Using Kahoot! to Improve Reading Engagement

Textbooks can be dull and dragging, making it difficult for students to bring themselves to read. But they do include vital information for students that aid in their classroom success. At the college level, reading quizzes take up valuable face to face time and are dreaded by both student and instructor. But sometimes we need to confirm that students have engaged with the reading and, if necessary, focus lecture and activities on more difficult material.

For this, I recommend Kahoot!, a web based competetive quiz program that allows you to set up a quiz for your students and then have them compete against one another on their comprehension. I had heard from another instructors that students really get involved in the contest, and after reviewing the data I could pull from the system as the instructor, I decided to give it a try.

Each class, I provided five or six questions on the reading that they needed to complete for that day’s class. In my case, it was a Computer Science textbook, so I pulled liberally from the questions at the back of the sections and chapters. Each question had a 60 second time limit, and if all students answered before that limit the question would automatically end. I attached related images to each question to help reinforce the topic, and students sometimes noticed that if they looked carefully, my image might contain the answer.

question setup screen in kahoot

The question-creation interface for Kahoot! is easy and straightforward.

I was a little astounded at the positive reaction to the use of Kahoot!. I had assumed students would roll their eyes and answer the questions without too much engagement– essentially, humor the new teacher. Boy, was I wrong. Our first day’s quiz was very simple and had general questions, such as “What year are you?” and “Is Ms. Shafer a cat or a dog person?” and was primarily designed to get them used to the process. Even on that first day, the students laughed and discussed the questions as we did the quiz. To me, this conversation was part of the process and helped the students engage with the questions and material – not “cheat” to get the answers right.

The first quiz experience wasn’t a one-off. Very quickly, students would come in and pull up Kahoot! on their phones or computers. One student joked that they were going to hear the music that played in the background of the quiz in their nightmares. They’d cheer on their classmates or brag when they topped the score chart (posted after each question). Students would walk in saying that they were going to “beat” their friend or try to tell me that for this class, their friend didn’t read. Bickering would commence. The students, in some ways, policed themselves on their reading.

list of kahoot quizzes and interface

Easy to edit, keep track of and launch in the classroom.

By the end of the course, I had a list of quizzes from each time I required reading Рtextbook or otherwise. It was simple to set them up, and then log in to http://getkahoot.com in the classroom and click Play.

Every week or so after my last class, I would log in and look at the results under My Account. These results gave me the hard data, color-coded for my convenience, on who took the quiz, how they performed, and at a glance I could easily see if there was a topic or question my students were struggling with. It also provided a way for me to have an attendance record – something I found I was terrifically bad at in the classroom.

Options available for each quiz attempt in Kahoot

Download provides data in an excel file, while Save links to a Google Drive account, making it easy to keep my files where I need them.

I’ll be honest- it also led to a few surprising and uncomfortable realizations. I had one student approach me at the end of the semester and admit that he had never read the text for the class. I balked for a second, then realized – this course was a general overview of something he already understood well. His performance in the class didn’t suffer for it, and he often came out on top for the scores on the Kahoot! quizzes. I knew that he looked at the presentation slides on Blackboard before class, because he would come armed with questions for me. He was engaged with the material, but not how I expected him to be. And with his level of experience and his performance in the class, I was okay with that. It showed him that his knowledge level started high and helped him narrow down the areas he needed to focus on, just as it helped other, less knowledgeable students see where they needed to revisit or ask for help with.