One of my most successful middle-school English lesson plans has been “Jeopardy” day. I adapted the popular (if slightly dated) television game show to serve as a recap and study guide for a quiz at the end of a theme or unit. Students always looked forward to it as a day that was both unconventional and fun: a good change of pace from our typical more rigorous study. What’s more, it provided a super means of reviewing for the quiz the students all knew was coming soon.
A successful round of “Jeopardy” did require preparation the night before. I would work up three categories relating to elements of the course. In each category, I’d generate nine questions and answers, and assign them a point value in ascending order of difficulty. I’d then make a fourth category, the “grab bag,” that was a random assortment of questions from the other three categories. I’d also assign two random questions to be the “daily doubles.”
On “Jeopardy” day, I’d put the categories and all point values on the whiteboard. I would then divide the class into two teams, and ask the first team to select a category and point value. Posing the indicated question, I’d then hope for the correct answer, of course, as in televised Jeopardy, in the form of a question. If the team answered correctly, it would win the points, and select another category and point value. I kept a tally of the current score on the whiteboard.
If a team selected a “daily double,” it would be allowed to assign a point value for the forthcoming “answer” up to the total amount of points that the team had. This allowed the team some flexibility in allocating risk: a team with a large lead might choose a small point value; while a team facing a point deficit might feel the pressure to challenge itself. Of course, the team with the highest point total wins the day.
Middle schoolers enjoy the competition, and appreciate the fact that I use the “Jeopardy” questions as the foundation of the end-of-unit quiz. “Jeopardy” was a great chance to be creative, to build team spirit, and to reinforce education, all in the same lesson.