How to Train a Team for Performance-Based Instant Challenges

Performance-Based Instant Challenges usually have five (5) key sections:

  • Challenge: a brief summary of the Challenge
  • Time: A statement of how much time the team has for each part of the Challenge including brainstorming, preparation, and performance. Many times the brainstorming and preparation components are in one time block. Teams must learn to use their time wisely.
  • The Scene: This section sets up the rules of the team's performance.
  • Items to Use in Your Presentation: Items usually will be listed in two columns: those that can be altered (changed) and those the cannot be damaged (changed).
  • Scoing: This section gives the breakdown of how the team will be scored on their solution to the Challenge.

When practicing Performance-Based Instant Challenges stress to your team that they must Listen, Listen, Listen to the reading of the challenge!!!Remind them that when an Instant Challenge says they must present their solution, skit, performance that they should consider the Appraisers their audience.Work with them on using the brainstorming skills and techniques for planning a solution to Performance-Based Instant Challenges. These might include SCAMPER, ALoU, and Team Generated categories.Successful Instant Challenges have more to do with teamwork than just thinking creatively. Emphasize that every Instant Challenge will have a teamwork scoring component. All teams need to practice showing-off their team work skills. This may include but is not limited to having designated duties for different team members - timekeeper, summary person, questioner, reader, etc. With a young team, try to come up with different "roles" or jobs for each to have responsibility in the IC. It is best NOT to assign these roles, but to describe them and ask who in the group thinks he/she would be good at this role or like to try it? If more than one person, you can have TWO in a category - can't hurt. If nobody volunteers, have them draw "roles" from slips of paper for a few times and see if they fall into anything that is comfortable. Or if they've chosen roles and it doesn't seem to mesh, that's the time to insist everyone try a new role. Examples of roles might be:

  1. The Rule Person - This person reads the IC (if on paper) and throughout the solving is the person who refers back to the written challenge to be sure they are solving as directed and following rules. Many an IC has run aground when a team has an amusing presentation, but talks in a nonverbal, or touches the tape that can't be touched, or changes the item that "can't be changed." The rule person keeps the focus on what is allowed.
  2. The Points Person - This person makes sure the team is getting the most points possible. [for example, if the challenge said 10 points for a skit and 50 points for each creative costume, the rule person would remind the team that costumes were important, point-wise, esp. if they got stuck writing a skit and forgot to dress up.] --Yes, rule person and points person might seem redundant, but you WANT two kids checking the rules and paper and points throughout, so there are two slightly different roles that overlap.
  3. The Timekeeper - This person must have a watch and must get used to checking it and telling the team when they are half-way through, or have a minute left, or whatever is appropriate. [sometimes, when the timekeeper isn't paying attention at IC practice, you may want to let the time run out and call TIME!... then allow another minute to finish and remind the timekeeper of the important duty. If you keep calling out the time, the timekeeper doesn't get in the habit of checking time.] You can always use TWO of these timekeepers.
  4. The Laughmeters - Often more than one person volunteers for this, but this is a job to be sure that the skit or whatever is funny (assuming it is supposed to be funny) and suggests quirky actions, character voices, funny lines and whatever else tickles their fancy.
  5. The Brainstorm Facilitator - This is the moderator of the group, who makes sure that everybody is participating and encourages the less-outgoing kids to speak up, and asks the babbling kids to "hold that thought" while another idea is heard. This person makes sure that there is some order to the teamwork and participation; if several people want to talk, this person identifies people in turn to speak, so that everyone gets a turn.
  6. The "What If?" Person - If you don't use up all your kids with jobs above doubling up, add a "what if?" person. This person listens to the first two ideas and then says "what if..." and adds on or changes one of the ideas. Even if they don't do this in a meet, this is great practice for thinking outside the box. There can be more than one "what if?" person. [example: someone says the skit can be animals in a zoo. The "what if?" person says, "or what if it can be animals on a farm?" and the 2nd "what if?" person says "what if it was an ANT farm?" and so on...]

Another factor to keep in mind is that in Instant Challenge the Appraisers must be able to hear a team's brainstorming in order to accurately score them on team work. Therefore, remind your team not to whisper when they are brainstorming. You or one of the team members might try sitting away from the team while they brainstorm in order to help them learn to speak loud enough to be heard by the Appraisers.Have the team practice brainstorming topic ideas to fit a challenge scenario. They need to be able to get their ideas across to the other team members quickly and concisely to keep from wasting valuable time. They may want to practice doing this quick response type thinking in a limited amount of time.

RULE OF THREE - If your team tends to keep going on suggesting new and better ideas long after they should have chosen something and started solving or writing the skit; give them a rule of three. That is, for the first decision, listen to 1,2,3 ideas and the fourth person takes one of those 3 ideas and adds on to it. (They don't have to go 1, 2, 3 in order in a circle; it's whoever had the first three ideas. Then time to chose one, add to it and move on.) It's fine to have all 7 kids make suggestions if they do quickly and make decisions they live with, but the Rule of Three helps with a team wherein each child loves only his/her own ideas and therefore keeps making suggestions.In addition to practicing topic idea generation the team should also practice brainstorming creative ways to use the given props before they alter them. Remind them that once they tear or cut something that they may not be able to put it back to its original form.One thing that can help teams work well under pressure is to have them practice, totally apart from any formal IC challenge, creating a beginning, a middle and an end of a story/skit. Have cards with odd phrases, character traits, items, a short scenario, etc.. on them. Break the kids up into two groups of three each, give each group a few cards with different elements on them and have them go off for just a few minutes and then report back with a short skit incorporating all the items. The skit must include a beginning, a middle and an end. These short skits may become the building blocks of their IC performances. They learn how to work together in small groups, working quickly and incorporating a variety of elements.It is also recommended to have the team do a lot of improvisational games. They learn to think quickly (or what to do if they aren't particularly fast thinkers), to create interesting characters, and how to move their bodies around in interesting and humorous ways.Many thanks to Cameron, Christine, and many other DINI List members for their ideas on training teams in Instant Challenge.

Divide and Conquer - Time Management Tips