As I have stated before, the most powerful way to get students to read is to make them curious. If I can get my students wondering about something and wanting to know more, I can get them excited about a book. A new favorite way I have found to do this is by using Kahoot. Most educators use Kahoot as a review tool. I have discovered its power as an anticipation tool. When I am ready to introduce my seventh graders to non-fiction, rather than simply giving a book talk or showing a book trailer, I use Kahoot to make them curious.
Here’s how I do it. I start by finding really good non-fiction titles. What have I read lately that really captured my attention? What titles have been on statewide reading lists, such as Young Hoosier, Eliot Rosewater, or the Indiana Read Alouds? What non-fiction titles have been languishing on my shelves? What non-fiction book was so disgusting that I couldn’t put it down? As mentioned in a previous column, I LOVE the Scientists in the Field Series. In fact, I love them so much that I have created a whole Kahoot for my 6th grade just on them.
Next, as I read these, I try to come up with two questions that would introduce students to what is learned in a particular book, without giving too much away. I try to ask questions that have some familiarity so that students will experience some success as they participate in the Kahoot, but still leave them wanting to know more. For example, I live in a rural community. Many of my students live on farms or within view of a farm. When I ask a question about the book Years of Dust, which examines the causes of the Dust Bowl, I ask whether it is True or False that Bison damage soil more than cattle do. Most of my students have at least seen cattle. Several of them show cattle or their families raise cattle. I am not asking something that is totally out of their realm of experience.
I invite you to join me in finding ways to use Kahoot to foster curiosity and spur excitement.
As I begin this activity with students, I tell them up front that I do not expect them to know the answers to these questions, that I am trying to make them curious so they will want to read these books. I ask 2 questions from 5 to 9 different non-fiction titles, depending on the amount of time I have and the audience I am working with, as a way of whetting their appetite, as a way of making them want to check out the book and learn more. After each question, we see how many got it correct; I explain the correct answer briefly; then I tie it to the book in general, but I have to be EXTREMELY careful, because otherwise, I get so excited talking about the book that I give away the second question. So, I have learned to not booktalk the title extensively until after the second question on the book.
I have also used Quizizz for this exact same activity; however, I prefer Kahoot because Kahoot allows me to control the pacing of the questions. What is exciting for me is when by the end of the day all five to nine books that I have featured have been claimed by students and has a list of 2 to 5 names long of students who want to place that book on hold.
Here is a list of all of the non-fiction titles I have used with either Kahoot or Quizizz. I have included in that list an idea of the topics in the books and an indication of which specific Kahoot a title is included in. You will also see a column that indicates if I have a trailer for each specific title too. If you would like an actual link to one of my quizzes or to a trailer, please email me, so I can send you a link. If you would like to see this activity, I have a 21-minute video you can watch of a Non-Fiction Pre-Reading Kahoot in action.
So what is your area of expertise? What topic are you getting ready to cover? What are some general things that students might already know? What are some exciting things that they are getting ready to learn? Instead of doing a KWL or having students brainstorm and list everything they already know about a topic, could you create a Kahoot that piques students’ interest, generates anticipation, and gets them thinking about the next learning adventure that you have planned for them? I invite you to join me in finding ways to use Kahoot to foster curiosity and spur excitement.
So far we have discussed Kahoot and curiosity in relation to reading, as a way to get kids excited about reading and to find the intrinsic motivation to stick with it, but what about other areas of education? Could not the same be said for them? If we could help students tap into their natural sense of wonder, could we not also help them wonder about how chemistry works, how the laws of physics apply, how to figure out the probability of an event happening, how adding one ingredient to a recipe might change the flavor, why certain exercises cause our bodies to strengthen in certain ways, what would a musical score sound like by adding another instrument, how would a painting change if we added another medium? The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations.