Let me begin by saying that English Olympics occur all over Mongolia, not just in Arkhangai. The Olympics themselves are a country-wide test that covers everything from Listening, to Grammar, to Essay writing (it's like a shorter version of the SAT in a foreign language). The volunteers of the aimag proctor the event and score the tests, but really have little part in the days creation.
That being said, the volunteers in Arkhangai have added an additional day to the contest to spice things up - an event we call Pyramid. Both of these took place about 3 weeks ago. All of the Arkhangai volunteers were able to come help out: Ashlee (from Battsengel soum), Katie (from Hashaat soum), and of course Sarah, Zaneta, Kara and myself from here in Tsetserleg.
No one really has a grasp on the origin of this name. Each school in Arkhangai can send a team of 4 students (1 of each - 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th graders) to compete. This year we had five separate teams. They get to pick team names such as The Humans, Black & White, oh and my favorite was Funny Bunny.
In order to prepare for this event, the students were all given 3 separate sets of English text about a month before the competition. They were to study the 2 page write-ups (one was on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., another was on the Pyramids in Egypt, and the third was a historical fiction on the holocaust). They were also told that some of the questions they would be asked would come from information outside of the text - thus forcing them to study the topics in great depth.
The first part of the Pyramid competition is basically a form of Jeopardy. There are 8 topics each with a 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 point scoring choice. Half of the topics were specific to a member of each grade, and the other half of the questions were asked to the entire team. They were given 30 seconds to write their answers down on a piece of paper, and then our wonderful judges (Ashlee and Sarah) went around giving thumbs-up or thumbs-down for each team. When it came time for a specific student from each grade to answer a question, they were asked to come to the front and write their answers down separate from the team.
The second part of the competition is called "A-Ha!". The students line up in a row, each wearing 3 stars on their shirts. They come forward and get asked a question - if they are correct they go to the back of the line, if they are incorrect they get a star taken from them and then go to the back of the line. When they are out of stars, they sit down. The last remaining person wins.
The third and final portion of the Pyramid contest involves the game of Taboo. Each school's team picks a team leader and that person is given a list of 20 English words that they must try to describe (only using English) without using the actual word on the list. They have 1 minute to get through as many as they can. Teams were getting anywhere from 5 to 15 of them right. It was a lot of fun to watch them concentrating so hard. We even ended up with a tie-break round at the end.
The competition was intense at times and you could definitely see that some of the students were frustrated with themselves for not getting an answer right. Though all of the students did a great job, it was fairly obvious to see that School #1 here in Tsetserleg (where Sarah teaches!) was running away with the competition.
Though these guys won the 2010 Pyramid competition, 3 of the 5 teams received medals and certificates. Everyone did great!
Yeah for the 2010 Pyramid Competition!