Bluff (verb): to play an educational quiz game

19th September 2014 at 01:00

Far from simply being the television channel where game shows go to retire, Challenge has provided inspiration for some of my best lessons. In contrast to the all-singing, all-dancing broadcasts of today, older game shows have simpler formats, so are much easier to translate into useful classroom tools. They can introduce new ideas and consolidate existing knowledge, with the added benefit of appealing to students' competitive instincts and their love of interactivity.

I adapted the format of one of my favourite retro shows, Call My Bluff, to recap the types and parts of words with my class of 11- and 12-year-olds. This game, which first aired in 1965, involves two panels of three celebrities alternating between giving and guessing the meanings of unusual English words, such as "colubrine" and "prolix".

Before the lesson, I changed the layout of the classroom to reflect the layout of the show. Not only did this guarantee an initial buzz of excitement but it also enabled the students to work better in teams.

Cue the theme tune. Acting as the host, I explained the concept of the game and announced the first word and its three possible definitions. In teams, students discussed the options and presented their answers. The majority of them were wrong.

Together, we dissected my examples and explored how I was able to fool (most of) the class. We discussed how splitting the word into its constituent parts could offer inspiration for potential meanings.

With a dictionary, each team found an interesting word and devised three original definitions. The students' collective desire to trick the other teams encouraged them to make good use of their newly learned tactics. As our show resumed, the teams presented their offerings and points were awarded to those who identified the correct meanings.

And all good game-show fans know what points mean.

Niki Davison teaches English and drama at Parmiter's School, Watford

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