver and hosted on a school district server. If I were starting over again, though, I’d probably use Google Classroom or Edmodo to set everything up. It’s just that now that I’ve built all of the html for my classroom website and have all of the links polished, it seems silly to rebuild everything on a new platform. My calendars, homework assignments, and curriculum PDFs and Prezi links are all there for my kids and their parents to access. I’d share the link with you, but the site is closed to the general public because there are a lot of copyrighted materials posted and licensing allows me to provide them only to my direct students and their families. I’m sure you understand. Definitely check out Classroom or Edmodo – they have a lot more bells and whistles than my bare bones site, anyway. 🙂

  62. Amanda Smothers says:

    I love this idea!! I am a first year teacher (career switcher) of 8th graders. I’m so tired of hearing that “school is no fun”, “all we do here is learn” that I could scream! I’m going to try to come up with a way to rework some of these to take the technology out. We don’t use Google Classroom and the students aren’t allowed to have their cell phones on them during the school day. (That really messed with my plan of using kahoot with them.) I also teach an inclusion class of about 28 that includes 13 sped students. This would be great for team building!!

  63. Great, Amanda! I agree – we need to add the fun back. I started doing this a few years ago when I felt all my kids focused on were grades and standardized tests. I wasn’t having much fun either and decided I could be the change. Since then, Qtr. Trios have become a cornerstone of my classroom management strategy. The games/tasks are fun for all of us AND help kids stay focused on the classroom and not their phones. Success!

  64. Laura,
    I absolutely am loving this! We’re on trimesters, so I’m switching groups every four weeks. This trimester, I have juniors and seniors who are so blasé about everything, so it’s been so awesome to see them engaged and in competition mode! (They really want to be able to choose their next groups)! They don’t know that they’ll be writing a team essay next week (again, thanks for that idea!), but I’m pretty confident that the collaboration, effort, and quality will be like nothing I’ve seen before because of the Quarter Trios implementation.

    Thanks for sharing your awesome ideas! xoxo

  65. Thanks for this note, bryantlenardonj. You just made my day! 🙂

  66. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing this!

  67. Megan Pratt says:

    I cannot even say enough about how well this works! I use the plan during my 9th grade advisory period – relatively unstructured, no grade, no participation. Within three weeks, my class was 100% on board, helping each other out, racing past my wildest expectations. Students have taken on leadership positions, the normally quiet have found their voices, and the way they encourage each other is phenomenal. The students are inspiring me to higher levels! Excellent program.

  68. Love, love, LOVE this, Megan! My kids, too, blossom when given these challenges. I didn’t know this when I started trios, but my kids are thirsty for rigorous fun. SO glad you’re having the same success! 🙂

  69. Megan Ziegenfus says:

    Hi, Laura!
    Do your trios sit next to one another? What happens if you end up moving a student around if the seat doesn’t happen to work for them (peer issues, etc.). Does the group get messed up, then?

  70. Great question, Megan! I’m planning to post a video on Quarter Trios this weekend, but I’m happy to chat here, too. For the first quarter, the kids are usually sitting near each other because I use alphabetical order to set those first groups since I don’t know them very well yet at that early point in the year. For the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter groups, kids aren’t usually sitting right next to each other, but that’s no big deal. They just get up and quickly slide three desks together to make a Trio “table” and we’re off! When our Trio game/competition is done, everyone scooches back to their regular seats and we’re back to regular busy. Easy peasy! 🙂

  71. This is so much fun! I love it!! #16-19 are my faves! I cannot wait to do this! I don’t know how to use Google Forms yet…I know, I’m so behind the times! I’ll learn! Thanks for sharing the great ideas, everyone!! Thank you, Laura! 🙂

  72. My pleasure, Tara! Have fun with this and definitely check back and share any additional ideas you create. I’d love to grow this list. 🙂

  73. Not sure if this was asked already, but what do you do when students drop your class/ move away?

  74. Good question, Patricia. This does happen occasionally and then the “trio” becomes a “duo” for the rest of the quarter. Life happens. My kids get it. When appropriate, I’ll give the duos an abbreviated challenge and/or I’ll give the quatros a handicap. Usually, though, neither are needed and game play rolls along as usual for all teams regardless of the team’s size. Happily, this hasn’t caused any problems in my world. 🙂

  75. Molly Rogers says:


    Another idea for a challenge is to take a picture of the trio supporting their classmates at a school event (sports, concerts, art shows, etc.) or, better yet, supporting ONE ANOTHER at such an event.

