What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

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What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by t-bar »

Thomas Jefferson is in the extremely preliminary stages of planning a possible middle school tournament for next year. I did not play quizbowl or anything like it in middle school, so I was wondering what the middle school canon consists of. Additionally, what areas are over/under-covered that you think should or should not be part of the canon? I'll probably be writing the science for the tournament, so help there would be especially appreciated, but any guidance at all would be wonderful. This is some of what had crossed my mind as acceptable middle school science content (obviously, if you are a potential attendee of said tournament if it comes to fruition, please do not read):

*cell biology (organelles, etc)
*cell/organelle functions
*mitosis/meiosis
*scientific method
*inheritance/alleles/chromosomes
*taxonomy/identifying phyla
*ecosystems/food webs
*geology (types of rocks, geological phenomena, etc)
*elemental/periodic properties
*basic mechanics (laws of motion, definitions of velocity, acceleration, etc)
*SI units, quantitites
*electromagnetic radiation, behavior of light and sound waves
*behavior of electric and magnetic fields
*electric circuits/components
*optics, emissions spectra
*atomic configuration
*nuclear fusion/fission
*endo/exothermicity, temperature changes in reactions
*basic acid/base reactions
*chemical bonding
*astronomy: planets, stars, galaxies, nebula, black holes, etc, etc, etc
*computer science: how much can middle schoolers be expected to know?
*noncomputational math: same here
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by the return of AHAN »

Stephen,
Most of what you have posted looks like fair game to me. Certain things will better lend themselves to bonus questions than TU. For example, the Barrington tournament had a bonus in mitotic cell division with parts about a few different phases and cytokinesis. Said parts would have gone dead in most, but not all, rooms if they stood alone as TU answers.
Computer science can be really hit and miss depending on who's sitting at the table. A few of my players are computer club members and even they can't answer every computer question that pops up. Consequently, in Illinois, questions about the menu bar in Microsoft Word or "what symbol do you get when you press shift and 7" pass for middle school computer science canon. Noncomputational math is pretty limiting. Most MSers don't know the historical figures (TU on Euler went dead in the championship of my tourney this year), so you wind up writing about geometry definitions and algebra vocab if you're trying to avoid computation.

Send me an e-mail at jmprice86 at gmail dot com to discuss more specifics regarding answer spaces I've encountered over the past 12 years.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Stephen Colbert »

Woody Paige wrote:(TU on Euler went dead in the championship of my tourney this year)
Assuming this was my room, the Euler toss-up was correctly answered insanely early by Lincolnshire Daniel Wright (possibly Eric?), right around the mention of "natural log". The only toss-up that went dead in that match was spelling.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

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

I believe that this set is very good Stephen. The only thing to watch out for in the middle school science distribution is the Biology because of it not being taught in great depths at the middle school level (Or so what my teacher tells me). For example, anatomy questions and astronomy questions should have a higher sub distribution with the middle school level. I would'nt stretch "too far" with physics questions either, though a TU on something like Pulley may certainly be answered.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by dxdtdemon »

You also should put a lot of earth science stuff in, as it seems to be emphasized a lot more at the middle school level than at others.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by t-bar »

Thanks to everyone who has responded. Most of these ideas were generated by looking through my lab guides from middle school science classes and trying to pick out concepts that could be crystallized sufficiently to make a TU or bonus. Specifically with regard to physics questions: I'm obviously not going to put stuff like "this is the time integral of acceleration". That would be obvious to all college players and some/most high school players, but there aren't many middle schoolers who even know what an integral is. Instead, I might word it "if acceleration is constant, this value changes at a constant rate".

One of the things I'm trying to do here is NOT end up with questions like the poor ones Woody Paige was citing: Shift+7 and so on. I'm trying to do something kind of like HAVOC, except perhaps half a step easier: easy questions, but still pyramidal, with answers selected from an academic canon.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant »

t-bar wrote:*noncomputational math: same here
I definitely remember in seventh grade one of my coaches telling us how to remember how to remember who developed logarithms (Napier Avenue crosses Log Cabin Drive: works if you're a Maconite), but I can't recall it or other non-computational math ever coming up at a tournament. This, of course, was back in 2001-2002.

