Math Wheels for Note-taking?

Word Wheel Challenge: A Middle School Game


An Engaging Word Game for ANY Subject

I love to play thinking games with middle school students, don’t you? (Especially when they don’t really view it as thinking)!

I have this Word Wheel Challenge game categorized as a ‘middle school game,’ but it can also be used with upper elementary or even high school students.


Making This Middle School Game

MANY years ago I went to a make ‘n take workshop, and the person running it had several math and language arts activities made from cardboard circles. This was one of them!

I’ll explain how to make the wheel (it’s pretty easy) and then explain how the game works.

Steps to make the word wheel:
  1. cut a circle out of cardboard; my wheel is about 15 inches in diameter
  2. divide the wheel into 32 sections, as you can see in the image above
  3. write a letter of the alphabet in each section (using some letters, like vowels, twice)
  4. make a hole in the center of the circle 
  5. secure a shoestring to the bottom of the circle and thread it through the hole (you can see this in the image with the instructions)
As you can see in my OLD and very used wheel below, the sections can be colored so the circle is more attractive:)

How to Play This Engaging Middle School Game

The instructions for the game can conveniently be written on the back of the wheel, so there’s less chance of forgetting them!

The goal of the game is to be the first team to reach a total of 6 points. It sounds easy, but it’s not!

The instructions are:
1. Divide into 2 teams 

  • I often divide the class into 3 or 4 teams if we’re playing with the whole class.

2. Spin the wheel for Team 1 (hold onto the shoestring and spin wheel).
3.  A member of Team 1 stops the wheel with thumb and forefinger, so the thumb lands on only one letter.

4. The team thinks of a word using that letter, in order to earn 1 point.

  • The team has 10 seconds to think of the word
  • I don’t let them use proper nouns
  • Example: if the letter is T, they could use the word ‘attend.’ The T can be anywhere in the word.

5. The team may choose to spin again. 

  • If they do, they must use their first letter AND their new letter in a word, to earn a total of 2 points.
  • If they think of a word within 20 seconds, their point total is 2.
  • If they can’t think of a word, they go back to 0 points and the next team gets a turn.
  • Example: spin 2 is a D. Students could again use the word ‘attend’ or think of a new word.

6. If Team 1 gets to 2 points, they may choose to spin again to earn 3 points (using all 3 letters in a word in 30 seconds)

  • Example: Spin 3 is an O, so students must use T, D, O. Students could use the word ‘toad.’
  • Students can try for 4 points, (using all 4 letters in a word in 40 seconds) and so on.
  • If, on any turn, the team can’t think of a word, they lose ALL points, and play goes to the other team.

7. The first team to reach 6 points wins.

  • This doesn’t sound hard to the kids, but once they get to 4 letters, they often end up losing their points.
  • It’s tough to get to 6 points because of the combination of letters they end up with.

8. The time limit is 10 seconds per letter, so as a team attempts to earn more points, the time limit increases. 

  • 3 letters = 30 seconds, 4 letters = 40 seconds, etc.

Students REALLY enjoy this game and work hard to think of words….it’s FUN thinking! I’ve used this game in math, ELA, science, homeroom, and more. 

It can be played during the last 10 min or so of class if you finish early; or it can be played several times, or even as a tournament, if you want to use it for an entire class period! My students have loved it!

Word Wheel Game Video

I made a video of the game quite a few years ago and added it to the Tools for Teaching Teens store (this is a group I collaborate with. You can check it out how to see how to make the wheel and play the game!
Click to watch on TPT.

Find more middle school games and activity ideas here.

Not ready to use this game yet? Save it to your favorite middle school games Pinterest board so you can come back to it!


Welcome to Cognitive Cardio Math! I’m Ellie, a wife, mom, grandma, and dog ‘mom,’ and I’ve spent just about my whole life in school! With nearly 30 years in education, I’ve taught:

  • All subject areas in 4th and 5th grades
  • Math, ELA, and science in 6th grade (middle school)

I’ve been creating resources for teachers since 2012 and have worked in the elearning industry for about five years as well!

If you’re looking for ideas and resources to help you teach math (and a little ELA), I can help you out!



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