structuring good practice sessions

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jessbowen
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structuring good practice sessions

Post by jessbowen » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:00 pm

I'm looking for some successful coaches to share what they do during team practices and hear how your practices are structured. Frequency, duration, etc. It would be helpful if you include the size of your team.

Right now, I have between 5 and 12 players that come regularly. We practice once or twice a week for an hour, though kids usually choose the practice session that fits best with their schedule. Our practices usually consist of reading question packets from past tournaments. Most often, we break into two teams and keep score, although sometimes we do not. When we keep score, we do bonus questions, but sometimes we just concentrate on toss-ups. To keep things fun, the winning team at the end of a practice gets to pick something from my "crappy prize box" which has trade show freebies, dollar store school supplies and things like that.

I don't have fixed A team and B team that regularly practice as a unit - we randomize the teams constantly. I don't know if this is the best approach, but at tournaments, we have different combinations of kids who are available, so I like to practice this way. I also don't want to have a practice where one group is obviously going to dominate the other one. That doesn't seem valuable for anyone.

My question comes mostly because recently, my school has added an "activity period" during the day where kids can choose a club and it meets during the day. During this session, I've had some brand new members come. This is good. But I can't figure out how to encourage them and make it fun for them while they learn how to play. Most of the time, they don't hear whole questions because someone experienced buzzes, and so even if I play novice sets, they still end up feeling frustrated and dumb. How can I make it a better experience for them (and ultimately groom up and coming players)?

Also, besides reading questions, do coaches do other things at practices? The only other thing I usually do is when a topic comes up that no one knows (or doesn't get til the give away) I'll have the specialist in that area make a flashcard for himself and I'll say a few things about it if I know (or we'll take a minute or two to look it up.) This happens maybe once or twice in a rehearsal. Sometimes we'll talk about strategy, especially if a team does something I can point to as "what not to do". Again, it's quick, brief, and in passing.

A basketball team never runs a practice just by playing a basketball game. A chorus never rehearses just by singing songs. Is there a way to break down the process or do drills or something? I know a lot of the work must be done by the kids on their own and my group has really gotten better about doing that (thanks protobowl!!) but how can I better use my practice time?
Jessica E. Bowen
AMSA Charter School
Marlborough, MA

Eddie
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Re: structuring good practice sessions

Post by Eddie » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:36 pm

Our team has practices once or twice a week for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

What I find to be helpful are short "lessons" on literature, in which we read several poems or short stories by a certain author and discuss their meaning and significance. For example, one practice could be focused on Percy Shelley's poetry (Ode to the West Wind, Ozymandias, etc.) and the next could be focused on William Wordsworth, and the team as a whole could discuss and compare the two poets. This usually only takes about fifteen to twenty minutes but I've found it to be very effective in both helping to grasp a better understanding of a certain movement of literature and in scoring points.

I think this could be expanded to many other subjects such as mythology and philosophy effectively, but it wouldn't work as well with something like science, in which a hands-on approach and plenty of scientific background in the relevant field is important.

Afterwards, we just play practice games and try out different combinations of teams to see who excels in what subject area and so on.
Eddie Kim
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Housecarl Shield Wall
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Re: structuring good practice sessions

Post by Housecarl Shield Wall » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:31 pm

jessbowen wrote:My question comes mostly because recently, my school has added an "activity period" during the day where kids can choose a club and it meets during the day. During this session, I've had some brand new members come. This is good. But I can't figure out how to encourage them and make it fun for them while they learn how to play. Most of the time, they don't hear whole questions because someone experienced buzzes, and so even if I play novice sets, they still end up feeling frustrated and dumb. How can I make it a better experience for them (and ultimately groom up and coming players)?
I remember that when I played in the History Bee last year, players who got eight tossups in a round would retire early and receive bonus points depending on how quickly they got those eight tossups. Perhaps a similar system could be used here? My coach has also split our squad into an upper and lower division and had them practice separately on occasion, though this obviously requires an appropriately large influx and an extra buzzer set.
Spencer Tracy
Bloomington High School (Illinois), Class of 2015

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Re: structuring good practice sessions

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Sun Mar 03, 2013 9:56 pm

I think that the practices of keeping score for actual mock-games and rotating teams between games are both good.
jessbowen wrote:My question comes mostly because recently, my school has added an "activity period" during the day where kids can choose a club and it meets during the day. During this session, I've had some brand new members come. This is good. But I can't figure out how to encourage them and make it fun for them while they learn how to play. Most of the time, they don't hear whole questions because someone experienced buzzes, and so even if I play novice sets, they still end up feeling frustrated and dumb. How can I make it a better experience for them (and ultimately groom up and coming players)?
You could read or summarize the giveaway of a question for new players if they seem visibly flummoxed.
Matt J.
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Mewto55555
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Re: structuring good practice sessions

Post by Mewto55555 » Sun Mar 03, 2013 9:59 pm

We usually have enough people to split into two practice rooms, which helps. If it's just one or two people that are doing "too" well, you could always urge them to read some of the time.
Max
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Lofty Volaterrae
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Re: structuring good practice sessions

Post by Lofty Volaterrae » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:50 am

We generally spend the first half hour looking over clues for the various categories we study, and then play while our coach critiques us on how we are buzzing and clues that we don't know.
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that the great house of Tarquin should suffer wrong no more."

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