Pin the Literary Period

To help students start reviewing for a massive comprehensive exam, I created a “Pin the Piece on the Literary Period” game.

I went through the exam and pulled 47 different authors, themes, and works that appear as answer choices.  In large font, this required 9 printed pages in landscape orientation–everything needed to be visible from across the classroom! I made sure to include information from 12 different British and American literary periods that we have covered so far this semester, and I shuffled the 47 pieces into random order.

Then I created 12 literary period ‘boards’ from 12×18 paper (a pad of 30 sheets was $1 at my local dollar store). Each one also included the total number of ‘pins,’ between
3 and 5, for a little guidance.

Before class started, I attached the 12 boards to our front and back classroom walls, which are covered in fabric and readily take pushpins ($1 for a box of 100). Each board has a corresponding number of push pins to the side — 3 pins for a 3-piece board, 5 pins for a 5-piece board. Students received 3-4 pieces and instructions to pin them on the correct literary period…without looking at notes or checking information on their electronic devices.

Pretty quickly, students were up and pondering. After 30 seconds, they were collaborating. After 5 minutes, several faced a new dilemma: the literary period they wanted had a full board. What to do? They had to take one down and pin it in the correct location.

The results of this informal assessment were clear: we need to review a little more! Some boards had no correct pieces pinned, as the example below shows, but students did have the right country (England) and were within 100 years of the right period…

incorrect choices for eighteenth century british literature

I allowed enough time to go through all 47 pieces and move them around; I photographed all 12 boards and created a PDF with notes for students to use as an additional study guide.

IMG_3868 IMG_3869







We sometimes don’t do enough of this kind of activity at the college level — getting students out of their seats and asking them to face the gaps in their knowledge so directly. It’s one thing to take notes or answer the teacher’s “who wrote this?” question. It’s another to physically place a strip of paper for all the class to see.


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