One Million Dollar Pyramid

Blog #10 pyramid game

A twist on the classic 80’s TV show will have students laughing and learning.  While the monetary reward is not the same, the learning rewards are top-notch. 💵💰💵

How to:  The pyramid game show has been around since the 1980’s but have you used it for class in the 2020’s?  The idea is the same - get your partner to guess the concept without saying the word.  In the pyramid, there are typically 6 concepts to get to the top.  Here’s an example:

One student is the “contestant” and must try to guess all the words on the pyramid from the clues given by another student.  As the clue-giver, students can use visual gestures and non-verbal communication but cannot say the exact words from the pyramid. 

I have about 10 different pyramids created related to chronic respiratory content.  I use this as a warm-up activity at the beginning of class as students have listened to the video lecture and are able to recall the content.  It works best in pairs, with students sitting back to back. I have found, for some reason, having them sit back to back adds a level of confidence for shy students.  For a larger class, students are in groups of 3-4, with one student describing while the others guess. When a group completes their pyramid, they hand off to a nearby group so that every group eventually sees every pyramid.  I set a timer for one minute per pyramid.

If you want to quickly create your own (and possibly eliminate my 90’s hip hop reference😂 ) here is the link to the template in Canva.  You all know I love me some Canva!  Just change the concepts and colors, you are ready to go!


An alternative is to have the student’s create the pyramid.  This can be a great review of their notes as they go through and find key concepts that could be used in the game.  Just give them a blank template and let them fill in the blanks.

Depending on the level of your class, you may also choose to have the students prepare descriptive clues for the concepts ahead of time.  Rather than having them come up with clues on the fly, they have time to review their notes and prepare to present their pyramids.  This works well as a review if you are lecturing in class and are introducing concepts for the first time.    

Virtual Option:

This activity translates well to breakout rooms in the virtual environment.  You could email students individually with their assigned pyramid but this can be time consuming.  It may be more efficient in the online world to have students create their own.

If you have access to discussion boards, you could post the pyramids into discussion boards and direct one student from a group to access the pyramid while presenting in the breakout room.

Best for:

Reviewing material at the knowledge level.  It is important to build a solid foundation of understanding and recall before we get into more complex application activities.  Think of the classroom like exercise, you need a proper warm-up or you just want to quit immediately because it hurts!  This activity is a fun and engaging brain warm-up.

Ready to share your idea?


Share the content area and any variations that you did that made it awesome!

Words of wisdom?

A Pixar motto:

"The desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal - it leads to measuring people by their mistakes rather than their ability to solve problems."

Think about this and how it translates to teaching.  If I expect my clinical to run perfectly, why am I even there?  If my students are functioning so well that they don't need me or don't ask questions or don't challenege themselves to the point of failure, then I am not serving them or my profession.  A piece of the role as an educator is to give them problems and tasks and challenges until they fail and then give them a safe place to land.