what do you do at practice?

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vandyhawk
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what do you do at practice?

Post by vandyhawk »

With practices about to start for the semester, I'm kind of curious what other teams do at their meetings. We basically just read some old packets that are geared toward upcoming tournaments, with the occasional offshoot on question writing (if one was particularly bad or something) or learning key clues that come up all the time for a given answer. We have a very relaxed atmosphere, and most people have fun b/c of that and b/c a lot of members are friends outside of qb too. Now, I want to get our younger members to improve more, and for everyone to have more practice and insight on question writing, but I'm wondering the best way to go about this. I'm afraid that if we do a question writing strategy night, or add in lessons like NAQT "You Gotta Know" style, it'll make it less fun for people, and we could be back down to pretty low attendance at practices. Thoughts, comments?

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Re: what do you do at practice?

Post by miamiqb »

vandyhawk wrote:With practices about to start for the semester, I'm kind of curious what other teams do at their meetings. We basically just read some old packets that are geared toward upcoming tournaments, with the occasional offshoot on question writing (if one was particularly bad or something) or learning key clues that come up all the time for a given answer. We have a very relaxed atmosphere, and most people have fun b/c of that and b/c a lot of members are friends outside of qb too. Now, I want to get our younger members to improve more, and for everyone to have more practice and insight on question writing, but I'm wondering the best way to go about this. I'm afraid that if we do a question writing strategy night, or add in lessons like NAQT "You Gotta Know" style, it'll make it less fun for people, and we could be back down to pretty low attendance at practices. Thoughts, comments?
I would love to see responses to this question. Especially with newer, younger members.
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Post by ValenciaQBowl »

Okay, I'll bite. I discussed some of this in the HS section a while back, but as I run a CC program with nearly no players who have ever heard of, let alone played, QB before, we start out with pretty easy questions early to keep from scaring folks off, and as we practice six hours a week, we work in various types of notes/lessons along the way.

While my co-coach Boris reads (or one of the more experienced players does), I'll often stand at the whiteboard and write down some basic notes on toss-up or bonus answers. If a question on Suleiman the Magnificent comes up, for example, while the players are listening to the bonus, I'll write some basic things to know for QB purposes about Suleiman on the board (using a World History encyclopedia or something for quick reference). We've just moved to a room with a PC and projector, so lately I've been simply projecting some site (often the much-hated-on-this-board Wikipedia, or whatever looks good) and highlighting some key points, sometimes briefly stopping the match to point out a major thing to know or buzz on about the topic.

Another thing I do is have players make "buzz sheets," lists of info on a general topic, the same thing as the NAQT You Gotta Knows, but since they make them themselves, players own the info and can share it with teammates. Plus I get to keep the sheets forever to share with future teams.

Finally, sometimes I'll "assign" major poems that come up, like the Keats' odes or "Prufrock" or "Emperor of Ice Cream" and then discuss them for 5-10 minutes at the next practice. I emphasize these b/c of my lit background, but one can do it with any subject, I figure. Another of my co-coaches, a humanities teacher, has made some great PowerPoint shows of major paintings in major time periods, and we'll take 30-40 minutes and display these, with her talking about their academic/cultural importance, and me trying to add common QB openers/clues about them (e.g. "if it starts out talking about the three arches in the background, it's probably 'Oath of the Horatii,'" etc.).

Some of this may not be of much use at the stronger four-year programs, but inexperienced players benefit by doing more than just hearing old packets and writing questions. And Matt's right--you don't want to do too much note-taking, as it makes practice like a class, so you don't want to do it until new players are hooked on the game by playing it.

I look forward to hearing other ideas.
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Post by ValenciaQBowl »

I'm actually bummed out that no one else has chosen to discuss their practice habits/agendas here. As much as folks love to join threads bitching about bad question writing and bad tournament running, it seems that providing some ideas about how strong university programs that churn out nothing but excellent, ACF-loving players and question writers would be instructive and might help others think of ways to train similar folk. So let's hear it, established programs--do y'all just read ACF Nats and Ginobili packets at practice and then spend hours alone in your grottoes studying and developing new lead-ins to toss-ups on Peregrinus of Oppfeld, or do you have methods of inculcating hardcority into new players?

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Post by grapesmoker »

At practice, I just read packets. If a clue comes up that I think is useful to know or is common, I will make a mention of it and try to explain why it's important with a bit of background. Other than that, it's all packet reading. I think the number of practices is more crucial than any special things you do during them; two practices a week is good because what you learn at the first gets reinforced at the second, since you often hear the same clues.
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Post by Scipio »

There were a couple of things I used to do at UK which others may find useful.

