Quiz Bowl ESL Student

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Quiz Bowl ESL Student

Post by Saratoga » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:06 pm

Good afternoon. I hope this is the right place to post this. I have a student that was thinking about playing quiz bowl. The thing holding them back is their English language struggles. The student seemed discouraged when they had (in their view) a very bad first practice. I tried to explain that this would be true of any student who was just starting, but they definitely seemed let down by the result. They have more than enough knowledge, but the language barrier is making it very very hard. They are a recent transplant from overseas, and this is their first time in an English speaking environment. I was wondering if any other coach had strategies for helping esl students or had experience with this situation. I'm not expecting a miracle, I just want them to feel comfortable participating and I don't want them to give up.

(For full context, I teach at a rural district with no other esl students, so consulting with a colleague is not really a good option)
Samuel McCoy
South Side High School Coach
Social Studies Teacher
Hookstown, PA

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Re: Quiz Bowl ESL Student

Post by alexdz » Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:16 pm

I have been thinking about this for the past couple of days since you posted and I'm surprised no one else has responded yet.

What do you know about this student's overall language skills in English? I don't know how familiar you are with the field of second language acquisition, but from what little I remember in my linguistics classes, there's four modes to consider: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Some students struggle with just one or two of those in their second language (L2), while some have difficulties in all four. If you can get an idea of where this student's strengths are in using English, then you can find a slot for them in practice that uses that skill and de-emphasizes the others.

Also, are your practices currently mostly structured around actual gameplay? It could be that throwing this student into that much fast-paced auditory stimulation was overwhelming to them. Have you thought about using part of your practice to have students do independent study, or complete worksheets? Maybe a slower-paced environment where this student could read at their own pace and answer questions without speed being a factor would help build their confidence as well as their academic vocabulary. And once this student gets stronger at using academic language in English, perhaps they could even start writing short questions as another way to participate.

One last thought: if this student has a lot of knowledge to share about where they are originally from or about their native language, you can consider asking them if they would feel comfortable teaching the team about it. There's almost nothing better than learning about a country's history and culture from someone who was immersed in it. That might be another way this student can feel like they are making a contribution to the team as they work on their English skills.
Alex Dzurick
Owner/Editor, SAGES Quizbowl Questions
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Re: Quiz Bowl ESL Student

Post by aescandell » Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:57 am

I've coached a good number of ESL students to play quizbowl over the years and it is challenging. I made a lot of mistakes and every student's situation is different. Also all of the students I coached also had been in the United States for at least a year, so it's possible my experience won't speak directly to yours. But I applaud you for welcoming this student onto your team and going so far out of your way to help them. Quizbowl can be such a rewarding activity for kids and I think all of the ESL students I had come through it really got a lot out of it. This student is lucky that there is a coach like you at the school.

If I can give general advice- just like in the classroom, the quizbowl frustrations that ESL students face are the same as all students, just far more pronounced. In other words, having ESL students in the mix forces you to be hyper-aware of how the environment and your words are being perceived by students and to use high quality strategies for engaging all kids because if you don't it will disproportionately affect the students who are also simultaneously trying to learn a whole new language and, in this case, adapt to a new country.

It sounds like, for example, this student wants to perform very well at the task of quizbowl- they want to score points, win games and show off how much knowledge they have. Which is great! But as long as quizbowl is framed solely in those terms in the minds of students it is a recipe for frustration. It is not easy to change someone's quizbowl mindframe, but as coaches its one of the most valuable things we can do for kids. The more you can remind this student and really convince them that quizbowl is not just a game to be won, but also a great learning opportunity- to learn more about the world and to learn more about English, the less frustrating they will find practice. And your other players are huge resources in this- if they are demonstrating a growth mindset for quizbowl then that ideology will permeate the club and it will make practice a much more inviting atmosphere for everyone, including this student.

Of course, that is not at all easy to do and I fail at it all the time myself. But I wish you the best of luck and if there's more specific questions you'd like to ask you're welcome to pm me and I will help if I can.

As an aside for the general quizbowl community, especially those of you who are tournament directors or moderate frequently- just know that this situation is way more common than you might think it is, and deserves at least a small space in the back of your mind about how you're going to conduct tournaments.
Adam Escandell
Harmony Science Academy - North Austin Quizbowl Coach 2011-2015
University of Texas 2006

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