Sunday, December 20, 2015

Wits and Wagers

I've had several people tell me that they like the review games/activities I use, but are looking for engaging ways to introduce new content. Well, here's one possible solution.

I wanted to know just how much my students knew heading into our Civil War unit. I had played and enjoyed the board game Wits and Wagers before and somehow it struck me: We should play a version in class!

Materials Needed:

paper-5 different colors
question sheet (for teacher)
something to bargain with (at my school we use pawbucks; you could use wrapped candy--jolly ranchers?--bits of paper, or actual poker chips.)

How To Play (classroom version):

1.) I divided the students into five different teams and assigned them a color (gold, blue, purple, green, and pink). Teams should have two wager chips, paper of their assigned color, and a marker. 

2.) Ask a question that has a numeric response. For instance, what percentage of American industries in 1861 were in states that seceded from the Union? Or, what is the total slave population of the United States in 1860? Or, in numbers, write out what fourscore and seven is. 

3.) Each team should write down one response with an educated guess on their colored paper and bring it to you when they are ready. Tell the students that you are looking for the closest answer without going over!

4.) Then, put the guesses in ascending order on the board, from smallest guess to largest guess. Leave the furthest left space for any wagers that may be lower than the smallest guess.

5.) After you put the guesses in ascending order, have the students place two wager chips on/under the responses that they think are right. They may choose to put both chips on the same guess or put each chip on a different answer. If they think that the correct answer might be lower than the smallest guess, they may choose to wager on that slot.

6.) Reveal the correct answer.

7.) Provide additional pawbucks or other resources to any team who wagered correctly and to the team who wrote the closest number without going over. 

8.) Repeat with new question. 

Results: Besides being a fun and engaging activity, students will learn important facts and have an opportunity to learn a lot about numbers in order to make historical events "more real".  As a teacher, you will learn what your students know AND don't know. For instance, one group thought that 80% of the entire U.S. population died in the Civil War. I almost cried when I saw that guess. But, a teachable moment naturally happened when I revealed to them that it was "only" 2.5% of the population--and that 2.5% of today's population is over 8 million Americans!

I definitely see myself using this activity in the future for other units of study as well. It's a great diagnostic assessment that can be informative as we begin a new unit.