Oh Fiddlesticks! Fun to Say, Fun to Play, and a Fabulous Learning Tool!

I was just reading about Fiddlesticks in Mary Najar's blog, Together We Are Smarter. It really caught my eye. . . Just saying Fiddlesticks is fun, and the game is so much better. I was thrilled when Mary offered to share it here. So, here's Mary. . .

Fiddlesticks Featured Photo

Fiddlesticks: A Quick and Easy Review Game for Any Subject!

Are you looking for a versatile game that can be used for review in any content area? Math, reading, science, social studies…Fiddlesticks is a game changer! I currently use it with my 1st grade and 6th grade RTI groups and they LOVE it equally!
Games are my go to activity to help students learn. I stumbled upon Fiddlesticks by chance several years ago while preparing a demo lesson for a job interview. I needed a simple, engaging game that could be played in a matter of minutes. Fiddlesticks to the rescue! I got the job and have continued to play Fiddlesticks in my classroom ever since.   

Fiddlesticks Game
Sight Word Fiddlesticks for My First Grade Response to Intervention (RtI) Group.
Ready To Play? This is the best part! You only have to explain the rules one time and your class can play all year long!
  • 30-50 popsicle craft sticks or tongue depressors
  • 1 plastic cup
  • 1 permanent marker
That’s it!
Write the content you want students to practice on the craft sticks (ex. multiplication facts, sight words, vocabulary words…). Keep reading for game ideas to use in your classroom today!
Select several craft sticks. Color the bottom half inch of the craft sticks with a permanent marker. This is the Fiddlestick. I use a ratio of 1:15, one Fiddlesticks craft stick to 15 content sticks.
*Tip – I buy a large box of colored tongue depressors. I use one color for each game but will often mix the game sets. For example, when working on multiplication, the red sticks might be for facts 0-5, green for 6-7, and blue for 8-9. I can differentiate for students who are struggling or who need an extra challenge and it is easy to put the original sets back together. 

Colored craft sticks and tongue depressors
Colored tongue depressors are larger and can be easier to add content to. Craft sticks are smaller, but work well for some content. 
How to Play
1. Place content and Fiddlestick sticks in a cup. The cup needs to be tall enough so students can’t see the bottom of the sticks in the cup.  
2. Have between two and six students sit in a circle.
3. Students take turns pulling one stick from the cup.
  • If a content stick is pulled, the student answers the question. If they answer it correctly, they get to keep the stick. If they answer it incorrectly, they must place the stick back in the cup. (If you prefer, you could modify this so they pick someone in the group to help them learn the information, then keep the stick.) 
  • If a Fiddlestick is pulled, they say, “Oh, Fiddlesticks,” and put all their sticks back into the cup (the Fiddlestick and all of the content sticks they have collected). Note: If you have students who struggle with this, you could modify the game and have them put just two sticks back in the cup.
4. At the end of the game, the person with the most sticks is the winner. There are several ways to end the game.
  • Set a timer. Play stops when the timer goes off and students count their sticks.
  • Set a number of sticks as the winner. Before play starts, determine a number of sticks that must be reached. The first person to reach that number is the winner.
  • Play until only Fiddlesticks remain in the cup. Warning – This can make for a very long game!
    Fiddlesticks sight word game
    Mixing sets together allows me to differentiate for individual learners/groups. Separating the sticks for the next group is easy when you use color-coded tongue depressors! These often come in boxes with up to six colors. If you already have a box of tongue depressors that are all one color, you can color-code them by writing with various permanent markers. 

    Ideas for Your Classroom

    Fiddlesticks is an easy review game for math and reading centers, test prep, and reviews. I even use it as an informal assessment. Play the game with a few students and it is easy to identify who has mastered the content and who needs support.

    Fiddlesticks Works Well For:

    • Basic Fact Practice: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division (Math)
    • Identifying Multiples, Least Common Denominator, and Greatest Common Factors (Math)
    • Comparing Numbers and Fractions – Pull two sticks and student keeps both sticks if they identify the greater number (Math)
    • Letter/Sound Identification (Reading)
    • Identify Rhyming Words (Reading)
    • Sight Words (Reading)
    • Vocabulary (Reading, Science, Social Studies)
    • Prefix/Suffix/Root Words (Reading)
    • States/Capitals (Social Studies)
    I would love to hear how you use games in your classroom. Leave me a comment below and let’s connect!

    From Anne. . . I love this game for so many reasons! It's easy to set up, fun to play, and can be used throughout the year. I think that's one of the marks of a truly great learning center (or station). You can change content without missing a beat explaining the directions. For a center, I might include an answer sheet as applicable, or provide an alternative (such as a calculator or addition/multiplication chart for checking math facts.)  

    Thanks so much for generously sharing, Mary


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