I’m going to set out my stall early here: I love quizzes. I host the Friday morning Tes quiz in our staffroom. I’ve been on Eggheads with fellow teachers, as well as a lesser-known show called Knowitalls with the host Gyles Brandreth. Essentially, I think quizzes are great. Quizzes are fun. Quizzes are brilliant for everyone.
Therefore, at the end of term, in nearly all my classes, I run a quiz. For students past and present, it has reached near-mythical status and I will continue to do it until I’m dragged out of that classroom door.
There are many within the teaching world who argue that these kinds of activities have no place in the modern classroom. By having a "fun" quiz, they argue you are losing valuable learning time, as well as creating an environment that is not good for behaviour, and you are putting other members of staff in a tricky situation for their last lessons.
Embrace the Christmas quiz
In fact, one would assume that this year, of all years, there would be even less time to do a Christmas quiz because of lost lesson time.
However, I would flip that and suggest, this year, of all years, we need it more than ever.
Students have been going through an incredibly stressful time at school. Like teachers, they do not know whether they are coming or going. One minute they’re in a classroom with their mates, the next they’ve been told to isolate. Sometimes they look as miserable as teachers feel.
We all need cheering up and what better way to do it than the Christmas quiz.
Still not convinced? Here are five reasons why you should stick it on your teaching Christmas list.
1. It’s a good way of having fun with retrieval learning
The way I run my quiz is by splitting the class in half and playing noughts and crosses. Each section of the grid offers up a category and in the middle is my subject – either economics or business.
If students want to get control of the board, they need to answer a question on this.
I have open and closed rounds. Open rounds are when the teams are both competing at the same time, closed are when the questions are given to one team and then offered to the other if they get it wrong.
The middle square is an open round, therefore the students have to answer a question such as "Give me the factors of supply – PINTSWC" as fast as possible. It’s amazing how students make easy mistakes under pressure and this can be reflected on at a later date.
2. It can boost students’ cultural capital
If you have a general knowledge round (or a "pot pourri" as I like to call it) then it gives you an opportunity to see what wider knowledge students have.
Being of a certain age, it’s always quite surprising to find out that students can’t name three Beatles or struggle to work out who is seventh in line to the throne.
3. Students can practice problem-solving and teamwork
I have rounds called "Who Am I?" and "Words".
In the "Who Am I?" round, I use my little pack of photos of students (that I use for random "cold calling" in my normal lessons) to get students to play a version of Guess Who. They get one question and then have to guess the student I have randomly chosen from the pack.
In order for them to win, they have to be very observant and they have to collectively think of good questions to ask in order to get the right answer. There is the extra excitement when students start realising (as it gets narrowed down) that it could be them!
In the "Words" round, they have to form the economics/business word I have asked for using their bodies, with each student being a letter. Teamwork is absolutely essential for this round, as well as being able to spell correctly and not backwards! It is frenetic but fun.
4. It can highlight the importance of listening
For each team, there is a captain. What is joyful about the quiz is that students who might not shine often in the classroom normally excel in areas such as film, sport or music. But the captain is the only one (in most rounds) who can say the answer.
Therefore in order for a team to do well, they have to listen to each other and work out (sometimes) what the best answer is. I will often hear the correct answer in their discussion and if they don’t say it, I try to find out why.
This can be a good opportunity for encouraging some students to be more forceful in offering their opinion, as well as encouraging the captain to think about who they take advice from. Just because someone is loud and hugely confident, doesn’t mean they are right. These are life lessons!
5. It can boost students’ wellbeing
At the end of term, students are normally tired and irritable. If you have been teaching for a number of years, one of the skills that you acquire is reading the room. You know how hard your students have worked and the effort they have put in. You know where you are in the curriculum and you know when the right time is to relieve the pressure.
Anyone looking in does not know that. As I said at the beginning, most of the time I do an end-of-year quiz but it is dependent on how things are going. As a teacher, you are the master of your ship and if you think that a Christmas quiz is good for your crew, then you should go ahead and do it.
Two of the rounds I have are "Games" and the legendary "Mr Simpson Hums The Hit Parade" – the amount of laughter we have in the classroom related to these rounds is something that is worth the missed "teaching" time. It builds good relationships and this is essential for the learning journey ahead.
Gavin Simpson is a secondary school teacher. If you'd like to do the Tes Christmas quiz, you can find it here