Codebreaker, one of our simplest, most powerful games, can be used to clarify almost any complex concept.

Make a PowerPoint representing your lesson, explain the parts of the PowerPoint, then show your students a second PowerPoint, the Codebreaker, with key information removed. Your pupils attempt, with a neighbor, to “break the code,” fill in the missing parts.

For example, show your kids a labeled map of their state. Ask them to memorize city names, showing them the image below on the left. Next, show them a Codebreaker map, below on the right. They work with their partner, identifying city names and correct spelling!

CodeBreaker works equally well for science. Here is a diagram of brain regions. Your presentation describes each part, pausing so that students can paraphrase your description with a neighbor. Then, show them the diagram below on the right, Brain Codebreaker.

Your students’ task is to orally fill in the missing regions with a partner. Note, you can vary the difficulty of any Codebreaker by removing more or less information, that is, by giving students easier or simpler Codebreaker clues.

Perhaps your presentation is a history timeline, showing the nine periods of western civilization. In a longish presentation, you discuss key features of each historical period; your students rehearse each point you made with a neighbor. Next, show your class the western civilization Codebreaker. The challenge for them is to fill in the missing terms.

You want to clarify a math process. Here is a description in the steps involved in simplifying an equation. You explain each step giving your students plenty of time to repeat your explanation to a neighbor. Next, your pupils examine the math Code Breaker, They have to recall the reasoning behind each step, correctly filling in the question marks.

You can even create Codebreakers based on a list of information. Got bullet points or numbered points? CodeBreaker ‘em!

In general, students orally complete Codebreakers. Writing is often ineffective. Students scribble down their answers, fold their arms, and wait for slower kids to finish. Emphasize that when playing Codebreaker, students continue to explain their answers, over and over, until you move on to the next step of the lesson … the next Codebreaker challenge.