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The Game Show Approach

María Dolores Costa
Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
California State University, Los Angeles

In my pursuit of the perfect lesson plan in upper-division Spanish literature courses, I have discovered that the game show approach works quite effectively to get students actively involved in the learning process. It is also an effective way to model teaching methods and techniques that future teachers can later employ in their own classes.

I simply incorporate the rules of game shows into the presentation of the material and have the students act as contestants. I should warn you that this requires a tremendous amount of preparatory work, but the positive results justify the trouble. Students are generally familiar with the rules of the most popular game shows. Because they function as contestants in the classroom and actually win something in the end (bonus points on the test or points for their team), students are enthusiastically caught up in the lesson. I write the questions, so I have complete control over the intellectual content of the class period. Former students who have gone into teaching have repeatedly informed me that they now successfully employ this method in their classes at the high school level.

Two game shows I often replicate in class are Family Feud and Jeopardy. When we play Family Feud,I write the title of my list of questions on the board, and underneath the number of responses that are possible. For example: "Ten symbols that are repeated throughout the novel," or "The five major themes of this novel," or "Twelve aspects that make this novel typical of the Realist movement." I then write the correct responses on the board as they are provided by the students in the course of the game. The class is divided into "families" that play against each other. Each family is assigned the last name of one member of the group. The small size of the families affords quieter members a chance to become more actively involved in the activity.


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