INTRODUCTION: I am the Lead Instructor for the Credit ESL program at MiraCosta Community College.  I have been teaching composition, grammar, and other academic ESL courses to non-native speakers for twenty years. In the grammar class I teach, we cover so much content that as we approach the final exam, students become anxious about how to manage a comprehensive review.  Usually, I give the students various in-class activities that help them focus in on the content for the final, but these activities are all teacher-generated. While the reviews are interactive in the classroom with the students collaborating during the review challenges, I wanted to create a learning experience in which, by creating their own final review material, the students are more active and responsible learners.


  • Engage students to become active and responsible learners by developing material to be used for a final review
  • Have students analyze and synthesize assigned content
  • Use student-generated material to create a final Jeopardy-review PowerPoint


  • Lunch bags for each team that contain…

  • 1 4×6 index card with a focus topic (Appendix A presents a list of mine)
  • 1 Guided Instruction Worksheet (Appendix B)
  • 60 3×5 index cards
  • 10 “Smarties” candy (optional)
  • Computer w/ PowerPoint and projector
  • PowerPoint with the Jeopardy template; to create your own, see:


  • Place lunch bags at each team’s table
  • Students convene in their Teams (5-6 students per group) My students have been working together all semester. I identify the team’s leader by putting his/her name on the outside of the lunch bag.
  • Have a PowerPoint with the Jeopardy home slide game template loaded on the computer, ready to display to students


1. Tell students, “Today you will be working in your teams to develop content for our final review.  Each team will focus on one area and work to create questions about your area that will be featured in next week’s Final Jeopardy Challenge review.” (1 minute)

2. Display the Jeopardy PowerPoint game slide on the projector. Ask, “Who has ever played or watched the game Jeopardy?”  Then elicit the Question-Answer nature of the game, the categories, and the increasing difficulty of the questions based on the dollar amounts.  Make sure that students understand that the questions get progressively more difficult as the dollar amount increases.  (2-3 minutes)

3. Tell the students, “In the bags at your table, you will find a large note card containing the topic for which your team will be responsible for developing Questions and Answers.  Remember, your questions/answers must be related to your topic, and you will be asked to ‘rank’ the level of difficulty.  For example, if you were creating a question about sentencing, an easy Question might be ‘What are the ingredients of a complex sentence?’”  Allow students to answer the question.  They should respond “One independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.”  Then say, “That might be a $20 question.  But if I asked, ‘Compose a compound/complex sentence about Christmas that requires much more critical thinking and would likely be a more challenging $50 question.”  (3-4 minutes)

4. Explain to the students, “You may use all your class notes, handouts, personal study notecards, and/or the textbook to help you with your task.  You should start by brainstorming the most important rules relating to your content area, and then work together to create your Questions & Answers.” At this point, invite the team leaders to open their bags and pull out the 4×6 card.  Ask each team leader to read the topic listed on the card aloud to the entire class. (2 minutes) 

5. Now have the leader take out the Guided Instruction Worksheet. (See Appendix B) Read the guided instructions aloud and ask, “What questions do you have?”  Answer all questions. (6-8 minutes)

6. Tell the students, “Please distribute the small note cards from your bag.  You will now have 30 minutes to complete your work.”  While the students are working, visit each group to assist, answer questions, or offer guidance. After 15 minutes, tell students, “You have 15 minutes remaining.  Your groups should have several Q&A cards written.  Use your remaining time wisely.”  I recommend visiting each group at least once more during the next fifteen minutes. (30 minutes)

7. When the time is up announce “Your time is up.  Please have your team leader bring your notecards to me.”  Allow time for collection. (2 minutes)

8. Now tell students “You really have shown me that you are the experts today, and I am excited to create our Final Review Jeopardy game based on the Questions and Answers you have created.  If you haven’t already noticed, one more thing is in your bags.  You have all earned a little reward for your work today, so please take the “Smarties” from your bag and know that you are all smarties in my book!” (1 minute)

9. After class, review all Q&A cards and select the best five from each group, rank them according to difficulty level, and put content into the PowerPoint template for use in the Jeopardy Review.


By the end of a semester, my students have been working together for months and have become quite adept at collaborating in groups on the various activities and challenges given to them throughout the semester.  Each week, a different individual from each group is called upon as the “team leader” and they are responsible for facilitating the group’s work.  In this activity, my team leaders were quite effective at using the worksheet to get their teams moving.

Most of the teams spent only about 5-8 minutes reviewing the specific grammatical rules for their various topics.  I thought they would spend a bit more time here, but because I had them write the rules out on the worksheet, I could see what they had covered when I visited each team.  If something was missing from the “rules,” I was able to bring it up during my initial visits with the groups.

