In School in Germany: The Guessing Quiz




Have you ever tried introducing an exotic topic to your group and wondered how they can learn something new without making them bored by your topic? There are many ways of getting your students involved in a topic that you are an expert in but they have next to no clue about. The most important point is to ensure that they learn something from the topic you are talking about.

One of the methods to teach them is through individual work, where they learn something about the topic through their own research.  In some cases, some guesswork is needed before the teacher can explain the answer in detail so that the student can better understand the topic. For the latter part, that is when the Guessing Quiz comes in.

The Guessing Quiz was developed during my early days of teaching English in 2001 for the sole purpose of providing the students with some insight on American culture and history, as well as some terms in the English language that may be useful in the long run. The goal of this guessing quiz is to encourage students to guess at and learn from some of the facts that they had not known about in the previous lessons. As a general rule, there is no right or wrong answer, as long as they learn something new in the end. This sort of mentality of learning something new on a regular basis was what led the late Peter Jennings to become the news anchor of World News Tonight for over two decades in the US and a reporter for the CBC in Canada. Jennings’ career as a journalist lasted over four decades until his death in 2005.


Some tips on how to make the Guessing Quiz simple and enjoyable are the following:


  1. Keep the questions short and simple. It will be difficult enough to introduce them to a new topic they may have little or no knowledge about, which includes new words, etc. Yet questions and information have to be given in bite-sizes in order for them to get into the topic.


  1. Be prepared to explain every question in detail and explain to them why the answer is what it is.  To challenge them with a question is one obstacle, yet as a teacher, you have to be an expert in your topic and fit enough to explain your argument supporting your answer.


  1. Format your questions in a way that it is user-friendly.  Best variant is the multiple choice questions, as you have a chance to explain the right answers in comparison with the wrong ones. This is useful when teaching classes involving history, politics and culture, as many new terms and themes are introduced and require some explanations.  Second best are open questions, allowing for discussion, thus fostering the possibility of students to state their opinions. This option is especially useful for foreign language teaching, as students learning a second or third language are expected to communicate orally.  Not preferred are the fill-in gaps unless you provide hints next to them, as it will discourage students from guessing if they keep on guessing the wrong answers to the first question after 20 minutes.


 4. Make the Guessing Quiz an enjoyable experience. Add some fun into your questions or discussion. Yet if your discussions in class may take too long, give them some additional handouts and/or links  that will allow them to read more about it in their spare time. And remember to tell them at the beginning that the quiz is not a matter of life or death. It is a learning process where you learn about the answers through the teacher and discussion with your fellow students.


The Guessing Quiz can be used in any class and on any level. The most useful is in a foreign language class that deals with cultural themes, but one can also use it in history, social studies, political science, ethics, religion and other classes that deal with humanities. More difficult is when used in a science class unless you are introducing a scientist and his theory of XYZ. The same applies to music, unless teaching theory and history. Next to impossible is in mathematics, for you as a teacher are introducing numbers and figures, and there are really no possibilities to introduce the Guessing Quiz here, unless you as the reader, care to differ.

Here is a sample of what a Guessing Quiz looks like, by using one that was produced in connection with History and the Topic of World War I. This part deals with the worsening relations between the US and Germany. Try the Quiz out and share your answers with others. The answers will appear in the article in the next week.


World War I and the US’s war on Germany


  1. What was the deciding factor that led to the US’s entry into the war in 1917?
    1. The sinking of the Lusitania
    2. The interception of the Zimmermann Telegraph
    3. Mexico’s declaration of war on the US
    4. The inner-political strife among the immigrants

Fact-finder: Which states in the US were once part of Mexico but were taken away by the Americans?  When did this happen?


  1. German immigrants in America were treated especially badly by the Americans during the war. How were they discriminated? Choose the following examples that you think did apply.


Eliminating German from the school curriculum

Rounding them up and placing them onto reservations with the Native Americans

Renaming the Hamburger Liberty Steak

Renaming German villages (for example, Frankfort to Kentucky City, Fulda to North Worthington, New Ulm to Ramsey, and Weimar to Crockettown)

Renaming Sauerkraut Liberty Cabbage

Banning German literature

Banning German-speaking newspapers


Over 200 towns in the US still carry a German name today. Apart from the ones mentioned (Weimar (Texas), Frankfurt (Kentucky and Illinois), New Ulm and Fulda (both in Minnesota) List at least 3 German cities whose names can be found in the American communities today.





  1. True or False:
    1. Germany was the last country to surrender to the Entente (the US, England and France) on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1919.
    2. Armistice Day marked the end of World War I.
    3. Veteran’s Day originated from the above-mentioned day and has been celebrated in the US ever since.
    4. America was involved in the treaty to punish the Austro-Hungarians and Germans (losers of the war) through annexation of certain regions to the Entente.


  1. Woodrow Wilson was heavily involved in the negotiations regarding the Versailles Treaty. How did he do that? Choose two of them.
    1. He worked on a reparation plan for Germany
    2. He proposed the League of Nations
    3. He created the 14-Point Plan
    4. He agreed to the proposals laid out by France and England to force Germany to cede (give up) portions of its territory.