Help me make my quiz bowl team awesome!
August 26, 2012 5:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm starting a middle school quiz bowl team. How do I make it ridiculously fun?

The school I'm working at has given me permission to start a quiz bowl activity; I'm incredibly excited. However, I've only done quiz bowl at a collegiate level, and I've never really coordinated it as an after-school activity. How can I make this activity really fun for kids between 9-13? I'm at a school for the gifted, so the kids in general really embrace nerdery, but if I could have some fun drills/strategies/exercises/games, that would be amazing. Additional tips for running a fun and competitive team are appreciated.
posted by superlibby to Education (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Actual Jeopardy-style buzzers! An independent reason to do Quiz Bowl.
posted by eugenen at 5:58 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ditto on the buzzers. See if you can schedule your team to compete in local tournaments. I did the quiz bowl thing in high school, and it was a lot of (nerdy) fun travelling to tournaments.

When you have practices, divide the kids up into teams, but don't always have the same kids on the same side when scrimmaging. Mix it up, let the two strongest kids pick teams, or let the two weakest kids pick teams, etc (strong & weak in the quizbowl sense, not physical strength sense).
posted by AMSBoethius at 6:02 PM on August 26, 2012

High school quiz bowl veteran, here. I say the most important single thing you can do is take every step to ensure it's a co-ed activity. (Unless your school itself isn't co-ed, obivously.)
posted by escabeche at 6:08 PM on August 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

Middle school? I believe that this may place you in NAQT territory. You will definitely need buzzers with lockout systems. But if you need to have a free repository of questions then nothing beats the online quizbowl archives (high school and college) Heck, why not the Stanford Archive as well. I have always been a fan of trash tournaments where knowing the band members for Kool and the Gang not to mention all the Villains from Word Girl gets you respect. There is an archive of trash tournaments too.
posted by jadepearl at 6:11 PM on August 26, 2012

Zeecraft was the place we always ordered our buzzers from when I did quiz bowl in middle/high school.

The practices we had were always just 2 teams on buzzers. We didn't really keep score per team, but sometimes did keep score per person. If it's a gifted school, kids will just find this fun enough. Seriously, chance to outnerd someone else? Awesome!!

Seconding the co-ed thing. My high school team had more girls than guys, and that was super rare though it made beating all the teams with all boys a lot more fun. Most teams had 4 guys and 1 girl or no girls at all!
posted by astapasta24 at 6:22 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I, too, was on a quiz bowl team in high school. Traveling for matches was fun. Our high school also had a public access TV channel, so our home games were played in the television studio and broadcast to the local neighborhood.

The team was run by one of the history teachers, and he would keep his students up to date on current events by having trivia games in class occasionally based on what was in the newspaper that week. It kept the kids informed, and he was also able to scout out new team members.

I also agree that you should get a set of lockout buzzers and play scrimmage matches with your team.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:25 PM on August 26, 2012

Yeah, buzzers. I did certamen starting in junior high and we were massively excited when we got to the upper level competition in high school and there were buzzers. (Well, sometimes. Schools that did NJCL had buzzers (mine didn't), it depended on who showed up. Certamen is three-way, so we couldn't borrow/share the quiz bowl buzzers.)

Buzzers aren't obligatory, though (we had one quiz bowl set, but enough for two practice matches, plus they sometimes inexplicably died), if you have no/little budget. Instead slap the table with one hand while raising the other. The question reader or (preferably) a spotter then decides who slapped first. Then the kids get the fun of blaming a) slapping the table and b) blaming the spotter for defeat.

It also doesn't matter if your competitions are against the same schools over and over again. There were only three schools with junior high certamen and only one school ever won, but our two year quest to beat Baker was entertaining enough. (The one time we came close, the third team stopped answering toss-ups so as to not impede our attempt. This remains highly amusing 14 or so years later.)

Assigning a captain in scrimmages is probably a good way of making sure the loudest or most aggressive kids don't ignore the quiet ones. (I've forgotten, though. Does the captain answer bonus questions in quiz bowl? If not, ignore that.)
posted by hoyland at 6:30 PM on August 26, 2012

Definitely try to mix up the teams in terms of strength when you're practicing. Chances are you'll have a few kids who are Super Into It and that can push out quieter kids who are maybe just stronger in different areas or slower to buzz in. Depending on how much interest there is, maybe have some separate practices (or teams) based on grade, so the younger kids don't get discouraged and have a chance to grow. Basically, try not to let strong personalities overshadow the others and make things not fun.

Also, be sure to research the competitions available to you and make sure the style of questions you're asking and the format you use match competition rules. Getting to a competition and being less prepared than other kids because they had been practicing that style and we hadn't was frustrating when I did quiz bowl.

And yes, keep it co-ed. My high school and middle school teams were always mostly girls and it was a lot of fun to go and destroy teams made up of mostly intensely nerdy guys. Ahem. No offense to intensely nerdy guys. Also astapasta24 was on my team yay hi Asta!
posted by MadamM at 6:40 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

What drills are useful depend on the rules of the league you'll be competing in. If your house rules are that you can interrupt the question with the buzzer (aka THE ONE TRUE WAY), then it can be useful to practice your three-word identifiers; e.g.