    Like all of your suggestions, Randazzo, I LOVE THIS IDEA! My 9th grade ELA classroom is Harry Potter themed so I have already instituted a “House Cup” system, where the entire block works towards rewards like free seating and pizza parties while unofficially competing against the other blocks (they love the idea of being my “best” class.) I think I am going to incorporate the quarter trios into this system by adding the points each trio earns to the class average in order to still hold everyone accountable when the entire class is talkative or disengaged. This way, they will almost begin to manage each other. I also may have mini additional rewards for the particularly victorious trios like candy, bonus points, or homework passes. I also like the idea of them automatically serving as the basis for creating small groups and think-pair-share activities in the name of efficiency.

  76. Your class sounds so fun, Dumbledore…er, I mean Molly. 😉 Glad this might be a good fit for your set-up.

  77. Janet McDonough says:

    I love all of these ideas, and I am super-excited to adapt this for my classes. Have you made a video for Trios? I saw above you mentioned it, but I couldn’t find a video on youtube. A link would be awesome! I love watching your videos and learning from you. Thanks!!

  78. Ah, thanks so much for the reminder, Janet. Yes, indeed, I did finally put together a video for this last week:

    Appreciate your reminder to circle back and add that information here. By all means, don’t hesitate to let me know if questions arise as you set up your own trio plan. I love talkin’ shop! Laura

  79. Amanda Nickles says:

    Love this idea! Quick question, what do you do if one trio member refuses to participate?

  80. Happily, Amanda, that hasn’t been a problem. The challenges are fun and relaxed, so kids are much more willing to play along; in fact, it’s usually my more-challenging kids who are quick to remind me on a Friday when I’ve forgotten to launch the game slides. I guess the whole tone of this is different than the typical group-project-for-a-grade assignment and it works for kids. If, though, you have a defiant student, you have choices. My actions would be dependent on the kid, our relationship, the nature of the other two kids in his/her trio group, and the advice given to me by the guidance counselor. Three paths come to mind. First, I might let the kid quietly observe with the trio teammates, adding input when he/she feels comfortable or motivated. I’d then be careful about which two new partners are assigned to that kid’s trio team for the next quarter or I might make that kid my scorekeeper/equipment manager. You know, give ’em a job and make the kid feel noticed and valued. The second path is the traditional discipline path (warning, detention, parent contact, admin. meeting), but again that feels like overkill given that my purpose in using Quarter Trios is to bring a moment of fun into our week that builds relationships and strengthens our community. Finally, I’m also always on the lookout for undiagnosed mental health issues in our students. A kid who doesn’t want to play games could be suffering from depression or any number of other issues. That’d be a time I’d call in an expert from the counseling department to help.

  81. Laura-Love your stuff and so thankful since I have a new prep this year. I’m a 20-year veteran, and you make me LOVE teaching even more. I teach at a small, private school near Cincinnati. Have you had any issues with kids telling other classes “answers” to brain teasers or any other “cheating” issues from class to class with the Trio competition? I teach all 10th and 11th grade in the building, so kids are close (relationally and in proximity). Thoughts?

  82. Oh, for sure, Rachel, this happened my first time using the brain teasers. Apparently, my students have nothing better to do at lunch than to talk about my class. 😉 To fix this, I now give every class a different brain teaser on a game day. I keep track with a sticky note by my computer and rotate the slides, starting with #1 for 1st period, #10 for 2nd period, #20 for 3rd period, etc. Eventually, second period will see the same slides/questions that I used with first period, but that will be more than a month later and everyone’s forgotten everything by then. Gotta stay one step ahead of the kiddos! You’re wise to think this through ahead of time.

  83. Monica Bush says:

    Hi…I love this idea! Quick question… Do they have to sit by reach other? My kids sit at lab tables by pairs.

  84. Monica Bush says:

    Oh, also, how do you keep up with this if you have multiple classes? I teach over 100 kids.

  85. Hey, Monica! Nope, no need to sit the trios together. There’s a lot of sliding desk around – or maybe that’ll be chairs in your room – before game-play on Fridays.

  86. Hi again! I keep a running tally for all of the different class periods on my teacher webpage. Then, each Friday, I just update the standings with the latest points. Keep the bookkeeping easy on yourself!

  87. Hi Laura,
    I love your blog, resources, and creative ideas! I read everything you write even though I teach 4th grade (in CA). Getting students to work as a team and cooperative is what I focus on every year and some years based on classes that task was easier than others. My question is, with 34 students in my class, I won’t be able to get an equal number of trios. What would you suggest in this case? Also, what is your seating arrangement looks like? When you assign trios, the students do not seat next to each other in trios, correct? They only move to sit together when it is their Challenge time, right? So I need to make sure when they move for a challenge I have enough seats for all team members and they don’t argue who sits where… that is why I am curious how you have your desks set up.

