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by Charles Wukasch

The ever popular TV quiz program Jeopardy can provide an enjoyable way of preparing for the final exam.  Students can get ready for the exam while at the same time having some fun.  Some years ago, when teaching one of the second-year literature classes (American, British, World), it occurred to me that I could combine popular culture and classroom methodology.

I imagine everyone is familiar with the general rules of Jeopardy. In addition to contestants, I ask for a volunteer to keep score.  Nobody is required to take part, but I drop a strong hint that being a contestant or score-keeper will help the students’ participation grade.  One might think that there would be too many contestants, but I’ve never had that problem.  I guess most students are shy about putting their knowledge (or lack thereof) on display in front of their peers.  There’s no need to limit the number to three as in the real game.  Also, I do away with the second round, although I do include a couple of Daily Doubles in my questions.  In the actual game, there are six categories, but I feel free to have more than that. There is also a Final Jeopardy question.

Let me give an actual example, this from my fall 2015 American Literature I class.  First, I’d like to mention something humorous.  In my Composition I classes, when discussing the literary aim of the aims and modes of writing, I give the students a number of literary terms.  Many of these terms begin with the letter A, e.g., alliterationassonance analogy ,anachronism , etc.  Once late in the semester, I was reviewing some of these terms.  I asked one of the students “what do we call the following (I forget the specific example)?”   This student, someone not only intelligent but witty, answered “I can’t remember, but it’s one of those ‘A’- words.”  I loved it!

But on to an example of an actual game:  I came up with seven categories:  Theology, Those Darn “A”-Words, Edgar Allan Poe, Literary History and Schools of Analysis, Hawthorne and Irving, Poetical Terms, and “Grab Bag” (i.e., miscellaneous information).  Each category had five questions ranging between $100 and $500 and increasing in difficulty.   I had two Daily Doubles hidden among the questions.

Here are some examples:

jeopardy question image

Those Darn “A”-Words for $400:

In a western film, if the sheriff of one county sent an e-mail to the sheriff of another county warning him that the bad guys were on their way, this would be an example of which “a-word”?    (The answer is anachronism, i.e., something out of keeping with a given time period.)

jeopardy question image

Edgar Allan Poe for $500 (one of the two DAILY DOUBLES):

In the famous short story “The Cask of Amontillado,” who is the minor character who supposedly can’t tell an amontillado from a sherry?

(The answer is Luchresi.)

jeopardy question image

“Grab Bag” for $300:

If one wanted to learn some moral lessons in couplet form, s/he would do well to read this short work.  (The answer is “The New England Primer.”)

When all the questions were exhausted, the FINAL JEOPARDY question was “Edgar Allan Poe, who is considered the father of the detective story, created this detective.” The answer is “who was Dupin?”

Jeopardy lends itself well to a literature class, but I imagine many if not most disciplines could come up with variants on the game.  Now whether this would be true in an “exact” science like mathematics, that I don’t know.  But in my literature classes, it’s certainly a fun way to wind down the semester and prepare the students for some of the questions on the final exam.