Using multiple choice test questions from "Flowers for Algernon" short story, this challenge encourages students to compete for points each time they submit a correct answer. Whichever team has the highest point totals at the end of the game earns a credit in the overall challenge.
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Trivia Challenge Using CPS Units
Trivia television shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Jeopardy! are popular because they bring out the competitive nature in their viewers. Just as trivia game shows engage viewers, trivia games in the classroom can engage students.
If you are lucky enough to have a CPS unit (or Classroom Performance System) in your classroom, then this challenge will be simple for you in terms of preparation and grading. If you don't have a CPS and you click on the links, you can learn more about the systems and determine if your technology department has one or at least something similiar. My students like to call the units "clickers," so maybe you've heard of one of the two! They systems make typically boring assessment quizzes competitive and fun for students and effortless for the teacher. If you do not have technology like the CPS systems, then we'll look at some alternatives to this challenge in the next section.
Lucky owners of CPS systems need to enter the test questions into a regular assessment file. I enter fifteen questions, just because more than fifteen questions takes too long to complete in one class period. The system has a feature you can access to assign different point totals to certain questions. I typically strive to create assessment questions that follow the Bloom's Taxonomy questioning scale, and will give higher point value to questions that require higher-order thinking skills. The link provided has great examples of question stems for each level. Many middle school literature books have "Flowers for Algernon" in their list of works, and many textbook companies provide teachers with copies of assessment quizzes and tests for each story. You may not have to create your own questions. If you're like me, you'll want to go ahead and reinvent the wheel by coming up with your own questions. Assigning different point values to questions also "ups the ante" for many students and you will be surprised how much more thought and consideration is put into a five-point value question versus a one pointer!
I don't assign individual key pads to teams. I simply go ahead and carry out the assessment by giving each student his or her own key pad (so each has an individual score), but divide them into their TEAM CHARLIE and TEAM ALGERNON groupings and put them on either side of the room. I encourage them to help each other and to answer as a team. At the end of the test, the team with the highest testing average wins the challenge. Giving students the chance to have an individual score may squelch complaints about a "group grade" if a certain team member disagrees with a team answer and wants to give an individual response. You will never show individual scores to the group, but rather a "team average" to determine a winner. The team average is just for points, and will not affect a student's gradebook entry. The individual grade is what I put in the gradebook for the assessment.
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Trivia Challenge Without CPS Units
Teachers without classroom assessment technology devices can have just as much fun with the trivia challenge as those of us with the fancy-smancy systems! You will just have to grade the results the old-fashioned way and without the help of a computer to tabulate your totals. If you have a computer hooked to a projector, you can accomplish this first alternative with ease and the students will enjoy it thoroughly. This website, "Educational Resources for Teachers" provides you with links to free Jeopardy-style templates to utilize through PowerPoint.
If you don't have an overhead or PowerPoint software, no problem! Simply divide the students into their teams, read the questions you created for "Flowers for Algernon," and have the students pick a representative from each team to be the "Answer Swatter". What is an "Answer Swatter", you may ask? Draw a square divided into four equal parts and label each square "a", "b", "c", and "d". Give each team representative a fly swatter and have them stand on either side of the square on the board, being sure to advise them NOT to hit each other, only the board! Read the question and the answer choices and then the first representative to slap the correct answer wins the point. The swatter has only one SWAT, so tell them they better be sure of their choice before they slap the board!
With or without technology, your second "Flowers for Algernon" Challenge will be a good time for everyone! Have fun and may the best man (or mouse) win! Don't forget to check out the other trivia challenges in this series.
After reading "Flowers for Algernon", this series of lesson plans are a great way to extend and enrich learning through team challenges. Students are divided in to two teams: Team Charlie and Team Algernon. Teams will compete in different challenges for points.