Quiz Bowl Part II

Here’s the second part of my interview with my Overlake colleague, Kelly Vikstrom-Hoyt, about her Quiz Bowl experiences. Part I posted on February 14.

Rebecca: What’s a memorable success or achievement your teams have experienced?

Kelly: The Middle School team had just started competing in online tournaments through TQBA (Texas Quiz Bowl Alliance) in 2022. We did one tournament and entered the top division, and got 23rd out of 25 teams. The tournament director suggested that we enter the elementary bracket for the next tournament (because most of the kids were in 6th grade anyway), and we ended up getting second in the division. So for the next tournament, we moved up to the middle division and ended up winning and qualifying for nationals! Now we regularly compete in the upper division and usually place in the top 10.

Rebecca: How do you handle setbacks or disappointments with the kids?

Kelly: Quiz bowl is all in your head – literally. So it is easy for kids to get down on themselves or get psyched out by another team that buzzes quickly or knows more of the answers. I encourage the kids to get out of their heads and try to get them to be more playful. When I took the Upper School team to Chicago for nationals, we had a disappointing day with a lot more losses than we were used to. I knew we needed to shake it off, so we left the hotel and took the train to a pizza place, got Chicago pizza and took it to a park (it was a lovely day). Then the kids asked if they were allowed to go on the playground, and I told them they were REQUIRED to play on the playground. And after all the running and playing (remember these are upper school kids), they got out of their heads and were able to have fun and win more rounds the next day.

Rebecca: How do you foster a sense of inclusivity, teamwork, and participation among a diverse group of students?

Kelly: It can be really challenging because some kids are just fast and know a lot of random information. This can make the other kids feel as if they aren’t contributing as much. But since there are both tossups (which are answered individually), and bonuses (which are answered as a team), I try to get everyone involved in the bonuses, even if just as a sounding board to double check that answers are right. The other thing I try to do is encourage kids to take risks, including sometimes buzzing and getting it wrong, and praising them when they do. One of our strongest upper school players is also the person who gets the most wrong answers. And I point this out regularly so that students don’t feel embarrassed when they get something wrong.

Rebecca: Have you observed any positive impacts on academic performance or enthusiasm for learning as a result of quiz bowl participation?

Kelly: These kids are already super academically motivated. But it is interesting to see them making connections between information they learned in class and questions in Quiz Bowl. When there’s a question about something they “just did in class that day,” they love it. Students will also let the younger kids know “you haven’t learned that yet” when they know a concept is taught later in the year in that grade. 

Rebecca: What advice would you give to librarians who want to support or initiate quiz bowl activities in their schools?

Kelly: We have a lot of random knowledge and information at our fingertips! This is a great way to market that and remind people that you hold the key to accessing that knowledge. I was afraid, at first, that I’d have to come up with all the questions – but there are so many resources out there already that I have literally never had to make up questions. But I do point out resources that will be helpful to kids who want to study or learn more about something. Start small – I started out with middle school just being a trivia club and we did lots of different activities related to trivia. But then they really enjoyed the more formal structure of regular quiz bowl, so we shifted to just that.

Rebecca: What has been the most rewarding aspect of running quiz bowl teams for you?

Kelly: It is another way for me to connect with kids and see them in a different way that they typically show up in the library. The relationship building is really what keeps me going, even when I sacrifice my weekend for a tournament.


“Quiz Bowl.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia, 31 Jan. 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiz_bowl.

“For an article aimed at librarians, I am interviewing a colleague who runs quiz bowl teams for middle and upper school, including weekly meetings and local, online, and travel tournaments. What questions should I ask her?” prompt. ChatGPT, version 3.5, OpenAI, 2023, chat.openai.com/c/dfd0c6bd-f1dd-4a59-aea9-98ffef558101.

One thought on “Quiz Bowl Part II

  1. Thanks to you and Kelly for this interview! I also coach our Quiz Bowl team, and there is a ton of overlap between questions that come up in Quiz Bowl and questions that come up in research.
    And while they aren’t up and moving the way that our athletes are, the competitions are similarly adrenaline-inducing and nail-biting!
    You are lucky to have closer competitions; we often have to travel over 2 hours to get to hosting schools.
    And backing up Kelly’s assessment, getting students to buzz when they might be wrong (and their friends might hear that they are wrong) can be an important part of coaching. We used to attend a college competition that offered a “neg prize.” The student who is getting those answers wrong and continuing to buzz is also a student who is likely getting a lot of questions right and has a deep knowledge of material.
    One of our team’s mottos is to “know what you know.”

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