Classroom Countdown

Countdown is a TV game show where contestants play word games against the clock. It’s perfect for the classroom.


  1. Introduction
  2. Download the Timer
  3. Setting the Timer
  4. How the Timer Works


Countdown is a British TV show that is perfect for playing in the classroom.

It’s not a new idea, Countdown has been written about before. You might want to check out these posts herehere and here.

The reason Countdown is so suited to the classroom is that it is a mixture of word and number games. There are three rounds in Countdown.

Round 1 – The contestants choose a mixture of 9 vowels and consonants. The contestants then have 30 seconds to make the longest word they can. Each letter can be used only once unless there are two of the same letter in the selection.

Round 2 – One contestant chooses 6 numbers and then a three digit number is selected as the goal. The contestants can add (+), subtract (-), multiply (*) and divide (/) any of the numbers in the selection to try and reach the goal.

Round 3 – The last round is a puzzle round. The contestants are shown a 9 letter anagram (a word with the letters in the wrong order that make a new word or phrase).

Round 1 works well for any level and Round 3 would be better for higher level learners. Using a timer similar to the one used on countdown can bring a competitive edge to the game.

How to Play – Round 1

Create your own letter tiles on small pieces of card
  • Teach the students the difference between vowels (a,e,i,o,u) and consonants (other letters in the alphabet).
  • Teach them the following structure:
    • Can I have a vowel, please?
  • Elicit 9 letters from the students.
  • Set a time limit for the students. With lower level students you may prefer a longer time limit.
  • Start the clock.
  • When the time has finished ask students to say how long their word is.
    • I have a six-letter word.

  • Ask the student who has the longest word what their word is and how it is spelled.

What’s your word?

My word is Eraser.

How is it spelled?


This activity is good for practicing general vocabulary.


Download the Timer

Click on Countdown Clock to download the timer.

There are 3 slides in this PowerPoint template. Slide 1 is a 30 second timer with 180 degree rotation of timer’s hand. Slide 2 is a 1 minute timer with 30 degree rotation of the timer’s hand. Slide 3 is a 20 second corner timer which can be used for presentation events.

Instructions for inserting a timer into your own presentation:

  • Select one of the slides.
  • Right-click and select copy (alternatively press Ctrl+C).
  • Open your presentation and click a blank space in the slides pane and then right-click on your mouse and select paste (alternatively press Ctrl+V).
Tip: The slides pane is on the left-hand side of the screen and shows a preview of all the slides in your slide deck.

You also have the option of adding sound effects to your timer as well.

This website has the music to many TV game shows, including countdown. have stated that these sound files are for non-commercial and educational use only.

Instruction for adding a sound file to your presentation.

  • Go to the insert ribbon.
  • Click on insert audio.
  • Select insert audio from my computer.
  • Locate the sound file you wish to add and click on insert.
  • Go to the animation ribbon and open the animation pane.
  • Select the animation of the sound file and click on the down arrow to open the animation options.
  • Select start with previous.
  • Select audio file that you have inserted on the slide.
  • Go to the playback ribbon.
  • Check hide during show.

Sound Files

Note: Start with previous means the sound file will play at the same time as the animation of the timer moving.


Setting the Timer

Once you have downloaded the timer you may want to change the settings. To change the settings you need to open the animation timings dialog.


  • Go to the animation ribbon and click on animation pane.
  • The animation pane will appear on the right-hand side of the screen.
  • Select one the spinner (yellow) animation and click on the down arrow to open the animation options.
  • Choose timing from the list and the animation option dialog with open on the timing section.
  • Type in your length of time for the animation in the box labelled duration and click OK. You can type in any time up to ten minutes (10:00).
  • Repeat for the wheel disappearing (red) animation.

Note: You can type in duration on the animation ribbon but only up to 59 seconds. You have to open the animation options and enter the duration in the timing section for a longer duration.

Tip: For timers longer than 10 minutes, use two slides. If one slide has a ten-minute timer and the second slide has a five-minute timer, you can create a fifteen-minute timer. Just make sure there is an automatic transition of 0 seconds and the animations on the second slide start automatically (use start with previous).


How the Timer Works

You may be wondering how the timer works. The hand of the timer rotates thanks to an emphasis animation called spinner.

Arrow and Counterweight

The spinner animation will rotate an object 360 degrees around its central point. So, in order for the central point to be in the middle of the timer, you need to create a counterweight.

Set the counterweight to no fill and no line  and it won’t be visible during the animation. Only the top arrow will appear to rotate 360 with an anchored point in the middle of the timer’s face.

The timer’s face is actually made by several circles. One of is hidden underneath with a yellow fill, the other is placed on top and has a plain white fill.

The circle on top has a wheel disappearing (red) animation, so as the white circle disappears, the yellow circle becomes visible. This is what makes it look like the arrow changes the color of the timer’s face as it rotates.


I hope you have found this post useful. If you know any other activities or word games that use timers, please let us know by leaving a comment.

Alternatively you can send me a message on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Thanks for reading and take care!

You may also like to read:

Alphabet Games – Two templates to play alphabet games in the classroom.

How to Create a Countdown Timer in PowerPoint – For more tips about creating timers in PowerPoint. Perfect for Pecha Kucha events or classroom activities.


The screenshots of are MS PowerPoint 2013. They are for educational purposes. MS PowerPoint is a copyrighted product of Microsoft Corporation.

One thought on “Classroom Countdown

  1. thanks so much. just putting together a presentation to use across the school each day at 12 for maths week. this has made my job so much easier. thanks so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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