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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Stephen Colbert »

t-bar wrote:I'm trying to do something kind of like HAVOC, except perhaps half a step easier: easy questions, but still pyramidal, with answers selected from an academic canon.
Consider mirroring Northwestern University's Junior Wildcat tournament. See http://hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=7323 for more details.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

Even better, write this one and offer it as a mirror elsewhere, and maybe see if you can help find another school to mirror the Northwestern event.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by t-bar »

Stephen Colbert wrote:
t-bar wrote:I'm trying to do something kind of like HAVOC, except perhaps half a step easier: easy questions, but still pyramidal, with answers selected from an academic canon.
Consider mirroring Northwestern University's Junior Wildcat tournament. See http://hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=7323 for more details.
Is NU planning on repeating this tournament next year? Our tournament will not be this year (like I said, these are extremely preliminary preparations) and I doubt a mirror a year after the fact would be feasible
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Matt Weiner »

Noncomputational math at the high school and collegiate level focuses on terminology and concepts from the math taught there; it can be the same in middle school. For example, just as one could write a tossup on "polynomials" for a high school packet, one could write a tossup on "the distributive property" for a middle school packet. I'm sure if you could get a hold of the textbooks used for various math classes at nearby schools, more such ideas would become apparent.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Stained Diviner »

It is now very common for 8th graders to take a decent Algebra I course, even in schools that are not considered elite, so that content should be considered fair game. Algebra I typically is a skills-based course, so there aren't a lot of noncomputational topics that would make for good tossups, but there are enough for you to write some questions without focusing too much on Math History. Though still definitely a minority, there are more and more 8th graders taking Geometry each year, so something like the Power Theorems or Exterior Angles would make for good difficult bonus parts.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Stephen Colbert »

t-bar wrote:Is NU planning on repeating this tournament next year? Our tournament will not be this year (like I said, these are extremely preliminary preparations) and I doubt a mirror a year after the fact would be feasible
I'm unsure if Northwestern will be hosting their tournament next year. Hopefully Andy Wehrman will have an answer for us. But, if they don't, I wouldn't completely rule out using this year's set as a mirror in the fall or after. Surely any "current events" questions (or computational math) could be rewritten or replaced. Otherwise, the format is pretty exportable to any region. As far as I know, the set has only been released to the teams from Illinois (and one from Michigan) which attended the tournament.

If you do decide to write your own tournament, I'd be interested in finding a site for a mirror in Illinois (likely during spring '10).
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Awehrman »

There are still a couple of mirrors of the Junior Wildcat either scheduled or in the works, but I will have the questions posted by the end of April, probably. I would write much of it differently if I were to do it again, but hopefully it will give others a base to work from. When I took on the task of writing a middle school tournament, I first took a look at what standard middle school questions were like. Finding almost all of them unacceptable, I started mostly from scratch. I made lists in each category much like the science list above. To generate the list I used some old high school lists and leaned heavily on Northwestern's textbook library. The NU library has k-12 textbooks on all major subjects by all major publishers. Those books gave me a good sense about what was askable, especially in science and math (the areas where I needed the most help), but literature anthologies and history texts were also helpful. I don't know if most university libraries have similar things, or if that would be useful for everyone, but it worked for me. In the sciences, I wrote a lot of questions on terms. Much of what is learned in science (and in other subjects) in middle schools is terminology. Think about all of the words you had to define or write in full sentences in middle school. I would add to the above list questions about the scientific method, for instance. Also, lots of middle school science seems to deal with cycles (nitrogen, water, photosynthesis, etc). I also included a handful of questions about things that may not be en vogue in high school or college questions but that are certainly middle school worthy like chemical elements, scientists (the big guys, Einstein, Newton, Watson & Crick, etc.), meteorological terms (adding to the earth science), and questions on taxonomy, specific animals, dinosaurs and the like. Some of these might seem a little soft, but that's the level we're dealing with. Care should be taken to balance rounds so that topics that are central to middle schools (juvenile lit, ecology, cloud types, etc.) are balanced with questions that are simply easier versions of high school questions.

