Monday, April 25, 2016

Cutthroat History: Using Reality TV to Create Engaging Activities

Earlier this year I posted how I used the premise for the show Chopped/Master Chef to create an activity in class that provided students the opportunity to answer a essential question using teamwork, creativity, and speed.  Read that post here.

The biggest take-away from the History Chef activity was how much the kids loved it.  They loved being challenged to come up with an answer, incorporate creative items, and present their information.  They wanted to do it again.

But we can't do the same thing.

Since my husband and I have finished binge watching House of Cards on Netflix and we quickly finished the Chopped episodes, we decided to try out Cutthroat Kitchen.

Good move.  It's great!  Chefs compete to create a dish (like chicken parm).  At the start of the show each contestant is given $25,000.  The contestants then use that money to "bid" on different sabotages to throw at their competitors.  Such as swapping out all knives/cooking utensils for a pocket knife or forcing two chefs to share one small Bunsen burner to cook on.  They are still expected to complete the dish no matter what is thrown at them.  After their cooking time is up, an impartial judge, who knows nothing about the challenges each cook has had to persevere through, selects a winner based on the dish.  At the end of the show, the winning chef gets to keep the money they have left.  There is probably just as much strategy in this show as there is cooking skill.  You have to risk losing money in order to purchase sabotages to throw at your competitors, while still wanting to have some dough left at the end!  (Pun intended)

After watching the show, I figured this would be simple to modify into an activity in class.  So that's what I did.  I did some more research (by watching more episodes of the show of course!) and got to work cooking up an activity for class that would make the kids become "cutthroat" in the classroom!

I created my rules:

Came up with a list of sabotages I could auction off:

They could force two teams to swap boxes of supplies.  This was much more "challenging" that I thought it would be!

My box of "goodies."
Created my own "Weber-Bucks":

Picked a topic/question for my 7th grade class.

And recruited some surprise guest judges who didn't know or care about the sabotages each group had to face.  They judged on accuracy of content, creativity, and involvement of each group member. Each judge ended up being a high school teacher.  It was a great way to introduce the kids to some of their future teachers!

Here's a few images of how it went:

1 minute to "shop" for supplies!

If it's not in the box, you can't use it!

"Shopping" time is almost half over!
30 minutes of "silence" is cruel and unusual punishment!

Why me???
Swapping all writing utensils for water paints.  Sucks.

Don't worry... "I got this."
Ha!  Had to stop during work time to put these event cards in the correct order!  Couldn't go back to work until it was done right! Pure evil. MUWAH...HA...HA
Probably my favorite sabotage.  Must wear gloves.  Glove and iPads don't mix!  Hilarious!

That's can't talk AND you have to touch your iPad with your nose.  Priceless!

I asked the kids what they liked and didn't like or wish I would change to this activity after it was all done.  Here are a few of their pointers.

  • Loved this activity.
  • Wanted to do it all the time.
  • Loved how they had to know the same content information as if they were going to type a written paragraph, but were able to be creative in presenting the content
  • Wanted MORE sabotages and MORE money
  • Wanted different stages of activities so winners could "advance" to the next challenge.  
  • Loved the idea of having to "shop" to get their supplies before hand.
  • Wanted to do more stuff like this!  
Really, there wasn't much they didn't like (other than having to keep quiet for 30 minutes or write with water paints), so I'd call this a very successful activity.

What I love about this concept is how adaptable it can be for all ages and content areas.  This basic idea of having kids preform an answer with "challenges" thrown at them can be done in science to explain Newton's 3rd Law or in Language Arts to create a poems over a topic, and in math to explain the Pythagorean theorem.  Add more challenges, take some away.  Make them more difficult or make them easier.  This can be used across all classrooms and content areas.  

In the words of one of my students "This was way more fun than writing a paragraph!"   

**If you are interested in the typed up google doc that I have with the instructions and possible sabotages, just contact me through Twitter and I'll hook you up with a copy! @JillWebs


  1. This looks amazing! I would love to try it out with my class. Would you mind sending me the typed up Google Docs? My email is

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Megan! I am so sorry...I accidentally removed your comment and I didn't get your email copied! Can you send it to me again and I'll gladly send you the Cutthroat History stuff I have!

  3. I'd love the google docs too!

  4. Could you send me a copy as well?

  5. Could you send me a copy?

  6. What are some example supplies you had for all students? I'm trying to plan this for the New Deal.

    1. As far as supplies goes, in my classroom I have a general tub of basic supplies; markers, colored pencils, construction paper, glue, etc... They had a empty box and 1 minute to "shop" around the room and grab all supplies. If you're looking for sabotage ideas I can send you a Google Doc with a list if you shoot me your email.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Hi Jill!

    All of your ideas here are amazing! Would you mind sharing your google doc resources with me? I'd love both Chopped Kitchen and CutThroat Kitchen. My email is


  8. This is awesome! I'd love the full instructions for both Chopped Kitchen and Cutthroat Kitchen:

  9. This is amazingly creative, and I would love to steal it from you! Would you mind sharing your resources with me, too? My email address is . THANK YOU!

  10. I would love a copy of everything you have for this.

    Thank you!

  11. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this for my ESL students. My email address is

    TIA! :)