Typically, practices would consist of at least three packets per night. Three had originally been chosen because when the team was in its prime, Kelly, Robert, and I would each take turns reading and leave the other two to shell each other; after they passed from the scene, three more-or-less became the number by default. Each week, I would keep track of which tossups had been missed; after about two weeks, I would then bring the previous weeks' packets and simply re-read the tossups that had been missed again. Because I was reading to novices, often at least five questions were missed per packet, which enabled me to read an entire packet's worth of questions without going to new material. I would keep doing this over several months, especially focusing on things that people repeatedly missed.

Often, to start out new players (and especially to introduce them and prepare them for southern circuit events), I would read old (1996-1998) ACF packets, in part because the type of questions they would encounter at UTC tournaments bear a much closer similarity to Paleo-ACF than to modern in terms of difficulty and portfolio of available answers (this is not a knock, by the way; Charlie has stated himself that he deliberately tries to keep ACF at about that level, so it simply makes sense to prepare the novices for what will bear a greater verisimilitude to what they'd be hearing); I adjust packets according to the tournament, with old Fall sets read in preparation for Fall, etc. One of the things I do deliberately when I read the older packets is make a point of bitching when the questions are unsatisfactory and to explain the reasons why, id est because the clues are ordered in the wrong way, because the answer itself does not deserve to come up, and the like. Gradually I stop doing that, though, and when they themselves express displeasure at a groaner, I ask them for their logic at so doing. I also make a point to compliment a question if it is written in a particularly good way, something which I continue to do throughout. In this way I try to inculcate in them a basic sense of what makes a good question (or at the very least what makes a bad one) to provide them mental models of what to emulate or to avoid.

I try to mention specific "trigger points" for questions, too ("When you hear <x words>, pull the trigger then"), but I am limited in this in that I'm not much of a "first-clue" player; Kelly was far better at that sort of thing than I was/am.

One thing that Kelly tried briefly before he retired was to have one of us play with the younger one while the other read; we'd buzz in when we knew it, just not give the answer (we'd have to be honset about whether we really would have gotten it there or not). I found that sometimes encourages younger players.

Does this help at all?
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Post by wd4gdz »

Scipio wrote:Each week, I would keep track of which tossups had been missed; after about two weeks, I would then bring the previous weeks' packets and simply re-read the tossups that had been missed again.
I think this is a great idea, and something I'll try at our practices.

Nothing fancy goes on at Florida State. Two practices a week for two hours each. We'll read different sorts of questions depending on what type of tournament is coming up.

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Post by miamiqb »

excellent ideas from all...so I see that most schools recommend 2 practices a week? How do you manage that without scaring off potential members?
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Post by grapesmoker »

I tell people that they can come to as many or as few practices as they want. I encourage them subtly to come to both, and many do, since they enjoy playing. I think the key thing to do is to make practice a fun time rather than a chore.
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Post by rylltraka »

We typically get in three packets of varying difficulty and a TRASH packet in between the banter. Less if we're tired.

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Post by Hopesworth »

haha....tutor underclassman, practice with the buzzers, socialize, and do my homework....often all in the span of 30 minutes.
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Post by theaug37 »

I'll contribute here, despite having retired, since I am in the middle of procrastination.

As a background, I played undergrad at Yale from 1998-2002, and on and off (mostly off) at Georgetown Law from 2002 to 2005. Somewhere in there, I've participated in a lot of practices held at Yale, some practices at Gtown undergrad for about a semester's worth, and UC Berkeley's practices for one summer in 2001 while I was working in San Francisco during the vacation.

I am not sure about the current state, but while I was at Yale, we had two practices a week, with two packets per practice. This changed my senior year, when I campaigned for three packets per practice and got people to agree with it. During the summer at Berkeley, the practices were once (or twice; memory's a bit hazy) a week, and it basically lasted until people got tired of reading packets, which usually amounted to something like 5 or 6 packets. Georgetown's practices weren't as intense; they were once a week, and was for one or two packets.

Perhaps it's my learning style, but I improved rather dramatically after my summer at Berkeley. It was a convergence of many factors, including personal peak in quizbowl interest, plus much more free time without classes. But most important was the sheer amount of repetition that comes from reading that many packets, plus competing against some all-time great players on every tossup improved my trigger-speed and fact recognition far more in a quicker time than ever I thought possible. Yale was considered a good team and we had a "top 10" program, but the practices were certainly less intense, and it was a far less competitive atmosphere. (I'm not sure how much of it is based on summer vs. regular semester, since the element of recruitment always softened Yale's practice sessions) In any case, I equally enjoyed both, because I've always have fun just playing on packets above all else, but in terms of improvement, Berkeley practices were certainly more helpful. This is not to say that Yale's practices weren't helpful; they certainly made me a respectable player and I leared a LOT of things I wouldn't have learned otherwise.

In any case, I think people get better in quizbowl when you hear more questions. I'd say at least 95% of all questions in any tournament is a repeat of something else at some point, because quizbowl is finite. In practices, you get comments like, "XX comes up all the time!", "I never knew XX did YY," or "Haha, it's really funny that ZZ happened to XX," an aggregate of comments which sticks in people's minds and help them retain more information, which in turn creates better players. This also leads to a sort of groupthink, when you see a buzzerace among every member of the same team during a tournament, because it came up in a way that stuck particularly well during practices.

