Ideal Middle School Distribution?

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cvdwightw
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Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by cvdwightw »

One of the problems at the middle school level that people have talked about is the preponderance of trash, computational math, and other "undesirable" categories in the middle school distribution. However, the canon of askable answers at the middle school level is extremely small, and in some categories (specifically English) overlaps very little with the actual curriculum. With this in mind, what is the ideal distribution?

My general thoughts are as follows:
1. Computational math needs to be in the distribution; however, it should be relegated to bonuses as much as possible
2. Fine arts should comprise around 10% of the distribution. At least at my middle school, band, orchestra, and choir were all popular electives, and we got to sit through "Lives of the Composers" videos about half the time we had a sub. There's also probably enough "easy" painting and sculpture questions to allow for around 1/1 in that category.
3. Social studies (e.g. history and geography) are the most easily adaptable from the middle school curriculum to acceptable pyramidal questions within a high school-style distribution, followed by science.
4. Because students are not typically reading works of literature in middle school (I think I was assigned somewhere around 0 works of actual literature in middle school), there needs to be some compromise between "real works of literature" and "difficulty-appropriate English." I'm not sure whether this means adding spelling/grammar/etc. questions, infiltrating the distribution with "Young Adult Literature" and "Children's Literature" questions, cutting down the distribution of English, etc.

Middle school coaches and tournament directors: what distribution do you use and how would you tweak it if you could?
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by Awehrman »

This is the distribution that I am working toward for the Junior Wildcat tournament on February 21.

4 history (split between US and world)
4 science (split between life, physical, and earth sciences, and some computer, astronomy, etc.)
3 literature
2 math (at least one calculation tossup and bonus per round)
2 pop culture/ current events
1 geography
1 art
1 music
1 mythology/religion
1 interdisciplinary/ miscellaneous/ language arts

I am not entirely happy with it, but I think it suits my purposes and will satisfy teams who are used to more standard one-line middle school questions. I'm not going crazy over subdistributions, and I am not going too get hung up if some rounds vary slightly. Some of my tossups and many of my bonuses have questions that overlap a couple different categories. This allows me to include some easier clues without relying on pop culture references and things. It was made clear to me that I would not get a positive response if I removed math calculation altogether. Many middle school coaches are math teachers, for one. Including them also has allowed me to ease some of the stress on categories with smaller canons. I did drop one literature question per round to help in that area. I don't want to give anything away, but my literature answers are as classic as I think I could go. In many cases I am asking about topics have been copied and parodied so often that sharp middle schoolers should at least be aware of them, and hopefully they will be more interested in reading them after the tournament. I have included some classic children's lit, but I doubt there will be more than one per round of those.
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by AlphaQuizBowler »

At least in Georgia, I'd say middle schoolers here have a fairly good author-title recognition at least. So I don't think the canon is too confined. Shakespeare is definitely askable, as well as pretty much the top 100 on NAQT's site.
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by TheKingInYellow »

Really? I didn't know half of those titles when I started out freshman year... I wasn't particularly into lit then, but there you go
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by ... and the chaos of Mexican modernity »

I would really like to get in on this because my school would definitely consider hosting a middle school tournament

So with that said

Literature- Like William said "Shakespeare is askable". I believe questions on such poets such as Edgar Allen Poe ,and stories by Jack London would be ideal

History- This should honestly have one of the higher distributions, kids at North Myrtle Beach Middle are actually learning about Cosimo de' Medici, and John Calvin.

I actually will add on to this later, please add on to what I said.
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by at your pleasure »

would really like to get in on this because my school would definitely consider hosting a middle school tournament

So with that said

Literature- Like William said "Shakespeare is askable". I believe questions on such poets such as Edgar Allen Poe ,and stories by Jack London would be ideal

History- This should honestly have one of the higher distributions, kids at North Myrtle Beach Middle are actually learning about Cosimo de' Medici, and John Calvin.

I actually will add on to this later, please add on to what I said.
Good points. I will add that I think a 2/2 distribution of fine arts is supportable. The only other things I would reduce are philosophy and social science. Also, the question for me with works is how many are known to middle schoolers. It's quite reasonable to expect that middle schoolers could recognize that Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, but how much do they know about the book?
Douglas Graebner, Walt Whitman HS 10, Uchicago 14
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by the return of AHAN »

Dittos on the author-title recognition being fair game for the most well-known books. Sometimes they surprise me with what they know (i.e. the 8th grader buzzing in with Poe on the mention of "Annabel Lee" last week). OTOH, the non-Harry Potter kiddie lit goes dead more often than not. Spelling questions are a part of IESA distribution, but it's very challenging when you try to write a pyramidal toss-up on such a topic, and I won't pretend I have the answer, other than perhaps define the word and it's length prior to asking for it. Our question provider is fond of asking things like, "Spell the 4-syllable adjective in the following sentence..."
Jeff Price
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by btressler »

I'm in the process of polishing up our tournament for this Saturday. My distribution for 20 tossups is

2 Science
2 Math (includes 1 computation since I figure that's what they know, especially in grade 5)
2 History
2 Other SS or Geography (may include historical or other clues)
3 Literature or English class (like grammar, parts of speech, etc, about half on kiddle lit)
1 World Languages
1 RMP (mostly "R" and "M")
1 Fine Arts
3 Pop Culture (includes 1 sports and heavy on video games)
3 Any (usually duplicates academic material above, especially a second fine arts or third science)

Keep in mind that for many of the participants, this is the only competition they do all year. I try hard to include as much academic material as possible, but have to write things that even fifth graders can convert. We do two versions: one for 5-6 and another for 7-8. They have significant overlap as appropriate.

