Thursday, November 29, 2007

Work fun

It's final exam time in my classes. In order to prepare students for the final, I give them all the answers as we play the game Jeopardy! Except that they don't have to phrase the answer in the form of a question. I learned this way of reviewing in high school. The dreariest subject for me was History. Ugh, how I loathed the memorization of dates and events because I couldn't fathom how any of those things would be useful in life. (They're not, though understanding the cycle of events probably is, so we can learn (ha!) from the mistakes.) Then I got into Mr. Greco's class and History and Economics suddenly became interesting. It was in his class that we invested in the stock market while learning about economics. I still remember the stock and the appreciation realized in the 4 month semester. He also played Jeopardy in class to prepare us for the exams. What a fun way to review, with prizes and everything. So all these years later, I'm doing this with my students and they love it. Boy do people get competetive! And this leads to outbursts of wrong answers that I find hilarious. As you can imagine, the best ones come from the beginners. I always include the category "potpourri" just like on the show, with answers unrelated to the test, you know, just for fun. This week there were some funny responses from this category:

In which direction does the sun set?

On which continent can Libya be found?
"I know, I know, Egypt!"

Name a city in California.

So fun. I always put a bunch of geography questions in now because there seems to be a weakness in this area, and I delight in exposing it. Sadistic, I know. One girl couldn't tell me which direction her house was. I asked her if she drove to work every day and she said she did. Those are the moments where I realize how different people's brains are. Imagine not knowing where you were all the time. I can't begin to imagine it. Orientation is pretty much job one in my world.


Willym said...

Didn't you love teachers like Mr. Greco - they cared about their subject and more importantly about their students. We had one history teacher who believed in recreating events in the classroom - the Trial of Charles the I etc. And an English teacher who believed that Shakespeare was meant to be read out loud - even in our flat Ontarian accents. Learning became something live and wonderful with teachers like that. Sounds like you have that same knack.

Geography always seems to be the weak link. I was teaching an airline course in Miami and was stunned when three students couldn't identify where Miami was on a map of the U.S. And sadly another student wasn't sure where her home town (Washington, D.C.) was.

CoffeeDog said...

Yeah, I agree with you, it's important to know where you are! I am a map freak, love them, so I am pretty good at locating cities and states, and fairly good on the rest of the world as well.

How cute you make up these games for your students :-)

Birdie said...

I am convinced that there is a magnetic component to testosterone that tells men which way true north lies. I don't know a single woman (including myself) that has any sense of direction. My sister and I spent hours in Manhattan trying to get to the Empire State Building. We never did ("There it is! Over there!"), but we had a great time anyway.

Learning can be such a delight when the teacher loves the subject and the students. It always shows. Laughter cements the memories. You've found your calling, Torn.

Anonymous said...

I love Jeopardy and watch it every weeknight I can. I always loved History in school. There used to be a game show on TV with only young college contestants. With questions and answers like How many states? 52 and Who was the President in 1950? Abraham Lincoln. I knew our young people were not learning much.
You are the kind of teacher the students will always remember in a good way.

Doug said...

North?!!! Oh my.

Lacey said...

I agree. You are that kind of teacher, and it's very cool. Charlotte Johnson, my 12th grade English teacher told me that she expected me to write "the great American novel". I didn't, and won't, but I loved her for telling me that.

Paul said...

Over the years I've painfully learned that most females were never Boy Scouts, and can't read a map. Whatever direction is front of them is always "up" and most likely "north."

Anonymous said...

Not to approve of someone's lack of real geographic knowledge, but that North response may not have been too much of a stretch here in Montréal. You know that the city grid is skewed almost to a 45 degree angle to the cardinal directions. And they've designated one direction on the grid as north which is actually northwest. What they call "city north". And since we're in a northern latitude, the sun rises and sets quite a bit north of east and west in the summer. So that is why the sun sets directly out your front door in summer which is city north.

This skewed grid has really played with my mind since moving here from Chicago's cardinal oriented grid.

