Spanish Quizbowl 2016

This past spring I had a group of students compete in Spanish Quizbowl, which is sponsored by the AATSP of Iowa and hosted at Central College in Pella, for the first time ever.  Spanish Quizbowl is not a new event (my mentor showed me his many trophies and practice packets from years past), although it has recently been revived.  I had learned about the renewed event from my colleague, Jason Noble (twitter: @senornoble; blogger:, who helped revive the event.

The notion of bringing students to Spanish Quizbowl floated around in my head for a year or so.  I then went to a TPRS Workshop in February and ran into Samantha Finneseth (twitter: @SraFinneseth) who had gone the previous year.  I pitched the idea to my students upon my return, but ditched the idea shortly after presenting it to my classes.  They didn’t seem interested enough and I was very busy with my Capstone, planning the CI: Comprehensible Iowa conference, teaching an online course, and buying my first home.  However, in the spring one of my Spanish 2 students said she really wanted to do it.  I told her if I could have five students signed up by the following Wednesday (four school days later), we would do it.  I quickly had five Spanish 2 students registered within 2 days and actually had to turn away students because we had already filled our spots.  I couldn’t believe it!  Spanish 3 only had two interested and as such did not end up competing.

Spanish Quizbowl

Spanish Quizbowl 2016 | Elizabeth Dentlinger at

Here are the categories Spanish 2 students compete in:

  • Sing-Along: Students learned a Spanish song and danced along to it.
  • Head-to-Head Quiz: Students competed against another team in an old school quizbowl on culture, geography, etc.
  • Music: Students first completed a cloze activity then had to identify 10 different musical genres.
  • “Grammar”: Students received a topic/theme and wrote as many relevant vocabulary terms as possible.  They then took those words and turned them into a story.
  • Tour: Student receive a brief tour of Central’s beautiful campus.

Honestly, I had absolutely no idea how to prepare my students after I had a team.  Luckily for the Sing-A-Long, we had already learned and created a dance for Soy Feliz by Emir Sensini in preparation for his concert later in the year.  I took 15 minutes at the end of my class period for two days and had students do a mock “Grammar” competition against the other students in their class.  They said this helped them a lot and made them feel very comfortable during the competition.  My students had worked on a musical genre assignment the previous quarter, but I knew my students would not remember the differences.  So I took the last day before the competition and we listened to the different possible genres.  Students listened to different genres and then I asked students to tell me what it sounded like to them.  They took some general notes and then I set up a mini-challenge that was more like a head-to-head challenge between the team and other groups.

I knew it was going to be a great experience with my kiddos when they got into the suburban and wanted to listen to the capitals song on the drive to help them remember the capitals.  They shared stories with me of how my mentor had taught their parents the same song and another how her parents thought it was so catchy that they began singing it, too.  Of course I made it special for my six man team by taking the obligatory picture in front of a windmill (Pella is a Dutch town, and well-known for their tulips) and by stopping for a nice coffee downtown.  I tweeted out updates after each session to our school account and using the official Spanish Quizbowl hashtag, #sqbswag16.  I even tweeted that we were preparing to dance to Soy Feliz to Emir Sensini and the kids were really excited when he favorited the tweet.  The kids loved listening to the native speakers introduce themselves and felt validated that they could understand other Spanish speakers.  They did so well in each category but were especially proud of themselves when they won the Head-to-Head challenge in overtime.  Even I was impressed with the answers they knew in this category!

After all the competitions were over, my team sat down to await the results.  They fluttered between thinking they had won and thinking that they wouldn’t even place.   They were so pleasantly shocked to learn they had earned second place for Spanish 2!  We stopped for ice cream (my treat!) before laughing all the way home.  As we drove home, my heart swelled with love for these kids as we laughed all they way home and they began planning their skit for next year to include Arturo and Raquel from Destinos (which they watched the past fall).  This was hands down the BEST field trip I have ever had in the history of field trips ever.