Perhaps it's because I am not at all a math person, but I had a very difficult time when I tried to write pyramidal questions for middle schoolers on math terms. Bonuses were no problem, but since terms and theorems are not introduced with the sort of depth required for clue dense questions, I had to abandon them. I don't really know how a tossup on the distributive property or similar would work, but if it could be done, I think it would be well-received. I thought about writing tossups on things like "triangles" or "factoring," but I could not produce anything that I ended up being happy with. I went with math calculation tossups (2/2) and both calculation and non-calculation bonuses. My informal surveying of coaches seemed to indicate that math calculation was a crucial part of their ideal tournament distribution. Perhaps outside of Illinois, you would have an easier time getting rid of math calculation without alienating coaches. As for the level of math, I got the most use out of a couple of pre-algebra texts. Those books covered arithmetic basics along with basics from algebra and geometry. I probably erred on the side of too-easy, however.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Matt Weiner »

Awehrman wrote: I went with math calculation tossups (2/2) and both calculation and non-calculation bonuses. My informal surveying of coaches seemed to indicate that math calculation was a crucial part of their ideal tournament distribution.
I think that you should write good questions and not cater to people whose "ideal" is bad questions.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Awehrman »

My ideal was to get more students interested in playing quizbowl, sticking with it, and demanding better questions in the future. If a coach decides not to bring his or her team to a tournament because it lacks math calculation, those students do not get that exposure to all of the other questions and topics covered. I was willing to concede that battle this time, since there so much else was introduced that was foreign to coaches and players used to standard Illinois middle school quizbowl. After playing the tournament, I did hear from a couple coaches who thought that the math didn't fit well with the other questions (They were right), and I could tell lots of the students felt the same way. If I ran it again, I would scale the math back further, but eliminating it completely, in my estimation, would do more harm than good at this point. To put in another way I was hoping to draw in as many teams as I could this first time around without making too many sudden, jarring movements that would scare them off forever. If others wanted to run calculation-free middle school tournaments, I would be all for it and would certainly be interested in the response from teams.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Tower Monarch »

Matt Weiner wrote:Noncomputational math at the high school and collegiate level focuses on terminology and concepts from the math taught there; it can be the same in middle school. For example, just as one could write a tossup on "polynomials" for a high school packet, one could write a tossup on "the distributive property" for a middle school packet. I'm sure if you could get a hold of the textbooks used for various math classes at nearby schools, more such ideas would become apparent.
I have access to math textbooks at all levels between 6th Grade "pre-algebra" and 4th semester calculus, and I have been contemplating a middle school tournament for two years now (I went with HAVOC instead). If you need any help in the writing or editing of this tournament, especially as far as noncomp. math, do not hesitate to contact me.

As far as the tangent discussion of catering to coaches goes, I will just say that the lack of a true MD/DC/VA circuit among middle schoolers is an opportunity prospective writers cannot pass up: in forming a new circuit, completely distinguish it from the MathCounts stuff at which middle schools like Frost and Longfellow have excelled for years.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Whiter Hydra »

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:Even better, write this one and offer it as a mirror elsewhere
Please do this. Usually the mirroring site will write a packet or two, you get a bit of money on the side, and multiple tournaments will be run on the same set.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by lagazzaladra »

As Stephen said, this tournament will focus on middle schools, but we'd like to also get local high schools that usually only do KMO or It's Academic involved too. That said, what would be the target difficulty for that skill-level? Thank you to everyone who offered their help and/or ideas.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Tower Monarch »

lagazzaladra wrote:As Stephen said, this tournament will focus on middle schools, but we'd like to also get local high schools that usually only do KMO or It's Academic involved too. That said, what would be the target difficulty for that skill-level? Thank you to everyone who offered their help and/or ideas.
With that in mind, I recommend really looking over last year's HAVOC, comparing it with this year's (once we release the set), and deciding which answers are most accessible to middle schoolers. I like to think that the HAVOCs have successfully found the right level for "non-mainstream" quizbowl teams among high schools, so if you adjust it a little, I am sure middle schoolers could easily be accommodated. This discussion would be a lot easier if Longfellow and/or some of the more local middle school teams show up at HAVOC II so we can gauge their performance.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by lagazzaladra »

I believe Longfellow is signed up to go to HAVOC. If not, I can talk to their coach (one of my former teachers) and I’m sure that they’d be interested in attending. Also, besides KMO and possibly Science Bowl, does anyone know of any other activities that middle schools do that vaguely resembles quizbowl? I’ll be sure to review last year’s HAVOC questions. Thanks.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by the return of AHAN »

Stephen Colbert wrote:
Woody Paige wrote:(TU on Euler went dead in the championship of my tourney this year)
Assuming this was my room, the Euler toss-up was correctly answered insanely early by Lincolnshire Daniel Wright (possibly Eric?), right around the mention of "natural log". The only toss-up that went dead in that match was spelling.
Oops. Ha ha. I misremembered that one. I was down the hall in a consolation final when that TU was asked. You're right. Eric of Daniel Wright scored that one in the championship. FWIW, the spelling TU you referenced (on apocrypha) was scored by a player on Station III in that match. Go figure.

