Internet Trivia is an interesting and useful CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) teaching activity which gives your students different kinds of practice in the different reading skills found in TEFL:
- skimming (reading for gist)
- reading for detail
The idea behind this activity is for your students to firstly get practice scanning a text, that is quickly glancing over a text to see if it is useful to them. They then skim the text looking to see if it holds the information they need. Finally they read for detail to extract the precise piece of information they require.
As a teacher prepare a set of trivia questions. These can be on almost any subject as long as they are suitable for the level and background of your class.
If you have done a needs analysis with the class you will have a good idea of what interests them so you can include these subjects. With students who are learning English for work you can include questions that could well arise in their work environment.
Have these questions available on a handout or – since this activity is online – you might want to have them on your class website or other online location.
Explain how the activity will work: that they will be given a set of questions and they need to find the answers.
Put the class in small groups. This is so that they will work together and discuss – in English of course – the activity and thus get more practice speaking.
To begin with (and without using the internet) you might like to show the questions to the groups and have them attempt to answer them there and then without any reference material whatsoever. This is useful in that unknown words will be discussed and the students will begin to get an idea of what kind of work they will be doing and what kind of answers they will be looking for.
It might be a good idea at this point to take a couple of questions and go through the way in which the students need to firstly pick out keywords to determine where the answer will lie. For example, a typical trivia question might be:
What is the capital of Mongolia?
The obvious keywords here are Mongolia and capital and explain to your students that putting these two words into Google will almost certainly lead onto the answer. (Ulaanbaatar is the answer if you didn’t know already!)
The next step is to get the students in their pairs of groups in front of the internet where they can go through the questions and find the answers online. As they do this, you will be monitoring their progress and offering help where it’s needed.
With the keywords in Google the students will come up with a set of possible pages which may or may not hold the answer to the question. They will need to skim the Google results till they find a likely hit. Then go to that site and skim the page to make see if they are on the right track. Next they will scan the page to make sure and then finally read the appropriate section for specific information.
Once the students have the answers regroup the class and go over them. With the right questions you will find that there is not always a single correct answer and this can lead on to discussion.
The questions you choose should, aside from being appropriate for the age, background and level of the class, be diverse and, in some cases, lead to ambiguous answers for later discussion.
Here are some examples:
- How high is the Eiffel Tower?
- On what day is the Queen of England’s birthday celebrated?
- When was America discovered?
None of these questions are as straightforward as they might seem. Here are some answers:
- 324 meters. However, that is the height to the top of the antenna; the tower itself is 300.65 meters. But some students may well find the answer in feet: 1,063 ft and 986 ft respectively.
- Queen Elizabeth was born on 21st April, 1926 so this is her birthday. However, she also has an “official” birthday which is the the third Saturday in June so she actually has two birthdays.
- Christopher Columbus is often credited with the discovery of America in 1492. However, he never reached the mainland and that was Amerigo Vespucci a few years later. But… evidence suggests that Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho was there in 1421. And then there are stories of the Vikings coming over hundreds of years earlier. And, it shouldn’t be forgotten that people were already living there when these explorers landed, so how can a land be discovered if there are already inhabitants there? Perhaps the original discovers were the wanderers who crossed over from Siberia thousands of years before…
As you can see, if you choose your questions carefully it can lead to good discussions in class.