Critical Thinking — part 1

This is the first post in our series on using quizbowl to improve students’ critical thinking skills. One part of critical thinking is the ability to listen carefully.

One common mistake players make is to forget or not pay attention to what a question is asking for. They hear, “In this country…” and, a few seconds later, buzz and say “Amazon River” or “Thomas Jefferson” or “Chicago Bears.” Then, when they are ruled wrong, they either don’t know why– or they throw a fit about the question being unfair.

It’s very important to listen carefully for the type of answer required—and then remember it long enough to give that type of answer after buzzing. Note this is more common when first playing “pyramid” questions, as pyramid questions have more clues and are somewhat longer than the one-liners some students have to put up with.

At Trivia Nationals a while back, one of the questions began, “This stadium…” I missed this and buzzed with “Boston Red Sox.” Oops. The answer, of course, was “Fenway Park.” This cost our team the game against Paul Paquet, creator of the Trivia Hall of Fame. So it happens even to the best of us when we’re not careful.

Use our subscription set each week to train players to listen more carefully. In practice, you can stop in the middle of a tossup several times and ask, “What type of answer should you give for this question ?” In places where each student has pencil and paper, they can even write “person” or “concept” or “novel” on their paper as a memory aid to start with. Before long, your students will be good enough at listening to succeed at top-level quizbowl.