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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Elapsed Time Game!

A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege of attending a two day training at The Ron Clark Academy.  They are all about high student engagement and adding a little bit of extra magic to a rigorous curriculum.  One of their teachers, the most fabulous Hope King (who also blogs at Elementary Shenanigans), did a workshop on adding games to your curriculum.  One of the games that stuck out to me was using Jenga blocks to up the engagement for ANY topic!  So, as soon as I got home, I ordered a class set of colored Jenga blocks (which are technically knock-offs) and set to work creating a Jenga game to go with our current unit on elapsed time.  And my Elapsed Time Jenga Game was born!

Here are the basics of the game:
  • Each child gets a recording sheet, a colored Jenga game set (I ordered mine HERE.  You can also paint regular Jenga sets), and a dice with all the different colored blocks.  
  • I put my students in groups of 3-4, but you could easily have groups of 5 or 6.
  • One student rolled the dice and pulled the corresponding color from their tower.  Then, they found the color on their recording sheet and answered one of the questions.  
  • Here's a key point: even though only one person pulls a block each turn, ALL of the students MUST answer EACH question.  
  • Then, they had to confer with each other and agree on an answer.  If they disagreed, they worked together to find any errors that had been made and solved the problem correctly.  
  • Finally, I had a QR code answer sheet for the kids to use to check their answers.  

The love for this game was immeasurable!  I had so many comments from kids saying that they didn't want math time to end!  The day was going by so quickly! They were having so much fun it didn't even feel like math!  THOSE are the comments that we as teachers live for.  Little did they realize, they had completed 36 elapsed time problems during their game!

I did add one more little element to the game since it was for time.  Each time the students solved a problem correctly, they got "seconds" for it.  The red questions were the most difficult, so they earned 60 seconds for each red that they pulled and solved for.  The purples were the most basic, so they earned 20 seconds each time they solved one of those. They lost the same amount of time for incorrect answers, and they lost 30 seconds when their towers fell. I added that part because I didn't want students to get too crazy with their towers and spend all of their time cleaning them up.

At the end of our game time, they added up all of the seconds they had earned (and lost).  Then, they had to convert it to minutes and seconds.  That number was the amount of time they had to compete in a STEM challenge.  We did a super basic STEM challenge-- built the tallest structure out of marshmallows and tooth picks.  Some groups had 20 minutes to build, and some had 12, depending on how many they got right and how many times their towers fell! :) This was just a "fun" component, but they just loved it, and it was great motivation to work with a sense of urgency and also not goof around and make their tower fall.

They absolutely loved the STEM challenge, too!

I have shared my elapsed time documents for FREE on my TpT site.  I hope you can enjoy them with your class! Check back for more Jenga games coming soon-- I will definitely be adapting this for multiple subject areas!

Download the documents HERE.

Purchase the colored block sets HERE (affiliate link).

Get even MORE Elapsed Time Ideas HERE!


  1. Thank you the insightful activity! It will definitely boost classroom engagement and rigor. Can't wait to see my the results.

  2. Hi Mary! I love reading your posts and would love to learn more but I'm having some trouble. For some reason I am unable to click on link and be sent to the site. Any ideas about what's going on?

  3. Your posts are simply amazing. I always come away with something new I want to try~ Thanks for all your hard work and willingness to share with others!