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Use Games that Reward and Build Knowledge
By: B. Thomas

Young people give their attention easily to activities that are fast-paced, fun, and interactive. That's why game show-style learning activities are popular. Quiz show formats easily grab and hold attention by testing and rewarding people's knowledge in an entertaining way. This article will explore why quiz shows work so well and how to easily make or improve your own youth group quiz show.

How Quiz Games Improve Learning

Whether you are a contestant in a game or just watching, you can't help but learn in three ways. Each question is an opportunity to either learn something new, reconfirm what you already know, or to clear up erroneous knowledge. That makes these games a wonderful learning tool for all ages!  


We all know the frustration of newly attained knowledge slipping away. How do you make it stick? That question was on the minds of neuroscience researchers, www.neurosciencenews.com/practicing-memory-recall-boosts-science-learning, who examined what worked best for students. They found that practicing memory recall was a better boost to long-term retention than other forms of study. And "memory retrieval practice" is exactly what quiz shows do. However, shows take it a step further by adding the extra dimensions of competition and drama, which heightens attention even more. It's no wonder that innovative teachers discovered years ago they could put their review questions in a TV quiz show format and kids loved it! They loved it not just for the entertainment, but because the game helped them do better on exams.

Tips for Best Results

* To involve more people, organize teams of players instead of individuals.

* Save time using professional game show software that has music, sound effects and score tracking built-in.  These programs let you enter your own questions and display the show on a large screen or monitor.

* Add humor to keep people alert. That's easily done in multiple-choice questions. Just make one possible answer a funny choice.

* Let youth group members help write the questions and produce the show!

* Include a manual pause between questions, so after a wrong answer you can discuss it on the spot.

* Liven up orientation meetings of all kinds and reinforce safety procedures and requirements with a quiz shoaw review.

* Avoid legal issues: While you may see templates on the Internet using exact screen images and music from popular TV shows, these are often made without copyright permissions. The best approach is to use a generic game show template that provides all the fun and functionality without legal worries.

Buzzers or Not?

Game show buzzers are not required, but they do offer two benefits:

 1) Buzzers determine who was first to buzz in, which helps avoid disputes.

 2) Buzzers add to the game show atmosphere.


It often comes down to a matter of budget whether you have buzzers. We'll take a look at buzzer options, costs and how you can do without.


Game show buzzers are either wired or wireless. A typical cost for a wired set of 10 buzzers is $199. Wireless buzzers cost more, but are dropping. As of this writing, a set of six wireless buzzers is about $350. Most all buzzers communicate with the USB port of the computer that's running the game show software. (The software, not the buzzers, usually makes the sound effects of buzzing and determines who was first.)

If you are using buzzers, make sure they communicate with your game show software. A common standard used by many buzzers is to function like keys on a keyboard that send a number to the computer. For example, when team 1 hits their buzzer button it sends a "1" to the computer. Team 2's buzzer types out a "2". And so on. (If you have handy volunteers, they may be able to build a buzzer system based on this simple concept!)

Even with buzzers, players may adopt a behavior that defeats the learning objective by buzzing in the moment the question appears rather than reading it. Advanced game software can avoid that with a delay period before buzzers are activated. This is ideal if you are reading questions aloud.

If you don't have a budget for buzzers, you can setup your game so the teams take turns answering questions. It's a lower level of competition, but it often results in wider participation.

Another fun way to play with a group is to put everyone's name in a bowl. Then, draw names and call on that person to pick a question from a category board. If they answer correctly and you have a prize of some kind, move their name into a prize bowl. At the end of the game, draw a prize winner from the prize bowl.


Attention Pays

To help your youth groups learn more in an enjoyable way, use quiz shows for Bible bowls, lesson reviews, orientations, and special events.

B. Thomas is game developer for Bodine Training Games LLC, a company that makes Game Show Presenter software, which has been widely used by teachers and youth group leaders since 2001, www.game-show-plus.com.

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