But I'm with you on having difficulty not understanding where you are and how your position relates to everything else. I'm also amazed at how many people here haven't been to the US. It's only 35 miles away!

Patricia said...

i still don't do well with directional instructions. don't tell me to go north for two miles, then turn east. no, tell me to go about 5 minutes until i see a yellow house on the corner, next to a sunoco and then turn left and go until i cross the bridge just after the mcdonald's.

i loathe maps. does that make your eye twitch? sorry :)

GayProf said...

It makes me sad that the version of "history" taught in U.S. public schools depends on memorizing names and dates. I can't imagine another way to turn people off the subject more quickly.

Yet, I also find that most people have a basic desire to learn about the past and about the people who came before them. For this reason, I avoid giving exams in my class (especially ones that focus on names and dates). Instead, I focus on papers where they can learn and write about the things that do actually interest them.

bardelf said...

As an educator and lover of history and geography, I strive to make those subjects come to life in lively ways. Certainly your playing Jeopardy with your students is brilliant, torn. I would bet you to be a fun instructor.

Geography is something that so many people have little knowledge of. Such a shame.

don said...

OMG! Those answers are so bad! Are you sure that you don't have Miss South Carolina in your class?

A Lewis said...

Well, it sounds like you need to keep on keeping on with those kids if the answers are any indication. Maybe the dates, times, and places do mean something after some sort of twisted way.

Rox said...

It's been proven that women are landmarkers and men are directioners. (These are my "labels" I can't remember what they are really called!) I bet the student that doesn't know where she is could tell you how to get to her favorite store but it would all be landmarks.

I love Jeopardy.

madamerouge said...

I am all about spatial orientation, too. N-E-S-W ... gotta know it. One thing I've always wondered... would I get completely discombobulated in the southern hemisphere? Probably.

Java said...

This is another way that I differ from most women. I have always had a good sense of direction. I agree, torn, orientation is critical. I like N,E,S,W and use them often.
I am, however, bi-lingual. When giving directions to men I use the compass orientations and highway numbers and mileage. If giving directions to a woman, I use landmarks, left/right, and time lapse. My husband cannot give directions to our daughter, I have to. Then again, I'm better at directions and orientation than he is.

Anonymous said...

Left and right are better for me than compass directions. And Santa Barbara actually is wacky; we're on that tiny little edge of California that sticks out at an angle.

You know, I found a powerpoint program for Jeopardy online and used it with my LED projector(so it was on the BIG screen) to review for the first quarter test with my students. What was even cooler was that I gave them a list of all the terms and concepts they should know (the answers) and then they had to write the questions. I used the best ones in the game.

Oh, such fun.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear there are still instructors with educational intuition! It seems over the last generation most students report instructors with little heart and soul for their chosen profession. That must make for a frightfully long career.

Thanks for helping make the world a better place!


dirk.mancuso said...

"Imagine not knowing where you were all the time."

Actually, I can. I have no sense of direction -- my mind has never grasped the concept of north, south, east, west -- and I still only know how to get around by recognizing landmarks (i.e. McDonald's, the video store, the library, etc.)

Mark in DE said...

"The sun rises in the east and sets in the west." For some reason, this jewel has stayed with me after all the other (useless) things I learned in high school have long since departed.

After having moved to a new city/state I have found it important to be able to determine north, south, east, and west. The other day on my way home from my work out the road was closed due to a serious accident. All traffic was diverted onto a different road so I had to figure out how to get home from where I was.

Mark :-)

Perplexio said...

Males and Females are wired a bit differently when it comes to sense of direction (there are of course exceptions to the rule). Men are rarely lost as lost implies not knowing where you are. I've never been "lost" insofar as I've always known where I was. However men don't always know how to get to their destination. Not knowing where you are and not knowing how to get where you need to be are 2 different things.

I have, however met women who also have this knack and men who are completely without it... So it's not a universal truth or constant, but it does seem to be a "trend."