Now, this experience alone was incredible for both me and my students.  The team came back from the competition and told everyone about how cool it was and how they want to do it again next year.  This is the best form of advocacy, in my opinion, because it’s the students themselves who are advocating for what I do with them.  However, I didn’t let it stop there – I promoted my students’ awesomeness as much as I could.  I made sure to tweet SO MUCH throughout the day so that people knew how they did.  I sent an email with results and pictures to the staff at the end of the day, put an article in the school newsletter, and asked the local newspaper to follow up with an article, too.  In lieu of awards for each level, I gave this group a special award for their second place accomplishment at our school’s award night.  It is so important to celebrate students who prepare for competitions like this (especially in sports-minded schools!), and I hope my replacement will be able to carry on this new tradition for this group of students.

If you are a Spanish teacher in Iowa, this event is a MUST for next year.  I hope to bring a Spanish 2 team from my new school next year.  If I can put one together, this first experience taught me to: bring a mascot and have team shirts/style.

Thank you, AATSP of Iowa, for making this opportunity possible for my students.

6 thoughts on “Spanish Quizbowl 2016

  1. Hola! I remember doing Quiz Bowl when I was in high school, and it was one of the best things I ever did. It really brought out the value of learning Spanish because we could finally use it somewhere where it mattered! I love that its coming back and would love for my students to attend next year! Are you part of the planning process with it? I would also volunteer to be involved with that if help was needed!

    • Buenas tardes, Rebekah! How cool that you took part in the old quizbowls! It would be great to have your help as someone who did it as a student. I am not currently helping plan the Quizbowl, but I will offer my services at the AATSP meeting at #iwla16 this fall. Will you be there? If not, I can pass along the info or have Jason Noble contact you. He has been the driving force behind its revival from what I know.

      • Hola! I think I will be at IWLA, but to be honest I hadn’t heard of the AATSP until now. Can I go tot he meeting if I’m not a member? 🙂 If you wanted I would be more than happy to meet up with you and/or Jason Noble in person too! I teach at Gilbert High so I feel like I’m pretty close to both of you! Not trying to be a crazy person, I’m just really excited about Quiz Bowl coming back!

  2. Pingback: Dentlinger’s 2016 Highlights | La Clase de la Señora Dentlinger

  3. Hola!

    Thank you for sharing this reflection. After IWLA this year, I went back and pitched Spanish Quiz Bowl to my students. We are combining Spanish II and III into one Spanish III team, since we didn’t have very much interest. My students–and on the inside, I am, too–are really nervous about competing. I’m not a very strong Spanish teacher yet, but I really want my students to have this experience.

    So, that being said, do you have more recommendations about how to prep for the experience? Could you share more about how the competition went?

    Thank you SO much for any ways you can help.

    • Hola Srta. O ~ I only prepped the week leading up to the competition. For the vocab/story center I gave students a topic, X amount of minutes to brainstorm as many words that fit the category as possible, students then shared and then wrote their stories. I did this towards the end of class for like 5 days. I was really worried about the music center and didn’t know what to expect. I pulled up songs that fit each category and we listened to them while students wrote down how it sounded to them. A lot of students wrote something like “has a guitar, feet stomps, etc” (for flamenco). I did this in English because I didn’t know what other way to do it. I then played various music and we had teams compete against each other to figure which genre it was. I did a dance (which was easy because we just took a dance we had made up for a song we learned to go to an Ennio Emmanuel concert the previous fall), but you will need to do a skit. I didn’t prepare for the trivia round because I had no idea what to expect. There were some questions my kids knew from Martina Bex’s curriculum. I remember there being a capital question (luckily we did the capital rap!) and it was like the capital of Mexico or Spain, a question about who the painter of Guernica is/was, etc.

      I hope this helps! If you’d like more details, feel free to email me at eldentlinger at gmail dot com! 🙂

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