Here’s a printable version of the directions for how to use the Challenger Game to teach a lot of material in a short window of time. (a.k.a., this post, minus parenthetical snark).
Well, what would you like first? The clever and effective technique for passing along a lot of information in a short time, the educational gobbledygook, or the explanation of why this technique was an EPIC FAIL during Wednesday’s class?
Really? Start with the bad news? It’s like that, is it? Well, let me just say that sometimes, “do as I say, not as I do” is actually pretty excellent advice. So, when I say we all should assign the students to groups instead of letting them pick their partners, or assess them only on what they should know, or set reasonable lesson planning goals, maybe I should myself follow some of these suggestions. At least one.
Having said that.
Okay, requisite edu-speak: “Do you remember what it’s called, the thing with the hierarchy…facts on the bottom, it’s a pyramid, then critical thinking…not Maslow.” (sound of Googling) BLOOM’S TAXONOMY!” (My husband loves these little chats we have).
They can’t really have effective conversations and think critically about a topic if they don’t have a good foundation in the facts. This game accomplishes that in a relatively short period of time, although not such a short period of time that you should attempt two rounds of it in one class session. On, say, Wednesday, November 18 of this year.
The game is called “Challenger.” It works best if you give the kids an overview of the subject matter and then use the game to reinforce and provide more details. I’m going to use the version of the game I created for my high school Scripture class, covering the periods from the Exodus through the conquest of Canaan. For simplicity’s sake and to plow through the material, I’d usually start by handing out a blank Study Question sheet with 20 questions, and a dry, fact-filled handout that provides the answers. You could do this game using the section review questions in a textbook just as easily. I think it works best if you focus initially on “just the facts” and then come back via another activity to say, “okay, what’s the significance of all this?”
So, here’s my Exodus Study Question handout and the accompanying Exodus through Conquest information sheet. (If you notice errors, let me know.) You could do this part a few ways – use the information sheet for your own reference as you deliver the answers to the Study Questions via lecture, let them work in teams to answer the questions – up to you. This part’s pretty boring. You could spice it up with lasers, but the point is to initially expose them to the information so that they can play the game.
Next, put them in mixed-ability groups of three. You can have a couple of pairs, but what you really want are groups of three. These are their Study Teams. Give each group a manila envelope that contains three things:
1. an answer key (Exodus-Conquest answer key – two to a page)
2. the study questions, cut into individual strips (one per strip), (Exodus-conquest example – two to a page), and
3. the Challenger rules
The purpose of the Study Teams is to teach/reinforce the material. Give the kids about 10-15 minutes in these groups. Their goal is to make sure that their fellow Study Team members really, really know the material. I like this part because you can walk around the room, answering questions, listening in on their conversations. Something about the tactile aspect of having the questions on individual strips instead of one big worksheet makes them participate more actively.
While they’re in their Study Teams, make up new Challenger Groups. A Challenger Group is composed of three people of similar ability from three different Study Teams. I find it’s easiest to write the kids’ names on the board while they’re in their study teams and then quickly make up the Challenger Groups – because, if I make them up ahead of time, it will turn out that several kids will be absent and I’ll have to redo them. So, for example, if my study teams were:
Red Team: RedGenius, RedProdigy, and RedNovice
Blue Team: BlueGenius, BlueProdigy, and BlueNovice
Green Team: GreenGenius, GreenProdigy, and GreenNovice (Going for the nerdiest team names of all time, here).
Then the Challenger groups would be:
RedGenius versus BlueGenius versus GreenGenius
RedProdigy versus BlueProdigy versus GreenProdigy
RedNovice versus BlueNovice versus GreenNovice
So, after the Study Teams have had 10-15 minutes to prepare, announce that it’s time to move to Challenger Teams. Then, give the Challenger Teams 10-15 minutes to go through the questions. Here are the rules:
And that’s how it goes. At the end of the 10-15 minute game period, tally up how many points each individual student earned, and then announce which Study Team earned the most points (by adding up the members’ individual points). I then reward the top Study Team with something like getting to skip a question on a quiz or candy, whatever motivates them.
I’m going to write up a printable, more thorough explanation of the game with pictures. So – what questions should I address? Here’s a printable version of this post, minus sarcastic comments.
Oh – real fast. If you have kids in two-person Study Teams, you need to make it a fair competition against the three-person Study Teams. What I do is average the two students’ scores and multiply that by 3. Make sense?
Same if you have a two-person Challenger Group. They’ll go through the questions more quickly, making it easier for them to earn more points relative to kids in 3-person groups. So I multiply each person’s tally by 2/3.
Please, ask questions in the comments! The explanation was lengthy, but the only real prep work is setting up the questions and answers on strips and cutting them up. If you have a Teacher’s Edition and a Section Review, it’s even easier. I like to run these off on different colors of cardstock, so that if there’s a question strip found on the floor afterwards, I can easily know which envelope it came from – and the cardstock makes them more durable.
Catechist Chat will be an ongoing series of posts for teachers in religious education programs. It is based on my personal experience and not on any statistical evidence of the effectiveness of my advice. Suscribe to my feed to follow along, and Caveat lector, which is Latin for “your mileage may vary.”
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