The Uses of General Knowledge Quizzes

As the summer holidays approach, the demand for ‘fun’ lessons increases. What pupils usually mean by this is ‘lazy’ lessons in which they don’t have to do any thinking or work on anything challenging.

One tactic for manoeuvering around these demands is general knowledge quizzes. After all, people really do participate in such things as a leisure activity. And it’s amazing the difference between the reaction when one announces a quiz, compared to a test. But quizzes, conducted orally, are far from being a waste of time. They can be a great way of assessing and building general knowledge, which is so essential and so often neglected in the curriculum.

General knowledge quizzes also provide a great opportunity for gathering data about how much your pupils know, or don’t know, about topics which you might have considered to be quite straightforward. You might have thought they would pick this stuff up somewhere. But where, if their days are filled with ‘fun’ lessons and their evenings with video games and random comprehension worksh**ts?

With a general knowledge quiz, you can quickly discover how much your pupils know, for example, about their own country, after x years of studying geography. Do they know which is the most southerly county? The most mountainous one? Can they name three common native trees or three things which grow in the hedgerows?

Give it a try, and you will be enlightened about how many gaps exist in the most basic knowledge of young people once you leave behind the narrow confines of the curriculum. Then start thinking about how you’re going to start filling them in. It’s never too late to start consciously aiming to build the broad general knowledge which is so essential to being part of the cultural conversation.

You could consider, for example, the books you study and the books on your recommended reading list. Do boy wizards and futuristic dystopias help teenagers build up their general knowledge of the world they live in, and its history? Or do they just transport them to fantasy worlds?

Or you could think about how much factual information is taught elsewhere in the humanities. Do they really need to study global warming or coastal erosion again, or might it be more beneficial for them to learn something about the country in which they live, such as the names, locations and principle features of the counties, for example?

You, as a teacher, just know this kind of stuff. But where did you learn it? Not at school, I’m willing to bet, but through growing up in a relatively literate and educated family where people read broadsheet newspapers and actually talked to each other. Are you going to help those who do not have your advantages, or are you going to abandon them to lifelong exclusion, not through stupidity, but simply through ignorance?

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4 thoughts on “The Uses of General Knowledge Quizzes

  1. I agree completely, and have a bank of quizzes (sets of 20 qns on ppt, including images, sounds, videos etc) that I use regularly as the “fun” lesson. You are so right about general knowledge – a couple of years ago I showed a photo of the Grand Canyon and one of my best students (15 y.o.) asked “what’s that?”. She had never heard of, or seen a photo of the Grand Canyon.

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  2. As a form tutor I have a pdf (given to me, I don’t know the source). Anyway it contains 10 000 questions . Enough to keep us busy for a few yrs or so. I do not use them every day, but when I do, I have had some of my best form periods (in my opinion), and, as I’ve said in the digression post, the good/bad thing about this is that I cannot possibly plan for it. Sometimes I am using my own 80s knowledge, sometimes they’ll know, and I don’t sometimes none of us know, and we try and categories the questions, ie out of ten questions or so, which are mindless trivia, potentially useful trivia, definitely useful to someone, just interesting for interest’s sake. It is amazing how some things link together in ways you hadn’t expected. Below are the first ten. At my school we have access to youtube and so careful use of this resource is great for the music questions.

    1 Carl and the Passions changed band name to what … Beach Boys
    2 How many rings on the Olympic flag … Five
    3 What colour is vermilion a shade of … Red
    4 King Zog ruled which country … Albania
    5 What colour is Spock’s blood … Green
    6 Where in your body is your patella … Knee ( it’s the kneecap )
    7 Where can you find London bridge today … USA ( Arizona )
    8 What spirit is mixed with ginger beer in a Moscow mule … Vodka
    9 Who was the first man in space … Yuri Gagarin
    10 What would you do with a Yashmak … Wear it – it’s an Arab veil

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