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Fair Oaks teams rank high at Quiz Bowl

Fifth-grade team takes second; sixth-grade team gets seventh

November 21, 2011
By BRANDON L. SUMMERS, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Fair Oaks Middle School Talented and Gifted students participated in the annual Iowa Thinking Cap Quiz Bowl on Nov. 2, and ranked high among their peers across the state.

Quiz Bowl contestants have to answer 100 questions in a variety of subject areas, including application of literary terms, spelling, science, math, geography and U.S. history.

Fair Oaks had a fifth- and sixth-grade team competing. TAG instructor Diane Pratt said competition went very well.

"We usually do pretty well in the competition," she said. "We compete every year. This is the first in a couple that we've gotten a trophy again. We used to get trophies all the time."

The sixth-grade TAG team ranked seventh in Iowa out of 48 teams, scoring 1,188 points out of a possible 1,500 and answering 94 percent of the questions correctly.

Taking the same test, the fifth-grade team placed second in the state out of 14, scoring 1,134 points with 88 percent accuracy. They received a trophy and individual ribbons.

Joe Libby, middle school principal, said he was proud of the students.

"We heard about it earlier and actually celebrated with our kids," he said. "It's absolutely fantastic, and we're excited for them to represent not only themselves but Fair Oaks and Fort Dodge."

To achieve such high scores, the Fair Oaks TAG students practiced and worked hard, Pratt said.

"The students prepared on their own, and we practiced as small teams during class periods," she said. "The day of the competition, all three class periods were together for the first time, when they actually competed. That's a little bit more of a challenge because you have more people to answer questions."

In preparation, Pratt used test discs from previous competitions, which have a variety of questions.

"It can be anything from spelling to guide words, to locations of international bodies of water and math. It's just a variety of questions," she said.

Students do not compete directly against each another. Instead, they take timed tests electronically inside their own classroom as a team, Pratt said.

"They work together well," she said. "One of the hardest things with students between the ages of 10 and 12 is learning to be a team and not competing against one another, but trying to help one another come up with an answer. They haven't had a lot of experience in doing that."

Pratt said the quiz bowl provides a unique competition experience for the young students.

"Fifth- and sixth-grade level students, they don't do a lot of national competitions," she said. "They're aware of them. They hear about different groups going to nationals, but they don't have a lot of opportunity to do that. With quiz bowl, that makes it possible for them to see what a national competition is like."

In addition to their high ranking, Pratt is also proud of her students working together as a team, hearing them support each other by saying, "Way to go" and "That was awesome," in practice and in competition.

"They learn how to respect one another's areas of expertise, to be supportive of one another while we were practicing, and that's a real important skill," she said. "A side benefit of participating in quiz bowl, it gives them a chance to become a team."

Both fifth- and sixth-grade TAG teams qualified for the national competition and will represent Fair Oaks in the Thinking Cap America 5th/6th Grade Challenge in May.

"It's the same format, it's a hundred questions, with trivia and academic questions," Pratt said. "That will be exciting. A couple of years ago, we had a group participate in the national quiz bowl and they got seventh out of the whole country."

Pratt said her students are excited about this next competition.

"They're pretty pumped out and proud of themselves, as rightly they should be, because they worked hard to prepare," she said.

Contact Brandon L. Summers at (515) 573-2141 or



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