Host a Trashketball Tournament


trashketball, march madness, games

Do your students need help with their grammar skills? Do you want a way to make grammar review fun? Take advantage of the March Madness basketball buzz to host a “Grammar Review Trashketball Tournament” and turn your students into grammar experts!

Here’s how to do it:

1. Choose the grammar concepts you want to review.

I suggest giving your students a diagnostic grammar test to see which concepts they struggle with the most. Of course, consider the appropriate standards for your students but even if the standards are from lower grade levels, remember that older students often need review for concepts they learned in the past. Unfortunately, grammar instruction often gets neglected for various reasons, so your students may have deficits in their background knowledge.

Once you’ve selected the concepts you want your students to review, scaffold the games and start with easier concepts so that in progressing rounds, the concepts become more rigorous. For instance, I’d start with a review of parts of speech, then move on to games that review sentence parts, phrases, kinds of sentences, and finally, sentence problems. Or, I might choose to do punctuation concepts, including commas, apostrophes, or common usage errors, depending on my student population.

2. Gather supplies and set up the game-playing area.

You will want a clean trash can or “hoop” trash can, a soft basketball (so no one gets hurt), space in the classroom (or other designated area) with marks on the floor to indicate where students will stand for each shot. I use painters’ tape because it’s brightly colored and easily removed when you’re finished playing the games.

Normally, I space three lines several feet apart, with the first one located at least five feet from the trash can. However, there are plenty of ways to vary this for your students’ needs. You could have a line close to the trash can for students to “dunk” the ball or a twenty-foot line for those who want to show off their basketball skills. Also, I’ve learned to make sure that the trash can is secured with something heavy to weigh it down; otherwise, the ball often bounces out after the “trashket.”

3. Plan your procedures and rules.

You can get trashketball games with detailed procedures that will guide you and your students through the games and rounds, but you may want to develop your own games or variations. Some questions to consider:

  • Will you have a backboard?
  • Will there be a shot clock?
  • Will students be allowed to dribble?
  • What will you do if students cheer too loudly?
  • Will there be a referee to watch if students stand behind the lines?
  • Will there be violations or fouls for other behaviors?

If you’re not sure what 
rules to include, involve your students in deciding them! You can also learn about basketball procedures and jargon here.

4. Choose how you will organize the tournament. 

Usually I divide my classes into four – five teams, but if you want more individual accountability you could have them play by themselves.

For each game, distribute answer sheets to every student in the class. Project the game and have students play with five exercises per round. During the rounds, have students bring their answers to you and check their work. (If a student has an incorrect answer, send him/her back to correct their work and try again.) 

The first three students to get correct answers will have a chance to shoot “trashkets” at the end of each round. Keep cumulative score, and depending on how many rounds are played for each game, identify your final winners.  Want to involve students from other classes? Invite your entire English department to play and have classes compete against one another! 

5. Distribute your brackets.

You can get a freebie here.  Decide whether you will fill them in and copy them ahead of time or if your students will fill in the blanks. For fun, make a poster of the brackets, laminate it, and display it in your classroom. Then, as students win rounds, write their names on the poster for everyone to see.

6.  Choose when you will hold your tournament. 

Numerous options abound: Will you play games throughout the entire March Madness month, or will you capitalize on a specific part of the tournament such as the Sweet 16, Elite 8, or Final 4? 

Of course, you could simply play one game a day for several weeks, depending on how many concepts you want to review. You can also play multiple games in one class period depending on the length of your class periods. I recommend allotting 30 – 45 minutes per game.

Here’s how I envision an Elite Eight competition:

-Select 15 concepts. (See an example in the picture below.)
-Choose the concept order and write a concept in each “team” space on the brackets. Each concept will be its own game. For instance, I might start with parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions). I would also include rounds for pronoun and antecedent agreementsubject and verb agreement, and other concepts.
-Everyone in the class competes (either individually or in teams) so that all students are included in the review and held accountable. Although everyone plays, only the winners of each game would be the ones who shoot “trashkets” and win prizes. (I provide a basket of prizes and students select from extra school supplies, candy, or granola bars.) 

Finally, I would keep track of the winners for each game. At the end of all of the rounds, the students who have won the most games would get to compete against one another in a “Championship” game.

If these ideas won’t work for you during March because you have other curriculum concepts to teach, don’t worry, you can play individual trashketball games  any time of the school year.

Have fun and let me know how it goes 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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