I hosted a science knowledge tournament in my classroom yesterday. All textbook and no shenaniganning make for a very long school day. We use a science magazine periodically throughout the year. Think of your Weekly Reader, only all sciency, and for high school students. The kids like it because they learn many new things from current happenings in the world of science. I like it because it always has a balance of the different branches, and it relates stories to the major concepts we cover.
Normally, I challenge the class to beat my score in an online science Jeopardy-style game. I answer all questions without ever opening up the magazines. Then they get a chance. Occasionally, one class might eke out a victory. Not often, though, because Val is, after all, a professional. A jack-of-all-science-branches. (Shh...I can't use that kind of expression around the kids). There is no truth to the rumor that I am now pitting student against student because I can't take a trouncing. As if!!! I even scored a perfect 400 on this week's issue.
We played two preliminary rounds, and then a championship match and a consolation match. I have every student's name on a colored index card. I use them throughout the year to pick students to answer questions, to put them in groups for labs, and to choose partners for collaborative learning. For the teams, I discussed the rules while shuffling those cards over and over. Then I deal out four stacks, face down. Because I know how kids will react, I first preface each card-partnering session with: "Let's remember that we will not show excessive emotion. No euphoria. No despair. These are not your life partners for eternity. They are your 40-minute partners for this one day. Now here are your teams..."
Kids will try to infiltrate a team with their buddies. So I read off a whole team, and tell them where to sit. Then I watch them go to that spot. You can't let them mill or mingle. I name the teams, because I do not recall fondly that day when a team chose "The Narcoleptic Otters," and one sleepy aquatic weasel asked, "Do you know how to spell that?" as I wrote the name on the board. Puhlease! What valedictorian cannot spell otter?
"This team is the Doors. You will sit by the door. Next, we have the Pencil Sharpeners. You will sit by the Pencil Sharpener. No. You may NOT be the Windows. I can see right through your little plan. I choose the names here. Okay, back here in front of my desk, we have the Desks. Uh uh. You are NOT Bookcases. You are DESKS! Embrace your Deskness. And over there, in the last corner, are the Microwaves. You know, in front of the microwave. Has everybody got it?"
It took a few moments for the teams to decide on official spokesmen and a number between 1 and 60 to determine opponents and game order. The Pencil Sharpeners bluntly declared that they were not all that sharp, and they were a bit concerned about going up against their rivals, the Doors. "But Mrs. Thevictorian! How fair is that? The Doors are open to many new opportunities. And we are just dull." After being told not to knock the Doors, the Pencil Sharpeners settled down to grind out a victory.
The Desks went about their match in an upright, workmanlike manner, with their feet planted firmly on the ground. They knew their opponents, the Microwaves, were really cookin'. As luck would have it, the three top brains ended up on the same team. One of the questions was, "Which has the longest wavelenth: X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, or microwaves?" The Microwaves got it right. "We knew that answer, Mrs. Thevictorian! We knew that question would come up, and that we would get it right. Because WE are the Microwaves!"
A limnologist does not study tree limbs. (inland waters)
The melting point is not the temperature at which a liquid becomes a gas. (boiling point)
Cerumin is not saliva. (earwax)
The preferred food of the black-footed ferret is not insects. (prairie dogs)
The first living thing to orbit Earth was not a chimp. (dog)
In the future, I may put a group right up front by the white board, and call them the Blank Slates. Think of the possibilities.