Crossing my fingers for a Wildcat II!!!! If TJ would come up with a mirrorable tournament by March 2010, I'd consider mirroring it as the Barrington Invitational if no one else in Chicago jumped on it.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by jonah »

Woody Paige wrote:If TJ would come up with a mirrorable tournament by March 2010, I'd consider mirroring it as the Barrington Invitational if no one else in Chicago jumped on it.
ITT I am apparently unemployed next spring.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Wall of Ham »

In terms of the Bio, I'd recommend less of MCB/Genetics and more on human anatomy/physiology, with tossup answers on "heart" or "neuron" or "bones" or whatever.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by lagazzaladra »

This is a distribution that I thought up today. Any suggestions/comments?

1 Biology
1 Chemistry/Physics
1 Earth Science
1 Comp Sci/Math/General Science
2 U.S. Literature
2 European Literature
1 RMP (Mostly M, but probably some R and very little P)
1 U.S. History
1 European History
1 World History
1 Ancient History
1 Social Science (very basic psychology, economics, anthropology)
1 Music/Opera/Ballet
1 Painting/Sculpture/Architecture
2 Geography
2 Trash

Total: 20
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Tower Monarch »

lagazzaladra wrote:This is a distribution that I thought up today. Any suggestions/comments?

1 Biology
1 Chemistry/Physics
1 Earth Science
1 Comp Sci/Math/General Science
2 U.S. Literature
2 European Literature
1 RMP (Mostly M, but probably some R and very little P)
1 U.S. History
1 European History
1 World History
1 Ancient History
1 Social Science (very basic psychology, economics, anthropology)
1 Music/Opera/Ballet
1 Painting/Sculpture/Architecture
2 Geography
2 Trash

Total: 20
I like it. I of course don't enjoy those last two being more than 1/1, but I definitely see the reasoning. I will point out that if you want to reduce those last four questions, the areas that could be tapped further would include: US History (Virginian students especially often take two years of US in middle school), Biology/life sciences (keep in mind that in middle school you get a double dose of life sciences thanks to Health classes that often look at anatomy and medical sciences), and RM (if not P: many middle schoolers learn in depth Greco-Roman myths and are often interested in Norse or Egyptian). I would like to see Geo and Trash be moved down to 1.5 each (in practice, 1/2 or 2/1 per round so they always sum to 3/3) and see that extra 1/1 split into a guaranteed .5 History and either .5 lit, .5 RM or .5 science depending on the round. That obviously turns away from the nice round numbers in the present distribution, but I believe it will help teams ease into national level high school distributions more quickly.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Stained Diviner »

To add my 2 cents to Seoup's distribution:
Earth Science should be Earth Science/Astronomy
2 European Literature is a lot, even though it includes Brit Lit--I would rather expand RMP by making it 1 R and 1 M.
1 Ancient History is a lot--I would rather increase US History to 2 and fold Ancient History into Euro and World.
1 Social Science is a lot--I would make it 1 Nonfiction, which would allow the writer to ask anything relevant to reference books, nonfiction writers, or nonfiction works.
2 Trash is a lot--I would make it 1 Trash and 1 Current Events/Government. You could also take those final four questions and make them 1 Trash, 1 Business/Technology (allowing for the fact that this category could be a little trashy), 1 Geography, and 1 Current Events/Government.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by BGSO »

one thing you may want to consider is taking one of those 1/1 and dedicating it to trash lit. Books like eragon and harry potter which I hate to see take the place of what the high school level would call literature.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Tower Monarch »

