From time to time, Maine Adventures in Creativity would like to provide coaches with additional resources to help them as they coach their Odyssey of the Mind teams. We will try to share advice from some of the “old timers,” give you hints about where to get supplies, direct you to some good resources, and, in general, lend a helping hand. If there is something in particular with which you would like to have help, please let us know and we’ll try to assist you personally or through this list.
Parents often ask what they can do to help. They want to assist, but are afraid of going over the line. You can get a list of what parents can and cannot do at the “Parents” section of our web site. Print out the list and share it with parents at an upcoming meeting.
When practicing spontaneous problems, try focusing on a specific skill once in a while. For example, remove the time limit in verbals and just look for five great answers, no matter how long it takes. Or practice flipping cards in an efficient manner (you’d be surprised how much time can be lost by team members forgetting to flip a card in a verbal challenge). In a hands-on problem, weight the points so that “how well the team works together” becomes the most important component of their solution.
If you have set goals with your team at the beginning of the season, do periodic check-ins to see if you are on a path to achieving those goals.
The following is courtesy of the Odyssey World listserv:
- Expect the Unexpected. Don’t worry if you have not seen anything resembling this problem before. There’s a good chance that nobody else has either.
- Listen to the Rules. Formulate questions after the rules are read and not during. How can you listen if you are thinking of a question? Nine times out of ten the question will be answered.
- Often, the team can stand or sit. The presence of a table and chairs does not mean teams have to sit down for spontaneous. Some kids literally think better on their feet.
- Think of categories for answers to verbal spontaneous problems. The teams can think about lots of topics as “go to” lists: reptiles, emotions, bodies of water, geography, food, sports, music, current events, movies, books – kids can focus on coming up with an answer that fits their categories if they are stuck for an answer.
We hope these ideas will help you with spontaneous practice.
The Art of Asking Questions
Coaches need to be aware that the WAY a question is asked may limit the creativity of the answers. Here are some general, all-purpose questions you can use with your team(s):
- Do you think any other team would think of this?
- Can you think of a more creative way to do this?
- What other materials could be used to (create this effect, to make this move, to make it lighter in weight, to make it funnier, etc.)?
- What kinds of things do we need to find out in order to do this?
And now, for some ideas to use when you want to say something you’re not allowed to say!
- How else could you…?
- Why did this happen?
- Where could you find out?
- Is this your best…?
- Does this meet the standard?
- Is this job done?
- What do we mean by style?
- What should be done?
- When should it be done?
- Who should do it?
- Can this be tested?
- Can we combine ideas?
- Why is it necessary?
- How else could this be arranged?
- What should come next?
- What makes sense? What makes nonsense?
- What could be said? What could be left unsaid?
Good questioning can really help elevate your team’s solution and enjoyment of creative problem solving, without introducing outside assistance. We hope this helps you this year. If you have any tips you’ve picked up along the way, please pass them along and we’ll share them with other coaches.
During the course of the creative problem season, many coaches have questions about rules, what to expect at the Tournament, etc.
We’d like to help answer some that we have heard recently:
Q: How many team members compete in Spontaneous? A: 5 members compete in Spontaneous.
Q: Is it the same 5 team members who compete, regardless of the type of problem? A: The team decides which 5 members will compete. For some teams, it is the same five, regardless of the type of problem. Other teams have a specific 5 who compete if it is a verbal problem, a different 5 who compete if it is a hands-on problem, and perhaps still a different 5 if it is a verbal/hands-on problem. It is suggested that the team make this decision before Tournament Day.
Q: The team has gotten some materials at a recycling center. What type of cost should we associate with them? A: Yard sale prices should be assigned. What would you pay for a yard of fabric at a yard sale? Probably not more than 50 cents or a dollar. If you purchase new material, however, you must assign the full price paid. Likewise with other objects that are “experienced”. Assign a value as if you were to purchase this at a yard sale.
Q: Can the team have help bringing materials to pre-staging? Can they bring things in containers without counting the cost of the containers? A: Anyone can help the team bring materials to pre-staging. You can bring things in whatever you would like, without being required to assign a cost. The team must bring all their props, backgrounds, etc. out to the performance area.
Q: Can parents and coaches help the teams clean up afterwards? A: Yes; encourage them to do so!
Q: What kinds of souvenirs will be for sale at the Tournament? Can we get lunch at Bates? Where? When will we find out what time we’re performing? What is there to do at Bates? How do I get there? A: You will be receiving the answers to these questions, and more, in your Pre Tournament packet, which will be mailed to you approximately two weeks before Tournament Day.
Q: Will there be a place to hang things when we perform? A: Plan to have all of your backgrounds, membership signs, etc., be free standing.
Q: Can the teams talk about their Spontaneous problems? A: We are working on having a place where the team can talk to each other about the Spontaneous problem immediately afterward; we will let you know if there was space available for this at Registration. Other than this possible time to talk to teach other, TEAMS MAY NOT TALK ABOUT THEIR PROBLEM. Please remind parents and other friends that they may not divulge the problem to their coaches or anyone else. The same problems are used at many State Tournaments; you would be surprised at the amount of times that discussions of problems have gravitated to other states (really).
Many coaches, particularly new ones, wonder about what their job actually is. Here’s a list of some of the major responsibility that an Odyssey of the Mind coach should assume:
- Organize and schedule meetings of the team
- Set rules and regulations for behavior at meetings
- Set up a timeline for task completion
- Guide activities
- Be sure the team has updated clarifications
- Secure materials requested by the team (but don’t select things for them)
- Secure experts to demonstrate/teach the team new skills, if necessary.
Remember that someone may teach basic wiring or how to work with a sewing machine, but the team members (and only the team members) must apply those skills to their solution themselves!
Meet with parents to explain rules, philosophy and your meeting schedule. Stress the importance of each member’s attendance. Oversee that all paperwork for the tournament is completed.
Distribute information on tournaments, directions and schedules to parents/relatives.
Instill the Odyssey of the Mind spirit in your team. Remember, if you emphasize the score as the only measure of their success, you could be setting up your team to feel like failures. Please emphasize that the learning process, the experience, and FUN are the worthwhile goals to achieve.
(Adapted from the VOMBO coaches guide) Remember that we are here to help you. If you have any questions, please get in touch so we can be of assistance.