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The Plant Health Instructor

Volume:  |
Article Type: Lesson Plans
​​​​Plant Pathology Jeopardy
Date Accepted: 30 Dec 1899
 Date Published: 30 Dec 1899

Keywords: jeopardy

Simulating student interest in plant pathology (or any other subject with lots of factual information to remember) can be difficult. What teacher wouldn’t like to see the whole class interacting and thinking about the subject at once?

Many of us use weekly short quizzes to prod students to keep up with the subject matter, although their scores don’t contribute a lot to the total grade. It’s probably not the best way to stimulate student enthusiasm - more of the stick than the carrot. Could we give up the grade aspect of quizzes if there were an effective substitute that would be a better learning experience? I’d like to relate one possibility for that purpose.


The following description of the game was first introduced to plant pathologists by Dr. Robert Stack at North Dakota State University in a Phytopathology News article published in the May, 1993 issue. He wrote:

It’s a week before midterm exams. You stand in front of the class reviewing some main points covered in the last weeks. Some of the students are writing furiously, taking everything down as if it were all new to them. Others sit there bored stiff, gazing out the window or flipping through their notes for the next period’s class. 

You can read their thoughts on their faces: “ We have all this in our notes.” It’s a situation most teachers have experienced. Don’t you wish that all the students in the class could be energized all together over the subject?​

At various times, popular knowledge games have been adapted by teachers or students to learn or review academic subjects. Trivial Pursuit, twenty questions, and other knowledge games have been used by making categories pertinent to plant pathology, mycology, etc.

Several years ago, I heard of an idea to adapt the format of the popular TV game show Jeopardy to the classroom setting. Certainly the most intellectual of the current crop of such TV programs, Jeopardy already has a large audience among college students. Many colleges have local tournaments, the winners of which get to try out for positions as contestants on the TV show. If you don’t have at least a passing acquaintance with this program, you might want to buy the box game and look through the instructions.

To adapt the game to the classroom, you can keep some of the procedures, but modify others. I follow the structure of the TV show in having six categories with five answers in each. Answers get harder as value goes up. I print sheets of blue paper with “100,” “200,” etc. and tape them to the blackboard in the “Jeopardy” pattern. I also print out category titles to put at the head of each column of blue value sheets. Having this “game board” displayed seems to add to the atmosphere, but some colored chalk and a blackboard can also be used. I try to make the category titles humorous, or tongue-in-cheek. Categories can be as loose or as restricted as you like. For example, “In Dying Color” (name of color in answer, e.g. aster yellows, silver leaf, black knot); “A Spore is Borne” (sporulation); “9-Letter Names” (Cytospora, Hypoxylon, Monilinia); “Starts with a P” (phytoalexin, parasite, Phytophthora); “Diseases Fungal and Famous.”

For this latter category, the answers (remember the response must be phrased as a question!) might be:

$100: This disease was a major factor in Irish immigration to the U.S.

$200: This shade tree disease is well known to residents of many American cities.

$300: The U.S. barberry eradication program was aimed at controlling this disease.

$400: A major food crisis could have resulted from the effects of this disease which occurred in the U.S. in the 1970s.

$500: Even if he were still around, the village smithy couldn’t stand under his tree because of this disease.

My intent is to use the excitement the game produces to get the whole class thinking. I don’t have individuals compete; rather, I divide up the class into teams. Three teams seem to work best, but two or four will also work. I assign the students to the teams, trying to get a cross-section of the class and of abilities on each team. I eliminated the “buzzing-in” for answering because it’s not suited to teams. Instead, the teams rotate, each choosing category and value in turn. A correct answer gets that team the points but not another choice. An incorrect answer costs them the points, and the next team gets to try if they want to. By rotation for each question, each team has an equal number of chances to choose questions.

I always include one or two “daily doubles” hidden somewhere. A “final jeopardy question” also keeps everyone on their toes right to the end. If you don’t know what these are, watch the show a few times before trying them out. Your students already know the game and its theme song very well.

I’ve heard from a number of colleagues who have tried Jeopardy in their classes since I gave a talk on this at the 1989 APS annual meeting in Richmond, VA. All have been enthusiastic and have encouraged me to write about it. “It’s a great way to review details that are boring in traditional formats, “ writes Gail Schumann. “Students get a lot out of working as a team, and individuals feel great when they think of the answers for their team.” This game keeps everyone paying attention while having a lot of fun.

Here are example Jeopardy games for plant pathology class of different levels and content to give instructors ideas. You are welcome to contribute additional games that you have developed. Please include the name and level of the course and put the game in the format shown.

Let the games begin...

From Robert Stack, North Dakota State University

Diseases of Horticultura​l Crops - 1 (undergraduate and graduate students)

Diseases of Horticultural Crops - 2

Tree Diseases - 1 (undergraduate and graduate students)

Tree Diseases - 2

Advanced Mycology

From Gail Schumann, University of Massachusetts

General Plant Pathology (upper level undergraduates, some graduate students)

Turf Diseases (2-yr ag-tech students)

From George Hudler, Cornell University

Mycojeopardy - a game to aid review of fungal facts and fantasy - Midterm Edition

Mycojeopardy - 2000 edition

Tree Diseases - undergraduate and graduate students

From Cleo D'Arcy - University of Illinois

Plants, Pathogens, and People - 1 (undergraduates, general education)

Plants, Pathogens, ​and People - 2

From Darin Eastburn- University of Illinois

Darin prepares his Jeopardy games with Powerpoint. The game is designed for an introductory course in agricultural awareness for non-science major undergraduates. Four versions are available here for download. With some versions of Power Point, you will be able to click on the question, click again for the answer, and then click to return to the game board. If you do not have the appropriate version of Powerpoint, simply view the ​questions and answers in order using the Slide Show.