Shcool wrote:To add my 2 cents to Seoup's distribution:
Earth Science should be Earth Science/Astronomy
2 European Literature is a lot, even though it includes Brit Lit--I would rather expand RMP by making it 1 R and 1 M.
1 Ancient History is a lot--I would rather increase US History to 2 and fold Ancient History into Euro and World.
1 Social Science is a lot--I would make it 1 Nonfiction, which would allow the writer to ask anything relevant to reference books, nonfiction writers, or nonfiction works.
2 Trash is a lot--I would make it 1 Trash and 1 Current Events/Government. You could also take those final four questions and make them 1 Trash, 1 Business/Technology (allowing for the fact that this category could be a little trashy), 1 Geography, and 1 Current Events/Government.
I have a couple reservations about these proposals.
I am fine with some current events entering to adjust the geo/trash issue I already mentioned, but I think a category as nebulous as non-fiction (I would wager money that this would get very much out of hand with questions on, like, specific autobiographies--that does not promote knowledge) is a bad idea. Make "Government" into Social Science (like Political Science, in the basic form is taught under the name Civics to many 8th graders) and keep a solid 1/1 Social Science per round.
I don't have an opinion either way with respect to the literature subdistribution, though 2/2 hardly seems like a lot.
Among all of these categories, Ancient History is the only one I would barely change from High School down to middle school. Middle schoolers who like history often read extensively about Greek and Roman, especially military, history. The knowledge is there, exploit it.
Finally, why introduce one of the weirdest subdistributions present in the Illinois distro, namely Business/Technology, when you don't have to?
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by the return of AHAN »

lagazzaladra wrote:This is a distribution that I thought up today. Any suggestions/comments?

1 Biology
1 Chemistry/Physics
1 Earth Science
1 Comp Sci/Math/General Science
2 U.S. Literature
2 European Literature
1 RMP (Mostly M, but probably some R and very little P)
1 U.S. History
1 European History
1 World History
1 Ancient History
1 Social Science (very basic psychology, economics, anthropology)
1 Music/Opera/Ballet
1 Painting/Sculpture/Architecture
2 Geography
2 Trash

Total: 20
OK, as a 12th year middle school coach, I feel well-qualified to chime in here (not that a lack of qualifications ever stopped me before)
2 Eurpoean literature? What kind of answer space did you have in mind for European, nay even World, Literature that would comprise 10% of your match? You'll run out of topics in a hurry, unless you were shooting for 5-10% conversion on those categories, or fairy tales would count in your distro. My point, of course, is that your canon for European lit in MS is WAY smaller than the HS canon for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that 6th-8th graders don't take European lit courses like you can in HS. Geography, OTOH, is a heavily emphasized topic in MS, so people who shoot that down need to recognize that your middle school topics should reflect what middle school kids are learning in middle school. If you want to sneak in things that they will learn in HS, fine, but make it part 3 of the bonuses. Attention to such details is what made participants rave about the Junior Wildcat.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Awehrman »

I think the above distribution is an ok place to start. I wouldn't get hung up on the distribution at first. I would suggest trying to write a few questions in each of the subjects that you have listed above. You'll quickly find which subjects are deep and which are shallow at the middle school level, and you can adjust your distribution accordingly. You'll likely find that many of the suggestions given above to be true, but, who knows, you may be able to come up with some creative ways to introduce more European literature or social science into the distribution in ways that we may not be able to see at the moment. The Junior Wildcat distribution changed a couple times as I wrote the questions. Your situation is unique in that there are few preconceived notions about what middle school quizbowl should look like. No one attending your tournament, therefore, is likely to have strong opinions about the relative numbers of subdistributions in each match. For history, for instance, I just tried for an even split between US and world history. That worked well enough for my purposes. I would sort of echo what Mr. Price was saying. If you consider middle school quizbowl to be high school quizbowl junior or college quizbowl III, you will likely encounter more problems than if you carefully consider what middle schoolers can be reasonably expected to know or be taught and then introduce the parts of the quizbowl canon that can reasonably correspond.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by cvdwightw »

I'm assuming that it varies in other places, but we covered Ancient History in 6th grade, Medieval History in 7th grade (European and some parts of World) and American History in 8th grade. Geography was somewhat emphasized in 6th grade but not in 7th or 8th grades.

There are plenty of things in pre-algebra and algebra, whether computational or non-computational, that are askable, as well as in geometry, which a not insignificant portion of middle school quizbowlers would be likely to take. Ultimately, I think math/geography/spelling may be overemphasized relative to what is actually taught because those are the non-quizbowl academic extracurriculars available in middle school.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by AlphaQuizBowler »

Why does the middle school distribution have to be any different from the high school or college distribution? I'm shooting for pretty much mACF for our tournament being held on 4/25.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

AlphaQuizBowler wrote:Why does the middle school distribution have to be any different from the high school or college distribution? I'm shooting for pretty much mACF for our tournament being held on 4/25.
Well, the high school and college distributions aren't too different, granted; there are certainly major subdistributional differences. Notably, there's almost no place for organic chemistry at the high school level, and there's certainly no place for inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, or what have you. Now, why is this? Because few high schoolers know organic chemistry, and no high schoolers know what the Jahn-Teller effect is. So you don't ask about inorgo or orgo; you ask about high school gen chem.

