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TeachersFirst's Brain Twisters

From the editors of the Twister questions

TeachersFirst's Twister questions are intended to stretch your students’ thinking. Of course, elementary and middle school curriculum content varies from location to location. It is unlikely that every question will fall within the scope of your school’s curriculum. As the point value increases, it becomes more likely that the answers may fall outside standard classroom fare. Five point questions tend to be at the knowledge/comprehension/application level of Bloom’s taxonomy and closer to “normal” content. Ten pointers are more likely cross-curricular application/analysis, and twenty pointers require analytical thinking and a wider experience level, such as knowledge of current events or information beyond normal curricula. Twenty pointers may require more than one student’s input.

Some strategies for using the Twisters:

1. Do the questions as a whole-class activity (such as on a multimedia projector attached to your computer) with students contributing the portions of knowledge they do know toward solving the question. Using teamwork and thinking aloud can often help the group reach a conclusion that no single member could do on his/her own. For example, the groups can narrow the possibilities for geography questions if one student knows where one of the countries is located or can eliminate one possibility. They can each test different math answers to see which one is correct. This process will not only foster thinking aloud and group communication, but also model test-taking skills for multiple choice.

2. Do the questions in small groups, with one student as answer entry but others as researchers on neighboring computers to find out what the group does not know. This will develop group skills and research skills. It may be helpful to assign roles: moderator (assigns what to find out and helps the group reach consensus) , keyboarder (enters responses, may conduct research in a new window), researchers (find information as assigned).

3. It may be helpful to first model the “research” needed to find an answer as a whole class with the teacher thinking aloud to show how to search for the necessary information. This could be a valuable way to teach about Internet searching in a high-motivation activity.

4. Provide the twisters as an enrichment challenge or extra credit option for students to do at home. Ask parents to be on the honor system to sign a note indicating the score their child achieved. Since parents may be overly interested in helping, you may want to simply give extra credit for anyone completing the quiz, no matter the score.

5. Use the Brain Twister to address individual needs—both affective and academic, as this Twister-using teacher explains:
I work in an alternative learning center where students who are considered to be "at-risk" attend.  A colleague and I work with about 20 kids (8th and 9th graders) and on Fridays, while he and I have individual conferences with the kids, the rest of the kids—either alone or in pairs—work on the Brain Twisters.  When they first start, they just kind of zip through the answers, but after several attempts, they begin to take their time, trying to actually figure them out—with the resources they have.  We talk about how problem-solving requires both thinking AND perseverance, and slowly but surely, both begin to unfold.  If they get a perfect score, we give them something—tickets, a can of soda, etc.   Kind of fun—and really fun to see them progress as problem-solvers as well.  (Also, during the week, the staff members often go through the answers per their subject area, so they can learn how the problems can be solved.)

We hope you enjoy the questions, and we thank those of you who keep us honest by catching our occasional mistakes. Two heads really are better than one!