Trashketball Madness – How to Play Trashketball

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trashketball

Connect Learning to Student Interests

When teachers capitalize on a popular trend or activity, it makes learning energizing and fun. Many of my students love sports, so I’ve found ways to tap into their interest for basketball to make learning “boring” concepts like grammar more engaging.  And brain research supports the connection between movement and learning, which improves academic success.  Trashketball is fun all school year long, but it’s extra special during your school’s basketball season.  It’s also popular during the NCAA tournaments in the spring.   


I actually learned how to play trashketball from my students.  They told me they played it in their other classes to review for tests. I followed their directions for playing, but over the years, my trashketball games have evolved into a motivating learning tool that uses Power Point or Google Slides to guide them through the game rounds. I’ve also advanced to a “hoop” trash can and foam ball for our games instead of a regular trash can and crumpled paper.

How to Play Trashketball

Do you want to know how to play trashketball? Here are some tips to help you use it into your classroom:

Getting Ready

Before playing, I prepare my classroom by placing three strips of brightly colored painter’s tape on my classroom floor at increasingly farther distances. 

motivating students

The students stand behind each of these lines when it’s time for them to shoot baskets into my trash can. If students make the shot from the line closest to the trash can, they earn one point. From behind the middle line, they earn three points, and from the farthest line, they earn five points.


I put my trash can in front of something sturdy – my cabinets or a wall – so it doesn’t topple over. Trashkeball has been so popular that when I found this hoop trash can for $25, I immediately purchased it.

literature review games

Starting the Game

At the beginning of the game, I arrange students into groups where they are sitting in my classroom. Because I’ve already carefully arranged my seating chart to reflect student abilities and personalities, these groups are heterogeneous, but teachers can use any grouping method that works for them.  Sometimes it’s even fun to encourage the groups to brainstorm names for their teams.


Next, I project the Power Point or Google Slides and show several review slides for the game concept.  There is also a slide for reviewing the rules with the students. These rules include requiring one student to be the captain of each team and to choose someone with legible handwriting to record their answers. They are instructed that the captains of each team will bring the answers for the team to me after each round.  Generally, my games include four – five rounds.

During the Game

Even though I know the answers, I print a copy of the answer key ahead of time to make reviewing their answers a quicker process. If a group’s answers are incorrect, I send the captain back to the group, and the students continue to work on the problems until they are ready to try again. This encourages them to keep trying even when they make mistakes.  This process continues until I have a first, second, and third place winner for each round. Sometimes, I increase individual accountability and require each student to write his own answers; they submit their answers to me for a classwork grade at the end of the game.


After each round, I required one of the groups to share the correct answers orally before they can shoot their baskets. Each group decides if one student will shoot the baskets or if they

trashketball

will alternate group members for their “trashkets”.  I also encourage them to decide on a strategy for which lines they want to shoot from. Since they shoot baskets in-between each round, I suggest that they think about the current scores as they make their decisions.  

Formative Assessment

It’s important to note that I use trashketball to supplement my instruction. When I teach grammar, I introduce each concept in a lecture and then provide guided practice with the entire class.  These activities usually involve identifying the examples in the books they’re reading or using the concept to practice writing sentences. Then my students complete independent practice with a a worksheet that gets graded.  Trashketball is used as formative assessment after these activities to review for quizzes.


At times, students can get boisterous because they are so excited to play trashketball. With certain classes, it’s important for me to set some ground rules for the volume of the voices, paying attention to directions, and remaining seated until it’s time for them to shoot the baskets.  I remind them that if they can’t follow the rules, they aren’t allowed to play the game.

Individualize the Games

I know that teachers occasionally will want to change the questions in these games to meet their students’ abilities and needs. For that reason, teachers may edit the questions in these games.  To save time from making the games yourself, you can find numerous games for grammar instruction, poetry terms, rhetorical appeals, and literature review in my TpT store.

When you use Trashketball to review grammar and other ELA concepts in your classes, you’ll join with these educators who have made learning magical for their students. Here’s feedback from them:

?So fun and creative! It is great to find different ways to reinforce these concepts besides the dull exercises in the grammar text 🙂 Amy

?This was great! My students really got engaged and it was fun to see them really focused on getting the correct answer, even when their answer was originally wrong. Mindee

?My students loved this! They were excited when they first saw “Trashketball” on the agenda. It was a great way to practice, easy and quick. I’m sure they will be asking for more. I do plan on buying more – definitely worth it! Elysha

Have you played trashketball in your classroom? How have you varied it? I’d love to hear about your games or see photos of your students in action. Please share in the comments below.

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I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher and curriculum designer. I like to make learning active, relevant, and fun while encouraging students to think critically about the world around them. With 24+ years of teaching experience, I also want to empower educators – in the classroom, online, and at home- so they can provide the best lessons to their students!

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