Similarly, you can't ask about things no middle schooler knows in middle school. If there aren't 15/15 worth of askable philosophy topics, you don't require 1/1 philosophy per round. (There are probably like 4/4, and that may be a stretch, so you sure don't.) And so forth.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Tower Monarch »

Woody Paige wrote:Geography, OTOH, is a heavily emphasized topic in MS, so people who shoot that down need to recognize that your middle school topics should reflect what middle school kids are learning in middle school. If you want to sneak in things that they will learn in HS, fine, but make it part 3 of the bonuses. Attention to such details is what made participants rave about the Junior Wildcat.
cvdwightw wrote:I'm assuming that it varies in other places, but we covered Ancient History in 6th grade, Medieval History in 7th grade (European and some parts of World) and American History in 8th grade. Geography was somewhat emphasized in 6th grade but not in 7th or 8th grades.
As someone who has gone to a Virginia middle school: We learned almost no geography. The geography bee was routinely ignored because no one had interest in it at our school. We took two years of US History and then a "Civics & Economics" which was literally split into two semesters covering how state and national government work, then how the national and international economies work. It would be a bad choice to push geography too much. 2/2 should be understood as an absolute cap, with ample room for moving some towards other fields.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by AlphaQuizBowler »

everyday847 wrote:
AlphaQuizBowler wrote:Why does the middle school distribution have to be any different from the high school or college distribution? I'm shooting for pretty much mACF for our tournament being held on 4/25.
Well, the high school and college distributions aren't too different, granted; there are certainly major subdistributional differences. Notably, there's almost no place for organic chemistry at the high school level, and there's certainly no place for inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, or what have you. Now, why is this? Because few high schoolers know organic chemistry, and no high schoolers know what the Jahn-Teller effect is. So you don't ask about inorgo or orgo; you ask about high school gen chem.

Similarly, you can't ask about things no middle schooler knows in middle school. If there aren't 15/15 worth of askable philosophy topics, you don't require 1/1 philosophy per round. (There are probably like 4/4, and that may be a stretch, so you sure don't.) And so forth.
That makes sense. I guess you might need some subdistro changes, but shouldn't the general categories be pretty much the same? As in, 4/4 of the big 3, 3/3 Arts, etc. (Although I am reducing social sciences and probably philosophy for our tournament, there still will be an adequate amount of RMP).
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

AlphaQuizBowler wrote:That makes sense. I guess you might need some subdistro changes, but shouldn't the general categories be pretty much the same? As in, 4/4 of the big 3, 3/3 Arts, etc. (Although I am reducing social sciences and probably philosophy for our tournament, there still will be an adequate amount of RMP).
If you can think of 45/45 arts such that two rooms of seventh graders will get a reasonable amount of it, I will give you some kind of prize.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by AlphaQuizBowler »

everyday847 wrote:
AlphaQuizBowler wrote:That makes sense. I guess you might need some subdistro changes, but shouldn't the general categories be pretty much the same? As in, 4/4 of the big 3, 3/3 Arts, etc. (Although I am reducing social sciences and probably philosophy for our tournament, there still will be an adequate amount of RMP).
If you can think of 45/45 arts such that two rooms of seventh graders will get a reasonable amount of it, I will give you some kind of prize.
Well, we're not running a 15-round tournament, but I should have 30/30.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

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AlphaQuizBowler wrote:That makes sense. I guess you might need some subdistro changes, but shouldn't the general categories be pretty much the same? As in, 4/4 of the big 3, 3/3 Arts, etc. (Although I am reducing social sciences and probably philosophy for our tournament, there still will be an adequate amount of RMP).
If you're serious about writing philosophy TU for middle schoolers, I'd love to see the questions and conversion rates. There's only so many ways to questions about Descartes, which pretty much sums up their philosopher canon. They've likely never heard of Rousseau, Sartre, Nietsche, Foucault, Mills, Locke, Kant, Voltaire, etc.
Personal anecdote re: canon expansion... I have a team that is considered pretty decent by most standards, and yesterday I broke out some pyramidal TU from the Stanford Archive that I cherry-picked through at practice, primarily to try to educate them on some new topics. The long and short of it is that I gave them TU on Rachmaninoff and Mussorgsky and got blank stares. Even when I read the answers, I didn't get the usual "ohhh..." as though they had heard it before but forgot it. Before yesterday, they thought the list of Russian composers was confined to Tchaikovsky. So, my point is, don't fall into that falllacy of "If I know it, it must be easy."
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Stephen Colbert »

