Tips for new coaches about VERBAL spontaneous problems.
- You can help the team in any way when you practice spontaneous. Unlike Long Term, Spontaneous has no outside assistance constraints except on the day of the tournament in the competition room (if non-performing team members help the five who are performing, they will receive a penalty.)
- Only five team members perform on tournament day. Your team may wish to choose a different combination of team members for the five participating in verbal than the five participating in non-verbal. Teams will be given one minute after they enter the room, and are told the nature of the problem, to decide which five will participate. In practice sessions, you may wish to have five give answers and the other team members keep score, rotating who participates. Keeping score helps team members learn to recognize "common" and "creative" answers when they hear them, which, in turn, helps them recognize common and creative when they think of them!
- All seven members of a primary team may participate in spontaneous in Florida. Primary teams are not scored in long term, style, or spontaneous. This is a learning adventure for them.
- Practice many ways of taking turns giving answers: start with simply going around the circle and advance to flipping cards, limiting answers, spinning a spinner, rolling a die … any methods that help a team be prepared for giving answers in any order. You can take away some of the mystery by making the challenge fun: think of creative ways to choose who gives an answer --- assign a color to each team member and let them close their eyes and draw M&Ms out of a bowl to see who will respond (and the person drawing the M&M gets to eat it ).
- Practice the flow of responding. Start with a simple exercise … even just everyone saying his or her name over and over again. Advance to "name things in a kitchen," or "name things that are blue" … anything the help the team see what giving answers one after the other feels like and sounds like.
- Practice what to do if "one member of the team is stuck." ANYONE can have trouble thinking of an answer sometimes, and all the team members need to feel comfortable with that moment of panic. Have them practice saying almost anything. Let them see that they can think up SOMETHING and say it, and have them focus on that something, rather than on the feeling of panic.
- Most importantly for verbal spontaneous success, have the team members learn about many different subjects (read magazines or books, listen to music, learn about subjects that interest them.) Then let them practice making connections between those subjects and other one. You can make a game out of this by writing on cards and matching them. For example, make up cards appropriate for age and grade level that have colors, shapes, numbers, or, for older teams, abstract ideas, etc., and another stack of cards that have names, subjects, news items, etc. Then let the team practice matching the cards. For example, how is the number 3 like a dog? (Simple (Primary or division 1) answer: "my aunt has 3 dogs;" more advanced (divisions 3 or 4) answer: "Cerberus") How is the color red connected a circus? (Simple answer: "The big top has red stripes;" more advanced answer: "Romans had a saying that they longed for two things … bread and circuses." By practicing making unusual connections, teams will begin to learn how to "think outside the box" to come up with more creative answers.
- ALWAYS praise good answers, (however, do not fault bad answers) and encourage team members to tell which answers they heard that they liked (after they finish a problem). This way, over a period of time, all team members will receive positive feedback about answers they have thought of, and this will build confidence.
- Keep practices fun!!! This is about learning to think on their feet, and team members should see this as a fun challenge, not a stressful situation!!! At the tournament, the most successful teams are the ones who are having a lot of fun, and who see spontaneous as an opportunity to show off their creativity. The coach often sets the tone for this attitude, so make spontaneous an enjoyable activity and if you, as a coach, feel concern about the team’s ability, figure out other ways to practice, keeping things fun and not stressful.