In School in Germany: Jeopardy!

Source: RTL, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

OK, everyone: How many of you have heard of the game show,“

Jeopardy!“ ?

If you haven’t, maybe this will jog your memory:

Or perhaps this one:

Source: Kinu Panda, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you still haven’t then perhaps it is time to play it. Jeopardy! is a game show that is nothing more than food for thought, a memory game, something that is like an online dictionary but in a form of a question.  The game was first devised for television in 1964, yet it became one of the most popular game shows in the country when Alex Trebek became host of the show in 1984. For 37 years until his death on November 8, 2020, he was the face of the game show, garnering in tens of millions of people both in the audience as well as on TV per episode. The game has become a sensation online, where you can play it in the palm of your hand.

Yet the coolest way to play it, and also one where it requires the most interaction is when you play it in the classroom. I remember the time in high school in Minnesota where my social studies teacher (going by the name Dean) would play the game in the classroom. At least one Friday per month, he would select 4-6 students in class who would participate in the game and we would use the blackboard to place the six categories and the point value for each of the five answers per category, just like what was done in the actual game show itself.  Dean kept his topics for use in the categories open, which included categories based on not only what was covered in class- namely politics, geography, social themes and history, all of which were the four pillars of a typical social studies class in America’s high schools. He also included some topics based on the interests of the students themselves and last but not least current events both locally as well as internationally.  Dean kept to the rules that Alex Trebek created, namely answering in the form of a question.  And we did two rounds, with the winner receiving bonus points that helped his/her grade but also other items, such as candies, etc.  When he heard of the news of Trebek’s death, he wept, just as much as I did because it was fun to play it in class.

Yet it did lead me to this question of whether it can be done the way Dean played it. That answer to the question would be „Why not?“  We do have the technology to do something like this online. However, it is also possible to try this without the computer technology, for we have many visual aides to choose from, from the beamer (PVC Projector) to even the white board and some note pads/ index cards.  While the preparation time may take longer than online, it does encourage teachers to tailor-make the categories and the questions in each of them while integrating the game into the teaching curriculum. Jeopardy! can be used for any classroom subject aside from social studies, whether it’s history, music, foreign languages or even the primary language class (English in Britain, USA and Canada as well as German in the German-speaking countries, for example).

 There are many advantages of playing the game in the classroom, but I will name three of them outright: 1. It serves as a refresher for previous knowledge, 2. It serves as some new knowledge for the student and 3. It encourages the student to read more on the topics presented in their free time. And especially for the third point it is important, for we can try and cram everything into the student’s schedule and end up with mediocre results. However just taking the time to read up on the subjects presented encourages the student to learn more about it and even take interest in it when pursuing his/her studies on the academic level.

And this was why Jeopardy! was the most watched and beloved game show on record. It wasn’t the 39 awards it garnered, including the Peabody. It wasn’t the number of years it has been running. It was the person who was very creative and one that challenged the contestants, encouraging them to grow beyond limits. I enjoyed watching Alex Trebek during my childhood and my time in college. I also enjoyed playing the game that Dean adopted for his class, which I encourage everyone to give it a try in their classroom. Yet for the host who will have to take over after Trebek’s passing, he/she will have a lot to fill in his shoes. But if there is one theme that best fits Trebek, it is this:

Creativity and challenge is what brings out the very best.

Thank you Alex for the almost four decades of fun, entertainment and knowledge. ❤