Woody Paige wrote:Before yesterday, they thought the list of Russian composers was confined to Tchaikovsky. So, my point is, don't fall into that falllacy of "If I know it, it must be easy."
There's definitely room for canon expansion here, if done properly, either as the hard part of a bonus or a well-written music toss-up with an answer space like Russia (if it can lead to buzzes that aren't based solely on Russian-sounding names). There are a bunch of good middle-school tie-ins to Russian composers, like familiarity with The Flight of the Bumblebee, Night on Bald Mountain from the Disney movie Fantasia, or Peter and the Wolf. So, if there's a way to connect those works to Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, or Prokofiev, it would be a welcome relief from hearing questions like "Who is the waltz king?" that do little to associate a composer with his or her actual works.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Captain Sinico »

Woody Paige wrote: If you're serious about writing philosophy TU for middle schoolers, I'd love to see the questions and conversion rates. There's only so many ways to questions about Descartes, which pretty much sums up their philosopher canon.
I've got to think kids have at least heard of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. I'd bet there are maybe a couple other dudes in there. Also, I don't know; there's a lot more to philosophy than just dudes: one could just write straight-up tossups on "logic" or "proofs" or other elements of philosophy, in addition to things like "skepticism" or "the Enlightenment" or things like that (philosophical terms in general usage.) That said, I am somewhat skeptical regarding the existence of 15/15 of such things at the middle school level.

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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

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Captain Sinico wrote: I've got to think kids have at least heard of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato.
Heard of, yes. Can correctly differentiate between them? That is, give a correct answer without it being a lucky guess? Perhaps a select few. But it appears we agree that it's an extremely limited canon there. Now, if you want to talk about the mythology part of RMP, I say it's pretty much all on the table.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

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Woody Paige wrote:
Captain Sinico wrote: I've got to think kids have at least heard of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato.
Heard of, yes. Can correctly differentiate between them? That is, give a correct answer without it being a lucky guess? Perhaps a select few. But it appears we agree that it's an extremely limited canon there. Now, if you want to talk about the mythology part of RMP, I say it's pretty much all on the table.
You mean that Viracocha and Momotaro can be tossed up?

For middle school myth, Greco-Roman is certainly fair game, as is a bit of Norse or Egyptian. The rest, I would save for hard parts of bonuses.

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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I thought that Viracocha was tossed up at some point in 2008.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

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Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:I thought that Viracocha was tossed up at some point in 2008.
I'm specifically referring to it being tossed up in middle school, in case I didn't make that clear enough.

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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by cvdwightw »

Okay, subjects that are definitely in the middle school canon (as in, there are 15/15 worth of things that can reasonably be asked about at the middle school level):

American History
Geography (like, most middle school quizbowlers should have basic working knowledge of most large countries, some major world cities, some mountain ranges, some bodies of water, etc., even if they're not emphasized)
Biology (anatomy, certainly; taxonomy and basic cellular stuff, probably; I'm not sure about the rest)
"Physical science" (incorporates basic physics, earth science, and astronomy)
Greco-Roman Mythology (there's enough famous gods and heroes for 15 rounds)
Mathematics (pre-algebra, algebra, and geometry - even though some players might not take geometry, it shows up all the time in MathCounts and so you'll have people learning it even if they've never taken the class)

These things should have an absolute minimum of 1/1 and a maximum of 2/2, but are probably the core of "Stuff that is taught and that we might reasonably expect middle schoolers to know."