"This Finnish composer"

This skill is also good for intimidating other teams.
posted by escabeche at 7:36 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why am I not surprised to see that Mefi is lousy with quiz bowlers :)

One unorthodox thing my coach did was worksheets - say, real names of authors who went by pen names, or currencies of the world, or whatever. They made a good occasional change of pace from practicing with buzzers every time, and they were fun with partners, too. Just make sure they cover the spectrum of different categories!

Hm, this might be tough for middle schoolers, but consider having them write their own questions. They don't have to be pyramidal or anything crazy, just encourage them to go out and look up a favorite topic and see if there aren't some fun, fresh facts they can share with the team.

(Not sure what format you'll play, but if you have tossups and bonuses -) Use captain selection to your advantage! If you've got dedicated kids who don't get as many points as other teammates, letting them answer bonuses on behalf of the team lets them feel really great. And having a really diplomatic captain makes a huge difference in morale.

Scrimmages against others might be really fun if you can organize them - eg a teacher squad or if your school has other academic-ish clubs. Obviously only good if the teams can be reasonably matched.

SPORCLE! Was practically invented to help quiz bowlers study!

Finally, don't underestimate the power of snacks.
posted by estlin at 8:26 PM on August 26, 2012

Some old middle school tournaments are here. There's also a 2012 CMST but it doesn't appear to be posted; message me and I can send it to you. You can purchase more practice questions from NAQT, who also has a package for new middle school programs. The Quizbowl Resource Center forums will undoubtedly have more suggestions for you.
posted by likedoomsday at 10:38 PM on August 26, 2012

Every team needs lucky charms -- or even a mascot -- on the table. Build yourself some team spirit!
posted by rdn at 11:11 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

One thing to be sure about is that every team member understands their value, in the sense that some are not great at buzzing on the anticipate and are quite frankly penalty bait but, are amazing on the bonus. Each person needs to feel that they contribute to the overall process. Also, have a plan on how to deal with your team getting ass whupped (it happens) and when they whup someone (courtesy). You want a team not a mob.

Further, start developing a training plan including study guides. As time passes you will notice who has discipline, raw-talent but no focus, better strategist, and a host of other traits. Have a plan to focus all that raw energy to productivity and of course, fun.
posted by jadepearl at 5:24 AM on August 27, 2012

Mom of a former middle-school quiz-bowler here.

Of course, you are required to come up with a nickname for the team, preferably pun-based.

And once you have the name, you need the t-shirts.

One of the things my daughter's coach did to shake things up a little was to hold practices in different locations throughout the school. (This may have been more due to room-scheduling issues than on purpose.) You could extend this idea and hold practices in different locations around town, like the library or the high school or the lobby at the town hall or whatever, if you could swing it without too much angst. It gives the kids practice in doing their thing with other people watching or in different environments, which is often intimidating the first match or two of the season.

Get the quiz bowl team included in any pep rallies the school might hold for other teams, if that's done at your school. Or hold one just for them!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:57 AM on August 27, 2012

Another former quiz bowler here!

In fact, not only was I dorky enough to be on the quiz bowl team, but I was also, dorkily, the editor of the school paper. Anyway, even though I myself assigned someone else to write the article on the quiz bowl team, it was still a really good way to stir up interest and attract attention amongst the students and faculty. We even had some cheerleaders come to our matches! What I mean is: publicize your team! It'll validate your players and give the school something to be proud of.

Also, somehow, there's a Quiz Bowl wiki! Can't speak to its quality, as I just discovered it, but it may have some useful resources and/or ideas.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:13 AM on August 27, 2012

Yup, another HS & college quiz bowler here.

Our coach would start practice with a timed quiz - 60 to 180 seconds maybe 20 questions on a theme (which changed every time). They were sometimes serious (cabinet members & other gov't types) and sometimes offbeat (themes from popular songs like "Which musical artist had 99 problems?") and it was fun to see who "won" every week as well seeing what our hidden strengths & weaknesses were.
posted by pointystick at 6:29 AM on August 27, 2012

I cannot tell y'all how helpful all of these ideas are. I didn't think it was possible, but I'm EVEN MORE PUMPED about quiz bowl. Thank you all!
posted by superlibby at 5:06 PM on August 27, 2012

SAPONIFICATION!!!!!!! (Sorry. That was the answer with which we won in my junior year. I sometimes awaken from dreams, shouting it.)

If you can practice on the school steps, with everyone at the bottom, advancing up a step with a correct answer, descending with a wrong one, it keeps everyone physically energized and participating.

Make funny hats. Whoever got the high school at the last practice session gets to wear the funny hat today.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:00 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just an update: we had our first meeting, and the kids decided to name the team "A Bowl of Quizmeal." Everyone had a great time! Thanks for all of the advice.
posted by superlibby at 3:53 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older What plant is this? (KY)   |   Sweet olive oil tortas? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.