Also, while this may not be helpful to budding programs, there is definitely a [large?] subset of quizbowl players who would benefit tremendously from the sheer competitive level offered by some of the powerhouse programs. The summer I was at Berkeley had people like Seth Teitler, Mike Usher, Jon Pennington, Nick Meyer, and David Farris (I think I saw Jerry once or twice as well) practicing regularly, who have and are individually capable of scoring 70+ on tournaments against competitive fields. For me, the positive feedback loop in being the first to get a question (although happened rarely) in a such a competitive environment definitely motivated me a lot.

Lastly, I should note that one huge difference between Yale and Berkeley practice "culture" was their respective views on list memorizing. During my time, Yale has always been mildly disdainful of lists, or in general, memorizing things solely for quizbowl. As a result, I've done precious little of that, although I have certainly read survey books on topics I found interesting both personally and in a quizbowl sense. I got the impression that Berkeley didn't attach such a stigma to lists, and hence people were free to pursue them as they wished. I don't really think lists make great players by itself, but it's a good way to improve, especially when combined with somewhat rigorous practice.

Wow. That was rambly, and very time-wasteful. This is probably why I don't post often. Hope that was insightful in some way.

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Post by grapesmoker »

theaug37 wrote: Lastly, I should note that one huge difference between Yale and Berkeley practice "culture" was their respective views on list memorizing. During my time, Yale has always been mildly disdainful of lists, or in general, memorizing things solely for quizbowl. As a result, I've done precious little of that, although I have certainly read survey books on topics I found interesting both personally and in a quizbowl sense. I got the impression that Berkeley didn't attach such a stigma to lists, and hence people were free to pursue them as they wished. I don't really think lists make great players by itself, but it's a good way to improve, especially when combined with somewhat rigorous practice.
I've never encountered any "list stigma" at Berkeley, but I never encountered any encouragement to memorize lists either. I don't think anyone actually did that during the time I was there, and in any case, I don't think it's very helpful. One thing I found very useful when I was starting out (and now, too) was to write things down in a notebook when I heard an interesting clue. Writing it down is a great way of fixing it in your mind (at least for me). Also, as Augustine mentioned, the repetition is key. When you read enough packets over and over, you will remember something for sure.
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Post by theaug37 »

grapesmoker wrote:
theaug37 wrote: Lastly, I should note that one huge difference between Yale and Berkeley practice "culture" was their respective views on list memorizing. During my time, Yale has always been mildly disdainful of lists, or in general, memorizing things solely for quizbowl. As a result, I've done precious little of that, although I have certainly read survey books on topics I found interesting both personally and in a quizbowl sense. I got the impression that Berkeley didn't attach such a stigma to lists, and hence people were free to pursue them as they wished. I don't really think lists make great players by itself, but it's a good way to improve, especially when combined with somewhat rigorous practice.
I've never encountered any "list stigma" at Berkeley, but I never encountered any encouragement to memorize lists either. I don't think anyone actually did that during the time I was there, and in any case, I don't think it's very helpful. One thing I found very useful when I was starting out (and now, too) was to write things down in a notebook when I heard an interesting clue. Writing it down is a great way of fixing it in your mind (at least for me). Also, as Augustine mentioned, the repetition is key. When you read enough packets over and over, you will remember something for sure.
I tried to phrase carefully to avoid that Berkeley had stigmatized or encouraged list memorizing; I was under the impression that some people did it minimally in certain subjects. But I could be very wrong.

Standing alone, I think list memorizing can be "helpful" in 3 ways: 1)in bonus situations where specific author/artist/composer is combined with their respective work, 2) process of elimination during a question, and 3) for buzzerraces where the quick association is extremely useful. I think it can also be helpful when the list serves as a "node" of knowledge, and the connectors are provided by detailed questions to get a coherent "actual" knowledge. I can't come up with a good example at the moment, if you can somehow connect all 18th century british artists (that you knew initially only from a list), with actual knowledge beyond their works through repetition and practice, it can be very helpful.

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Post by ericblair »

We usually meet up three times a week (MWF) from about 3-5 P.M. The types of questions we use varies from time to time. If we have a KCQRL tournament coming up we will do the quick, non-pyramid style for a while. We also use old ACF, NAQT, Sworld Bowl, College Bowl etc packets. It's pretty laid back. Each day there are simulated matches among our academic club, usually with even teams. It's rather basic. Learning the material is up to the student. He or she is free, but not obligated, to take notes and whatnot. Pretty basic I suppose.
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Post by Ray »

We usually take candy from the Libertarian Club that meets down the hall.

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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Ray wrote:We usually take candy from the Libertarian Club that meets down the hall.
They have miniature Twix bars. They're so cute and delicious.
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