  88. Wow, Marina, so cool that you’re able to find ideas here for your elementary kids, too. Love that! Okay, so there’s rarely a perfect class of 30 or 33 for trios (and even when I do have those unicorns, someone always ends up moving away or transferring in mid-quarter), so I almost always have an oddball team or two in each class, either a Quarter Duo or Quarter Quatro. I tell my classes that’s just how the math works out and I give the Duo/Quatro kids a heads-up that I’ll make accommodations to their task when the time comes to even the playing field. I never need to, though. Some tasks are easier and some are harder depending on the weekly challenge, but everything’s presented with a spirit of fun and it all just works out. That said, I don’t work with 8 year olds so they may have a different intensity. If anyone balks, I’d remind that kid that we’ll scramble teams at the quarter and I’ll keep in mind that he/she wants to be on one of those teams. No one’s ever complained about this, though, so I’m hopeful it’ll be a non-issue for you, too.

    As for seating, here’s a video that shows my room layout:
    When it’s time for Quarter Trio competition/game play, the kids just slide their individual desks into clumps of three. When we’re done, they slide back to their original spot. Easy peasy. Do 4th graders argue about who sits where? Weird. Tell them high schoolers don’t do that; maybe that’ll help them find their chill. 🙂

    Hope this helps and that you’re set for a great school year. Let’s do this thing!

  89. Hey! I love all your resources and ideas! Just curious, how many students did you have in your class? I will have about 24-25. Wondering if this would work with groups of 5? I was thinking about making it harry potter theme. And having a harry potter chart or marble collector (like in the movie) to keep track. And having the children be in houses. Do you think group of fives would work or smaller groups would be better?

  90. Hey bradygirl121,
    I usually have 30 to 34 kids per class and I really prefer to cap the teams at three kids. I’ve found that once I put kids in teams of four or more, there’s usually one or two kids who check-out of the conversation either because they’re happy to let the others do the heavy lifting or they are more reserved and don’t feel as comfortable speaking up. In my experience, three kids per team is the sweet spot, but you may have a different preference and that’s cool, too. Maybe try it with fives and see how it goes? You can always switch things up whenever you want. Happy new (school) year!

  91. Tina Michelle McCloud says:

    Do you perhaps have any suggestions/ideas as to how we could adapt this for virtual learning groups during COVID-19?

  92. Hi Tina,
    Thanks for checking in with me! I’m right there with you, scratching my head about how all of this is going to work. I don’t have enough experience with the online learning tech to know how to do small group breakouts and I’m nervous about having kids meet up in chatroom spaces that I’m not able to monitor, so I’m thinking of setting aside Quarter Trios until in-person work continues. Until then, I’m thinking that the brain teasers and short games will work best as a warm-up activity as we wait for all of the kids to log in and get settled. The main aim of Quarter Trios as I’ve used them in the past is to build our classroom community and fun-loving culture; with e-learning, I feel like that’s a whole different thing now, you know?

    So…sorry, I don’t have a great answer. This is definitely just a stop-gap until we know more what the rest of the school year is going to look like. Hope this helps.
    🙂 Laura

  93. Renee Allen says:

    Laura, you seem like a ton of fun! Thank you for sharing all of your ideas and how-tos. 🙂

  94. You’re very kind, Renee. 🙂 So glad you found my blog!

  95. I’ve started using this with my students who are in 9th grade and 11th grade. I would LOVE more weekly challenge ideas! So far I’ve had students take group selfies in front of our school mascot statue and write their favorite staff member (not me of course!) a thank you note! I truly believe this has changed the way my students interact with each other, they can also earn points for there team through daily participation. I 100% think this is the best thing I’ve ever done as a teacher. Thank you so much!

  96. So glad you took the leap, Carly! Quarter Trios was always my favorite time of the week. Of the 25 ideas in this post, I’d say the most popular one for my students were the Brain Teasers. We’d do two questions as a competition at the start of class on most Fridays. How about everyone else? What fun challenges have you given to your teams? 🙂

  97. Thank you so much for these wonderful ideas. I have not started using this in my classroom, I will do next year. Maybe another idea could be all three members taking a picture with the full football/volleyball/basketball/OAP team or during a match. Also, the three students reading a short book to elementary level students (a whole class or only a group).

  98. Great ideas, Maria! Glad you’re thinking of ways to fold this idea into your community of learners. 🙂

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