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Featured Structure


Students independently answer a question, then have a “Showdown” displaying their answers to teammates.



are accountable for working on each problem and sharing answers.

receive frequent practice.

receive immediate feedback.

help each other when help is needed.

have fun during drill and practice.

Showdown adds an element of fun and excitement to what otherwise may be considered boring drill and practice. Showdown replaces independent problem-solving practice. Showdown works best with high-consensus, right-or-wrong answers. First, the teacher assigns the class a set of problems to work on. For math, the problems may be adding mixed fractions. For language arts, the problems may be answering reading comprehension questions. Any practice or review problems work. The teacher then selects a “Showdown Captain” for each team. The Showdown Captain reads the first question. Teammates independently solve the problem or answer the question on their own AnswerBoards. They turn over their AnswerBoards, put down their pens, or give a hand signal when done. The Showdown Captain calls, “Showdown!” and all teammates show their answers. If students (one or more) hold up an incorrect answer, the team works together and tutors the student(s) needing help. Once they all know how to derive the correct answer, the Showdown Captain calls for a team celebration: “Let’s all do a team handshake!” The Showdown Captain role is rotated around the team for each new question.

Showdown is the antidote to monotonous, independent problem-solving practice. Students enjoy Showdown. If a student needs help on any problem, the team knows immediately and they work together to tutor teammates who need help.

  • Similar ability groups may be formed to play with developmentally appropriate content or difficulty.
  • The teacher, an aide, or a buddy may sit with and provide support for an individual student.


Getting Ready: The teacher prepares questions or problems. Questions may be provided to each team as question cards that they stack face-down in the center of the table. Each student has a slate or a response board and a writing utensil.

  1. Step 1
    Teacher Selects the Showdown Captain

    The teacher selects one student on each team to be the Showdown Captain for the first round. “Student #4 is the first Showdown Captain. Rotate the role clockwise after each question.”
  2. Step 2
    Showdown Captain Reads a Question

    The Showdown Captain reads the first question. If using question cards, the Showdown Captain draws the top card, reads the question, shows it to the team, and provides Think Time. “Think about your answer.”
  3. Step 3
    Students Answer Independently

    Working alone, all students write their answers and keep their answers to themselves, hidden from teammates.
  4. Step 4
    Teammates Signal When Done

    When finished, teammates signal they’re ready by turning over their response boards, putting down their markers, or giving a hand signal.
  5. Step 5
    Showdown Captain Calls “Showdown”

    The Showdown Captain calls, “Showdown!”
  6. Step 6
    Teams Show Their Answers

    Teammates simultaneously show their answers and RoundRobin state them in turn.
  7. Step 7
    Teams Check for Accuracy

    The Showdown Captain leads the team in checking for accuracy. “Great. We all got the same answer.” Or, “We did not all have the same answer; let’s see how to get the right answer.”
  8. Step 8
    Celebrate or Coach

    If all teammates have the correct answer, the Showdown Captain is Team Cheerleader. If a teammate or teammates have an incorrect answer, teammates coach the student or students with the incorrect answer, then celebrate.
  9. Step 9
    Rotate the Captain Role

    The person on the left of the Showdown Captain becomes the Showdown Captain for the next round.

Structure Power
Suspense fills the air at the end of a round of poker when there is a showdown, and we find out who wins the round. Also suspenseful was when gunslingers in the Old West faced each other, ready to draw their pistols for a showdown that could mean life or death. Suspense also fills the air when we play Showdown in the classroom: “Will I have the right answer? Will all of us agree?” The Showdown Captain calls, “Showdown!” And YES, we get to celebrate. Excitement is emotion, and positive emotion translates into motivation and memory. Students are motivated to do the next round of Showdown because it is fun. Because there is emotion linked to the learning, there is memory for the learning. Rather than filling out a boring worksheet only to be evaluated later by the teacher, students are playing an exciting game and receive immediate feIedback and correction if necessary. Frequent, immediate feedback aligns with the basic principles of learning. The fun and excitement students experience as they play Showdown aligns with motivation theory and with brain-friendly learning principles. Showdown is powerful!


  • Showdown Captain Card. Each team has a role card that says, “Showdown Captain.” The role card is passed to the Showdown Captain for each new question, so everyone knows whose turn it is to act as the Showdown Captain.
  • Right or Wrong Answers. Showdown is ideal for practice and review. It works best with right-or-wrong answers that students can easily check for correctness. The answer can be folded inside a slip of paper to hide it. The slip is unfolded to check the answer. Or the team can have an answer key to check for correctness.
  • Sequential Worksheets. The team can do Showdown using problems from a worksheet or problems posted by the teacher. For worksheets that are sequenced by difficulty, students simply start at the first problem and progress sequentially.
  • Pick a Problem. Showdown can be used with any questions or problems posted on the board or projected, or problems from a worksheet or book. To do this, the Showdown Captain picks from numbered cards corresponding to the questions displayed. The team answers the problem selected.
  • Question Cards. Although any questions will work, Showdown is more focused and game-like when each team has its own set of question or problem cards that they turn over one at a time.
  • Showdown, Not Showoff. Explain that the reason students compare answers is not to see who’s better at that particular type of problem solving. It’s not a contest. The idea is to get everyone to succeed: to find out who is having difficulty and to try to steer them in the right direction.
  • Sponge. Students may finish each problem at a different time. Have one or more sponge problems students can work on while waiting.
  • Response Boards. Students can work on individual slates, dry-erase boards, or chalkboards. This makes it easy to show each other answers during the Showdown.
  • No Answer. If students don’t know the answer, they are allowed to put a question mark on their board, indicating that they need help with the problem.
  • Showdown Captain Plays. The Showdown Captain answers every question, too. Being the Captain doesn’t exempt him or her from solving the problems.
  • Think Time. Before playing, instruct students on the importance of Think Time and how to patiently wait 3–5 seconds before writing.
Ideas Across the Curriculum


• Place value
• Fractions
• Decimals
• Operations to use
• Order of operations
• Formulas
• Shapes
• Rounding
• Test questions

Language Arts

• Punctuation needed
• Vocabulary
• Parts of speech
• Grammar
• Elements of a story
• Comprehension questions

Social Studies

• Questions from cultures
• Facts about Native Americans
• Definitions
• Historical characters
• Events
• Review questions


• Weather
• Nonliving items
• Solar system
• Cloud formations
• Earth/rocks
• Formulas
• 5 senses
• Animal classification


• Identify types of music
• Identify instruments
• Define terms
• Identify notes


• Primary colors
• Elements of art
• Famous works of art
• Art history questions
• Art movements

Second Language

• Places in a city
• Food names
• Clothing
• Parts of the body
• Immediate family names
• Weather expressions
• Items found in a classroom
• Professions

Physical Education

• Flag football rules
• Muscles
• Volleyball rules
• Nutrition questions

From 59 Kagan Structures

  • 59 Step-by-step Kagan Structures
  • Revolutionary teaching strategies to boost engagement
  • Activity ideas across the curriculum
  • Ready-to-use activities and resources

Click to learn more.