I do lightning rounds instead of bonuses, and I try to have both subject and theme choices. There are five and each team does two. My original thinking was to mimic the television format (Chip) to prepare students for high school. Even though that is currently in hiatus, I'm going to keep the lightning rounds because I'm afraid that some teams will sit there all day and get to do very few bonuses if I do 20/20 instead.

The second quarter is mostly speed tossups. The fourth quarter used to be a mix, but this year we're trying full-length tossups. Henry joked that my questions in grade 8 were longer than A-level sets, which was true because most of the tossups had four sentences. In many cases, the first one was quite difficult, and deleted in the 5-6 version of the packet.

The competition currently separates each grade into their own bracket. In the beginning everybody played together but of course the eighth grade teams won. So then I tried a 6-7 bracket, but the sixth grade teams had a hard time. In the meantime one of my biggest supporters moved to being a fifth grade gifted teacher. She loved this activity and wanted to still be able to participate. So a fifth grade bracket was born -- and exploded into 25 teams this year, equal to the other three grades combined!

When writing, I find World History and Literature hard to write at this level. I can only trot out "Great Wall of China", "Napoleon", and answers like "India" so many times. Last year, ironically enough, I learned the video games about first person shooters weren't being converted. So all of this year's are about other topics.

Originally the intent of my tournament was to grow the team. Four years later, I'm proud to say that Charter H actually wins rounds. But besides that, I find this tournament to be rewarding in its own right. My favorite memory of last year was watching a 5th grade girl (who skipped two grades! this girl was about 8 years old) get 90 out of 100 on words that mean hello in other languages. Three years ago I watched a sixth grade girl almost save her team when she got all 100 on the Harry Potter lightning round. Too bad that team wasn't very strong on the tossups because she wasn't getting much support. (I usually try to limit myself to one Harry Potter lightning round and no other questions. We had Pokemon last year and that was a big hit too.) I was very surprised to watch a fifth grade student get E.T. before I said "alien" or "Reese's Pieces". That movie was in theaters before I was even their age.

The big downside is that these kids occasionally bring soccer moms and hockey dads. But the grousing hasn't been too bad, and the majority of the time I blame my own kids for causing the controversy by either not following the rules or doing something stupid like carrying on. Warning: we sell lunch because there are few choices near us. I underestimated the number of parents that would show the first year I had >20 teams and had to order emergency pizzas.

I am all in favor of growing the middle school circuit, and would be glad to packet swap with anyone that is interested.
Bill Tressler,
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by at your pleasure »

I am all in favor of growing the middle school circuit, and would be glad to packet swap with anyone that is interested.
One thought that I had in this regard would be to encourage more middle school teams to play novice high school tournaments. This would provide more tournaments and also introduce them to questions on academic material that is not in the curriculum. Do you think this would work out well?
The big downside is that these kids occasionally bring soccer moms and hockey dads.
This should be okay as long as you make certain that said parents have a clear idea of how exactly quizbowl works and undestand that spectators should be "seen but not heard", so to speak.
Douglas Graebner, Walt Whitman HS 10, Uchicago 14
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by the return of AHAN »

Bad Boy Bill wrote:I am all in favor of growing the middle school circuit, and would be glad to packet swap with anyone that is interested.
I'd be happy to trade a round or two with you!
jprice at cusd220 dot org
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by cwise »

Awehrman wrote:2 pop culture/ current events
If you are in need of a writer for current events quizbowl questions - contact me I may be able to help you out.

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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by Matt Weiner »

cwise wrote:
Awehrman wrote:2 pop culture/ current events
If you are in need of a writer for current events quizbowl questions - contact me I may be able to help you out.

Courtney
Do you have anything to do with actual quizbowl, or are you just here to spam your edutainment product?
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by Scott »

When I was in middle school QB plenty of normal lit. was asked.
Some of the questions ex.(Asking for Little Men sequel as give away, Jo's Boys) were actually quite difficult.
I personal loved it, but maybe that was because I, having gone to ace, had an advantage.
I really don't see any problem with having lit. in middle school.
If I hadn't started learning Quiz Bowl Lit. in middle I would be quite bad at it today.
So, I believe having a mix of Young Adult lit. and lit typically asked in High School Quiz bowl is the best way to go.
Thanks for pointing that out :oops: :smile:
Last edited by Scott on Tue May 12, 2009 7:24 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Ideal Middle School Distribution?

Post by at your pleasure »

Douglas Graebner, Walt Whitman HS 10, Uchicago 14
"... imagination acts upon man as really as does gravitation, and may kill him as certainly as a dose of prussic acid."-Sir James Frazer,The Golden Bough

http://avorticistking.wordpress.com/
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