The contest is designed to promote creativity in an academic format and to encourage writing skills at an early grade level. Through preparation for the contest, students in second grade will be able to evaluate their own writing and the writing of others.
Contestants will be given a prompt with several captioned pictures. From these pictures, the students will create an original story based on their selections in 30 minutes. The stories must contain at least one of the pictured items, but it is not required that all items on the page be included.
News and Updates
- Chess Puzzle is no longer a pilot event – it is now an official part of A+ Academics.
- The A+ Invitational materials set now includes Chess Puzzle.
- Contest materials for district meets are now ordered in the same format as other A+ events, and will be provided in printed packets (for orders submitted by prescribed deadlines).
- Texas Tech Chess has partnered with UIL to provide study and practice material for A+ Chess Puzzle. See the link below under Study and Practice Resources.
- Chess Puzzle is offered for grades 2-8 in three divisions: grades 2-3, grades 4-5 and grades 6-8. As with other A+ events, districts may choose to structure with these as combined divisions or may choose to offer a separate division for each indvidual grade level.
- Each division will take a 30-minute objective test plus a separate 5-minute tiebreaker section. A different test is provided for each of the three divisions. The tiebreaker section is identical for ALL divisions.
- All Chess Puzzle test questions are now multiple-choice format, to allow for a broader scope of questions and increase the educational value of the contest (and make grading even easier).
- Scoring is simple. For the main test and tiebreaker sections, contestants receive one point for each correct answer. There are no deductions for incorrect or unanswered questions. All grade levels will take the same tiebreaker section. Tiebreakers need only be graded for contestants actually involved in a tie.
What is Chess Puzzle Solving?
The benefits of chess are well documented for players of all ages, and especially for young people. Chess teaches problem solving, hones concentration and encourages analytical and strategic thinking. Chess can be a lifelong pursuit.
Chess puzzle competition is very different from tournament chess play. Contestants in a chess puzzle contest receive a paper-and-pencil test that includes a series of chess boards with pieces in particular positions. Questions are based on analysis of material or possible moves in each given diagram. See links above for sample tests and other resources.
A chess puzzle event provides an avenue for chess participation that does not require the time and resources of actual tournament play. The fixed time limit makes it practical to include in a district meet schedule, and the availability of free resources allows any school (including those that do not currently have chess programs) to include chess puzzle in their slate of A+ events at minimal cost.
Thorough knowledge of the dictionary is a way to increase a student's ability to find the information that is needed for classwork as well as everyday living. Each Dictionary Skills test consists of 40 objective and short answer questions to be completed in 20 minutes. Contestants use dictionaries during the competition, which may be tabbed. Contest questions cover word origins and histories, parts of speech, pronunciation, variant spellings, plurals, alphabetizing and other such elements. Test questions are also taken from charts, tables and lists contained in the dictionary.
The subject matter of all tests is taken from the Merriam Webster's Intermediate Dictionary. Beginning in 2016-2017, only the 2011 and 2016 versions will be used. Contestants may use other dictionaries in the contest, but the contest subject matter will be found in Webster's Intermediate.
The listening contest is designed to help students in grades 5,6,7 and 8 recognize the importance of effective listening skills and to identify problems they may have in listening effectively. It also provides a challenging format to test the improvement of their listening abilities. Through preparation for the contest, participants will listen actively to a variety of material and learn to analyze and evaluate a speaker's message critically. Tests will include, but not necessarily be limited to, language arts, fine arts, natural sciences and social studies. The objective tests will measure skills such as identifying the main idea and supporting ideas, drawing conclusions, distinguishing fact from opinion, and mastering other listening and thinking skills.
Contestants will listen to a script ranging from seven to ten minutes in length, take notes as needed, and use their notes to answer 25 multiple choice, true/false and short answer test questions. A variety of subject matter will be used for the listening tests.
Maps, Graphs & Charts
The maps, graphs & charts contest is designed to help students learn to get information from a variety of maps, graphs and charts including world maps, pie charts, bar charts and local area maps. The objective test will measure skills such as using a reference book to locate information, making comparisons, estimating and approximating, using scale and interpreting grid systems, legends and keys.
Students will be given an objective test containing approximately 75 multiple choice, true/false, and fill-in-the-blank questions which must be answered in 45 minutes.
The official source for Maps, Graphs & Charts is the Nystrom Desk Atlas, 2008 edition. Students may also use any other atlas they choose, but the test questions are written using this source.
