thequizzer-01We finished The Outsiders on Wednesday and today was Outsiders Jeopardy day. I have a webpage with a grid of 12 categories, each with 7 questions, that I use as a fun finale/review/recap before we move on to the next book. The kids are in groups, and most years I just rotate clockwise through the groups, and they get to pick the category and answer the question. There’s no element of speed or reflexes or your fingers being faster than your brain.

The clicker software has a couple of games that are sorta kinda like that, but they have to be multiple choice questions and there’s still no speed aspect.

Today I busted out some old school technology that I haven’t used since the days I set up Jeopardy with index cards taped in a grid on the whiteboard. The last time I used this baby was 10 years ago easy.

We still have The Quizzer in our library storage!

I didn’t look at the copyright date, but judging from the technology, I would date the device around 1979. It takes eight (8) D-size batteries. I had six groups going, so there were six 30 foot long cables running from their boxes to the central unit pictured above, plus another cable for my Alex Trebek button. (More on that soon.)

“Pick up your feet when you walk!”

The kids’ boxes are about 4x6x 2 inches deep with a large red button on top, along with a flashlight bulb under an old-school round, red lamp cover that protrudes out of the top by like 1/2″. The main unit makes a hideous beeeeeeeeeeeeeep-ing sound when they buzz in and when I reset after each question.

But here’s the beauty part. Only the first button that gets pushed lights the red light and triggers the beeeeeeeep. All the others are locked out. AND best of all, nobody’s box works until I release MY button. Anybody who gets antsy and slaps it before I push my button gets locked out for three seconds before he can push again. The winning box starts flashing the light on top.

Oh my. It was mayhem.

Some samples of the action:

After the first few rounds, there were a few groups that hadn’t been quick enough to get any questions yet.

“Ours isn’t working!”

“Time out. All right, group two, test.”


“Works fine. You guys are just slow.”

Then there were the groups with a frantic button-pusher who just wanted to see that light lit up by being first.


“Ok, Group Three?”

“Yesss! Ummmmm. Jimmy?”

“There’s no Jimmy in the book.”

“Why’d you push the button?!”

There were complaints about the need for speed in this format.

“It’s not fair. If you can’t push the button fast enough you don’t even get a chance…”

(me) “Umm. How do you get to a score of negative 4 if you’re not getting a chance? And weren’t you guys at plus 2 a few minutes ago?”

HandsDownBoxA couple of the successful groups adopted interesting strategies as the game progressed. One group solved the problem of who should hit the button by stacking their hands, hovering above the button. It reminded me of that old game, Hands Down. That way if any of them wanted to push, they all did it at the same time. Each person’s push would be as fast as any other person’s. I thought that was pretty ingenious.

Another group soon realized that one of the members seemed to know the answers to almost all the questions, even the ones the group didn’t get a chance to answer for points. So they handed the box to the member with the itchy trigger finger and told her to “go for all of them.” Then they just gambled that “Zelda” would get it right, no matter what the question was. The gamble paid off handsomely.

I had the most fun playing with the Alex Trebek button. After every question, I have to push the button on my box to turn off the blinking light on the last winner’s box. And to repeat: Nobody’s box works again UNTIL I LET GO OF THE BUTTON. The idea is that I, like Alex, am supposed to let go of the button when I finish reading the question.

What fun.

“How does Ponyboy describe the difference…” Pause.

Click! Slap! Pound! Push! No beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

“Ours isn’t working!!”

“…between a pack and a…”  Pause.

Click click click! Slap slap pound click!

“What!? Ours really isn’t working!”



And the one group who didn’t click in early waltzes to victory.

“I swear, ours wasn’t working.”

“Time out. Group four, test.”