As they worked on their questions, the volume of noise in the classroom intensified.  As I visited the groups, I was asked questions such as, “Can we ask them to find and correct errors in sentences we create?” or “What if there is more than one way to correctly answer the question?”  The students were not developing simple and obvious questions and answers.  They expected more of each other and their classmates.  I was excited to see students hovering over their notes and textbooks, trying to devise sophisticated and challenging questions. 

As the final 15 minutes of the activity came to a close, the students were rushing to put their questions in order from the simple to the complex.  Two of the five groups were still debating when I finally had to collect their cards, telling them I would determine the rankings.  Although those two groups seemed a little stressed about that, overall, the students seemed excited about accomplishing the task, and said they were anxious to do the Jeopardy challenge the following week. One student said, “Our questions are going to rock your world!”


My first purpose for the activity was to *engage students to become active and responsible learners by developing material for a final review. This was easily achieved as the students worked in their groups and had a specific task to accomplish.  However, this was the first time that they were the creators of the content, not just the recipients of something to work out together.  I was surprised at how quickly they engaged in the task and were eager to create content for the review.  I also heard a lot of “teaching” within the groups occurring when one or more group members did not know the answer to a question that had been posed. For example, in the punctuation group, a suggestion was made to have students create a sentence using a semicolon. When one student said, “Oh, I forget how to do that” the others in the group were able to articulate the grammar rule to ensure that everyone in the group understood. 

My second objective was to *have students analyze and synthesize assigned content.  As they worked to devise questions and answers, they were picking apart the grammar components needed while bringing together higher order skills.  For example, the group that worked on the passive construction worked first to create an active sentence that had both a direct and indirect object: “The teacher assigned the students a grammar concept to review.”  To create this sentence, I heard them say, “We need a transitive verb followed by a who and a what.”  Once they created that, they said, “Now we can ask that two PASSIVE sentences be made–one with the direct object as the subject and the other with an indirect object.”  The students were picking the specific grammatical elements apart and then figuring out how to bring them together logically in a challenging task.

My third objective was to *use student-generated material to create a final Jeopardy-review PowerPoint.  I purposely asked each group to create ten Q&A cards, knowing that I would only use five of them for the in-class Jeopardy review.  The students’ work was so effective that I easily transferred their Q&A to the PowerPoint slides without much modification.  After I selected the top five for each category, I decided to use the other Q&As for an extra credit worksheet challenge. When we played the game in class, the excitement was palpable.  Several times throughout the review, I saw students smiling and saying “That was my question!”  We always have fun playing this game, but this time, the sense of ownership was obvious and the students seemed genuinely pleased with the high quality of the game’s content that they were responsible for creating.  Interestingly, as a class they outscored the previous semester’s class on the final exam by an average of seven percentage points (average was 84% compared to 77%).  


This activity reminded me that often the best teaching happens when the teacher steps back and lets the students lead.  My work here consisted of a carefully structured activity which allowed students to become engaged and the creators of their own learning.  I was excited to observe the students and their enthusiasm toward their task and their true desire to create powerful learning opportunities for themselves and their classmates.  I believe because students took ownership of the review, it was more authentic and meaningful to them. 

I was also reminded of how a simple gesture can make such a large impact.  When I said my last comments about their being “smarties” they all seemed genuinely touched and many said, “Thank you, Mary!  I feel smart.” 


I have used the Jeopardy PowerPoint for a few years now.  Once a template is developed, it is quite simple to modify slides for whatever content is needed.  I included a link in the Set Up section which shows how to create one’s own, but I also recommend simply googling “Jeopardy PowerPoint Game” where you can find others to use as a template.


APPENDIX A: Grammar Area (one per group) listed on a 4×6 index card

  • Nouns & Articles
  • Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Verbals (gerunds, infinitives, base verbs)
  • Modals
  • Passive Voice

*These grammar areas will become the “categories” for the Jeopardy Game.

APPENDIX B: Guided Instruction Worksheet

In your group, you will work to develop questions and answers for a Jeopardy Review.  The first step is to FOCUS ON YOUR GRAMMAR AREA and brainstorm a list of rules that are related to that topic.  Have today’s leader write the group’s brainstorm of rules below:

Now, using all the resources at your disposal, develop TEN different Questions & Answers related to your topic.  In addition to the Grammar area of focus, you may extend the challenge by requiring knowledge or usage of the following content:

  • *sentence types (simple, compound, complex, compound-complex)
  • *punctuation (commas, semicolons, apostrophes, etc.)
  • *active voice verb tenses
  • *phrases

Write the Question and Corresponding Answer on the 3×5 notecards.  Then, organize the notecards from the simplest Q&A (think $10) to the most complex (think $50).

–Mary Gross, Faculty, Credit ESL, MiraCosta College, CA

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