Truth be told, I actually love the chaos that every now and then happens in my room.

I love the rambunctiousness, the sound, the laughter, the engagement of structured chaos.

And thanks to an amazing activity that I replicated from Jill Webs, a middle school teacher living in the heart of the United States, the chaos that I adore returned to my classroom this week.

Jill Webs recently hosted a #worldgeochat rapid-fire chat with the topic of “S.P.I.C.E”-ing up the classroom. SPICE stands for Student-centered, Play, Integration, Creativity, and Effective Evaluation. We discussed activities that allowed students to interact and critically think while also playing, having the opportunity to be creative, and integrating technologies.

And then… it happened.

She introduced “CutThroat History.”

And my brain gears began to turn!

I love trying to incorporate pop culture into my classroom. It makes the content more relevant and engaging in their daily lives. I bring in Disney and Pop Funkos!, Marvel movies, references to Snapchat and Instagram, and reality shows. The most relatable reality show to integrate with world geography is “The Amazing Race,” which I have been doing for the last two years as an end-of-the-year cumulative activity in our school’s auditorium (click here to read more about that!). But it’s the reality shows that don’t have a clear connection to world geography that always got me stuck.

So how does CutThroat Kitchen connect to world geography? It doesn’t. But the idea and concept behind the show definitely do! In the Food Network show, “CutThroat Kitchen,” chefs are asked to create a specific dish, like spaghetti carbonara, muffins, burgers, anything! The twist? Their competitors can bid money to sabotage the others. What do I mean by sabotage? Check out Alton Brown’s top 5 sabotages for CutThroat Kitchen by clicking here. These sabotages create challenges that the chefs have to overcome in order to be successful. At the end of the challenge, their dishes are judged. The judge will not know about any of the sabotages. They are only interested in the final product.

My challenge was going to be simple. Students had to create a product that answered the two following questions: (1) Define the standard of living. (2) How do we determine a country’s standard of living? Teams were to have 30 minutes to create their product, either a slideshow, poster, skit, song, painting, whatever they decide. There will be 3 “sabotages” which included wearing oven mitts, swapping materials between groups, forcing a group to make their presentation completely out of Play-Doh, and more!

The result: Many smiles, many laughs, and AMAZING presentations.

The opportunity for my students to demonstrate their critical thinking skills, as well as their creativity, was such a joy to my heart. We laughed, had “ah-ha!” moments, and smiled. Students enjoyed having the ability to sabotage other peers. What ended up happening was that those who were sabotaged ended up having the presentations that stood out the most because they had to think more on their feet.

I’ll be honest. When asked for feedback, one of my classes did say they didn’t enjoy it that much. They’ve been a tough crowd for me since the beginning of the school year, but that won’t stop me from trying to engage them in activities that will push their thinking and challenge them to view our content through different lenses.

I was able to bring in guest judges from around our school, such as 8th-grade teachers, 6th-grade teachers, Unified Arts specialists and administrators. They graded the presentations based on creativity and whether or not they were able to follow the content. I had some express to me afterwards that they as judges had so much fun just seeing students be proud of their work and come up with some imaginative presentations.

Thank you to Jill who brought this amazing activity into my life. I can’t wait to explore how else to utilize it in the classroom.

Next challenge: Bringing food trucks into geography with the Sustainable Development Goals?! Wish me luck!

Looking for what I used in class for directions and sabotages? Click here for my Google Slideshow.

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