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Trashketball game for reviewing content

March 14, 2022

Trashketball is a common game used by teachers in many subject areas to review content. The basic premise is that teams are competing to answer questions, and their score is affected by shooting and making or missing baskets (in a trash can). There are many different versions of this game, and there's no wrong way to play.

Is this all sounding quite familiar? Well, maybe it's because you already play Trashketball. Or, maybe it's because you play Grudgeball–which is written into many of our curriculum units. The difference between Trashketball and Grudgeball is that each team is in control of their own score, and cannot mess with other teams points. If the idea of a little grudgery sounds appealing to you, then definitely hop over to this post to read about Grudgeball.

How to play Trashketball

Back to Trashketball! I'll be explaining the version that I have used in workshops, and later on in the post I will point you to some other variations.

First, choose your Trashketball content!

Trashketball can be completely no prep, but you do need to make a plan for what questions you will be asking your students. Although I love using games as a way to INTRODUCE information, I prefer to use The Unfair Game for that purpose. For Trashketball, choose a topic that you want to review with your students. Here are some ideas for language classes:

These questions can be open-ended, true/false, multiple choice, or fill in the blank. Obviously, open-ended responses are harder and will result in the highest percentage of incorrect answers, and true/false questions are easier and will usually result in the highest percentage of correct answers. This may impact your planning!

Of course, I would recommend writing questions in the target language, in a way that students can understand them, so that your Trashketball game is an input-focused activity.

Next, prep your questions

In the context of a language classroom, displaying your questions can be beneficial because it will allow students to read the question in addition to hearing you read it aloud. This can be as simple as popping each question into a Slide in a basic presentation document.

On the other hand, you can choose to keep this activity totally no-prep and also focusing exclusively on listening. In this instance, there's no need to do ANYTHING to prep the questions– just ask a question out loud during each round!

Set up your Trashketball shooting zone

During game play, teams will be trying to make a basket using your trash can and either a wad of paper or an actual ball or ball-like object. You will need to prepare a shooting zone for them to do this. You'll want a trash can or other makeshift hoop and two marked lines on the floor: a 1-point line and a 3-point line. I liked marking the lines on the floor with painter's tape, but you can use anything that will serve as a visual cue. Lay the 1-point line far enough from the basket that students might miss, but close enough that it's not difficult to make the shot. The 3-point line should be a challenge.

Split into Trashketball teams

Divide your class into teams of 3-4 students. When it comes to Trashketball, smaller teams are better! The teams can pick names or not, and you should create a scoreboard somewhere in the room to keep track of the score for all teams.

Trashketball game time!

Time to play! In this version of Trashketball, you will be asking one question to one team at a time, cycling through the teams. If a team gets their question right, they automatically earn one point. They also earn the opportunity to earn MORE points if they can score a basket.

To attempt to earn more points, the team sends one of their members to the Trashketball shooting zone. Some teachers allow teams to decide whether they want to use the same shooter each time, but I prefer to require that the team has to rotate through all members.

The shooter (possibly influenced by their teammates) decides whether they want to try to earn 1 additional point or 3 additional points. The 1 point shot is easier to make, but taking the risk at the 3-point line could really pay off.

If they make the basket, they add the earned points to their score.

Trashketball variations

Some good ol' Internet searching rounded up some neat variations.

Beast Academy has teams use a different crumpled paper ball each time that have point values hidden inside them. After the game is over, the balls that made it into the basket are un-crumpled and point values revealed. Click here to learn how to set it up so that you know which team gets which points!

Mrs. E Teaches Math plays with every student for themselves. Every student gets a set of worksheets, and every worksheet that they complete perfectly can be crumpled and shot to earn points.

The OC Beach Teacher sets time limits on each round, and all teams are working to answer a set of questions during each round. Before time is up, the teams can check their answers with the teacher and then try again if not everything is right. Then, all teams have the chance to shoot baskets if they had all of their questions correct by the end of the round.

The Trendy Science Teacher goes all out with their game– not only using basketball-themed supplies from party stores, but also using an interactive Powerpoint presentation that she created with embedded basketball-game sound effects!

Keep Trashketball productive and moving!

I've got two recommendations to help this game run smoothly and to maximize the instructional benefit.

First of all, set a timer for each portion of the round– give the team 30 seconds to come up with their answer to your question, and give them an additional 30 seconds to figure out who's shooting, which line they're shooting from, and take the shot. If you don't keep the game moving with this 'Shot Clock', you will not be able to get through many questions... and you'll want to poke your eyes out.

Second of all, narrate every aspect of the game in the target language! Use game play vocabulary in your language to describe what's happening: whose turn it is, how many points they are shooting for, the fact that they are shooting, scoring, or missing.... all of it! By doing this, the game isn't just about the content being reviewed, it's also about the language surrounding the content.

Remote Trashketball

Are you teaching remotely? No problem! Your students can play from wherever they are. Have every student set up a basketball zone in their space. Each zone needs a trash can, a ball (or a small stuffed animal, or a crumpled up piece of paper!), and something to mark one or two lines on the floor (tape, a pencil, etc.). For the sake of fairness, have everyone make their line 10 foot-lengths away from the basket.

Ideally, virtual students would set this up within the view of the camera so that classmates can watch, but it could be outside the frame if needed. You can still do teams, and because only one team at a time is responding to a question, the team members can discuss their response in the virtual meeting platform (on camera or in the chat) before sending one of their members to their own shooting zone.

Winning Trashketball

At the end of the game (meaning, whenever you've asked an even number of questions to every team AND want to stop playing), whoever has the most points, wins!

To keep things interesting, you could add some kind of a Grand Prize question at the end that allows teams to earn a large number of bonus points or wager some of the points that they have earned during the game. Not necessary - but easy enough to add in if you'd like!

More games like Trashketball

If you love this style of game, here are some others that you've GOT to check out!

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