Stuff that might be in the middle school canon (as in, there might be 15/15 worth of things that can be reasonably asked about, but some of those 30 questions might hit the upper edge of difficulty):
"Real" American and British literature (I don't think it's emphasized, but it strikes me as something middle schoolers would have little difficulty with once a canon of writers and their major works is established)
Fine Arts as a whole (I'm probably in the absolute vast minority of people, but my crazy second-grade teacher spent like three months on Seurat; I also learned about noted college-level tossup answer Joan Miro in elementary school)
Ancient and European History (I'd guess that a sizable portion of middle schoolers have heard of Alexander the Great and the Magna Carta, even if they never had classes dealing with them)
Religion and Philosophy as a whole

These things might initially start out difficult, but over the course of a couple of years would reach "canonical" status - I'd have a hard time believing that 2/2 arts is stuff that middle schoolers just don't and won't know. An important argument to make for the inclusion of arts is that as schools start cutting arts education from their budgets, quizbowl remains as an imperfect substitute for that kind of education.

Something that might approach a canonical distribution would be:
3/3 English, consisting of:
3/2 Literature (3 to 4 questions should be on "real" literature; 1 to 2 on "grade-level-appropriate" literature)
0/1 Vocabulary and Language Arts (these are terrible tossups, but would be okay bonuses)

4/3 or 3/4 Other Humanities, consisting of:
2/1 or 1/2 Arts
1/1 Mythology
1/1 Religion, Philosophy, or Additional Arts

6/6 Social Studies, consisting of:
3/3 History and Social Sciences (3 questions on American History and Government, 2 questions on Ancient and European History, 1 question on "civics"/social science/more Ancient and European History)
1/1 Current Events
2/2 Geography

5/5 Science, consisting of:
2/1 or 1/2 Biology (anatomy, taxonomy, cellular biology, perhaps other easy things like "DNA")
2/1 or 1/2 Physical Sciences (2 questions on astronomy, earth science, and basic physics, e.g. levers and stuff; 1 question on whatever)
2/2 Mathematics (either theoretical or computational)

3/2 or 2/3 Additional Questions, consisting of:
1/1 Popular Culture, Sports, or General Knowledge
1/1 Additional Academic Categories (Literature, History, Science, Arts, RMP)
1/0 or 0/1 "Elective Courses" (industrial arts, computer science/computer literacy, foreign language, whatever wacky stuff the state distribution mandates, etc.) or Additional Academic Categories

I believe this leaves enough flexibility to account for differing curricula in different areas, while striking some balance between "what middle schoolers know" and "what we believe middle school quizbowlers should know." Thoughts?
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by dxdtdemon »

I think the above distribution is a pretty good starting point, however, I was just wondering what the "whatever" in the physical science distribution was supposed to be. I assume that in most rounds, this would be a really basic chemistry question (well, it could be acidic :smile: ). Anyway, I remember taking part in a written mythology competiton for late elementary school/early middle schoolers. While it was almost entirely Greco-Roman stuff, there was a portion of the test that you had to do one of a certain number of categories of "other" myth. I was just wondering if this was a fairly common competition that still exists, and if so, there might be more of a mythology canon than just the most famous gods and heroes.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Kouign Amann »

quantumfootball wrote:I think the above distribution is a pretty good starting point, however, I was just wondering what the "whatever" in the physical science distribution was supposed to be. I assume that in most rounds, this would be a really basic chemistry question (well, it could be acidic :smile: ). Anyway, I remember taking part in a written mythology competiton for late elementary school/early middle schoolers. While it was almost entirely Greco-Roman stuff, there was a portion of the test that you had to do one of a certain number of categories of "other" myth. I was just wondering if this was a fairly common competition that still exists, and if so, there might be more of a mythology canon than just the most famous gods and heroes.
Could you be thinking of the National Mythology Exam?
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by at your pleasure »

Of course, the best way to find out what middle school students know would be to have them play on a few easy HS sets(HAVOC comes to mind) and see what they get. Like others have said ,though, though, don't underestimate people.
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Re: What does/should the middle school canon consist of?

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

quantumfootball wrote:Anyway, I remember taking part in a written mythology competiton for late elementary school/early middle schoolers. While it was almost entirely Greco-Roman stuff, there was a portion of the test that you had to do one of a certain number of categories of "other" myth. I was just wondering if this was a fairly common competition that still exists, and if so, there might be more of a mythology canon than just the most famous gods and heroes.
It would be pretty unreasonable, in our situation, to conceive of a middle school canon assuming that a nonnegligible fraction of middle schoolers do this competition; it'll just depress conversion rates. Otherwise the high school canon would be designed for National Ocean Science Bowl-Science Olympiad-Mathcounts-Model UN participants.
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