The 2008 edition of the atlas was the last time significant revisions were made. There have been additional newer copyright dates since then, but with only minor revisions. For contest purposes, any atlas with a 2008 or newer copyright is the current edition.
The focus of the Music Memory contest is an in-depth study of fine pieces of music literature taken from a wide spectrum of music genres to expose students to great composers, their lives and their music. In the course of preparing for the contest, students should be given the opportunity to describe and analyze the music, relate the music to history, to society and to culture, and to evaluate musical performance.
The selections for the Music Memory Contest are new for 2016-2017. See the link below.
Students will listen to approximately 20 seconds of up to 20 musical selections and identify the name of the major work, selection and the name of the composer.
To receive full credit for an answer, all information about the music selection must be complete as shown on the official list. Spelling and punctuation are considered in the grading of this contest.
Individuals are called upon every day to use their ability to make quick mental calculations to make decisions. The development of such abilities should be an integral part of the math curriculum. Concepts covered include, but are not limited to: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, proportions, and use of mathematic notation.
Students will be given a 10-minute, fill-in-the-blank test which they must complete without doing calculations on paper or on a calculator. Erasures and mark-outs are not permitted.
Reading literature out loud provides opportunities for students to analyze the text, to grow and to develop as a performer, to communicate a message to an audience and to perform an artistic creation. The oral reading competition should be an extension of the classroom literary and language arts activities in poetry, short stories and children's fiction. See the link below for frequently asked questions about oral reading.
Students in grades 4, 5, and 6 read a selection of poetry. Each selection may be one poem, a cutting of a poem, or a combination of poems. The same selection may be read in all rounds, but different selections are permissible. Selections must be published although the poet may be unknown or anonymous.
Texas has put a great emphasis on writing skills at all levels of school and all levels of state-wide testing. Ready Writing, a contest for students in grades 3,4,5,6,7 and 8, builds upon those skills and helps students refine their writing abilities. In particular, this contest helps them to learn to write clearly and correctly a paper that is interesting and original.
A standard dictionary or thesaurus may be used during the contest.
Contestants are given a choice between two prompts which defines the audience and provides the purpose for writing. Students should be encouraged to analyze the prompts for the purpose of writing, the format, the audience and the point of view. The format may be, for example, a letter, an article for the newspaper or an essay for the principal. Various writing strategies may be stated or implied in the prompt. Some of these include:
- description to inform -- describe the happening or person/object from imagination or memory;
- narration -- write a story;
- persuasion -- describe and argue just one side of an issue; describe both sides of an issue then argue only one side; write an editorial; write a letter to persuade, etc.
There is no minimum or maximum number of words the contestants must write.
Sample Writing Prompts
- Careers: Your class is studying careers and the types of jobs that you and your friends may have when you're older. Write a paper about the kind of job you would like to have and why you think it would be interesting.
- Watching TV: Your parents are deciding how much you should be allowed to watch television each week, and which shows you should be allowed to watch. Write a letter to your parents to let them know what you would like them to decide.
- And the best part is...: While students sometimes complain about school or homework, most have a favorite class, activity or teacher. Write a paper describing what you like best about school and why.
- Friends are like stars: Someone has said "Friends are like stars. You can't always see them, but you know they are there." Write a paper explaining why you feel good friends are important.
- Unusual Pets: You just read a story about a little boy who had a pig as a pet. Write a paper about an unusual pet (no cats or dogs) you would like to own and how you would take care of the pet.
- Homework: There is a saying that "practice makes perfect." Doing homework is practicing what you learn in class, but sometimes it takes a lot of time to do. Write a paper about your experiences with homework.
The spelling contest is designed to give students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 exposure to a wide variety of vocabulary words. It is not a contest of memorization. For the most educational value, preparation for this contest should include instruction in the rules of the English language, meanings and definitions, and root words. In addition to learning to spell proficiently, contestants will learn to write clearly and to capitalize words properly.
Students will write down words given by the pronouncer on their paper at a rate of approximately five words per minute.
(A) Grades 3 and 4: 50 words; tiebreaker, 15 words.
(B) Grades 5 and 6: 80 words; tiebreaker, 20 words.
(C) Grades 7 and 8: 110 words; tiebreaker, 30 words.
The tiebreaker is given to all contestants immediately following the initial test.
Tests will be fully compatible with the Merriam Webster's Intermediate Dictionary 2004 and subsequent editions.