Retrieval Tic Tac Toe: A no stakes, no anxiety game for retrieval practice

Classroom games – like Jeopardy, trivia, or apps – encourage retrieval. But they can also raise student anxiety when they're competitive or time limited.

This week, we present a no anxiety strategy: Retrieval Tic Tac Toe. Created by college students, adaptable for any classroom or content area. Have fun!

Retrieval Tic Tac Toe

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The research is clear: Retrieval practice boosts learning. To get students on board, it's critical to emphasize that retrieval practice is a learning opportunity, not an assessment opportunity.

Classroom games, like Jeopardy and various apps (e.g., Kahoot, Quizlet, etc.) are engaging and low stakes – perfect for retrieval practice. But they can increase anxiety, too. When you were a student, did you ever feel pressured to come up with a correct answer to a question, as soon as possible, without disappointing your teammates? Talk about anxiety!

Retrieval Tic Tac Toe is a no stakes, no tech, no anxiety activity created by Alana, Emily, and J., college students in a psychology class with cognitive scientist Janell Blunt from Anderson University.

  1. Write a tic tac toe grid on the board or project a grid on a screen

  2. Split your class into two teams

  3. Each team writes 5 questions for retrieval practice 

  4. One team stands at the front of the class and asks a question. The other team collaborates to come up with the correct answer.

  5. If the seated team gets the question correct, they can put an X on the grid wherever they like.

  6. The teams switch. Now, the team that originally presented collaborates, answers a question, and adds an O if they are correct.

  7. Continue alternating teams for Retrieval Tic Tac Toe, anxiety free!

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Quick tips:

How will you use Retrieval Tic Tac Toe in your classroom? Comment below and share!