Continuing Our Battle of the Books with Even More Student Voices

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Each year we have a program called Battle of the Books in 3rd-5th grade.  This is a reading competition where teams of 5 students read a list of 10 books.  They work together to answer questions about the books in several rounds of competition in order to be crowned the Battle of the Books Champion.  Each year there are students who don’t participate in battle of the books for many reasons.  Sometimes they are unsure if they want to do it and by the time they decide it’s too late.  Sometimes they have too many other things going on that they can’t fit it in.  Whatever the reason, there are students who are left out. This year, one of our teachers, Ms. Mills, recognized that in 3rd grade and wanted to give these students a 2nd chance to participate.

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Since we are near the end of the year, reading the long chapter books that are on the regular list weren’t reasonable to consider, so she pulled several books that students could realistically finish, understand, and compete with.  Students read these books in small groups as well as during state testing when they finished their test.

Deciding to choose new books  meant that there weren’t questions written for these books, so she knew she would have to come up with every question asked.  I love what she decided to do.  She took the books to a 5th grade class and asked them if they would read the books and come up with questions to ask the 3rd graders.  The 5th grade students worked with their teacher to craft questions and they put their names on each question written.  During the competition, Ms. Mills or Ms. Garrett would say who a question was written by.

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We decided to broadcast the competition through Google Hangouts on Air so that all 3rd grade classes could watch and support their friends.  I setup the hangout and emailed the link to all of the teachers, and of course, we now have an archive of our competition for anyone else who wants to watch.  Students helped pull the questions from a basket of questions and the teachers asked them. Each team received 8 questions and the teachers kept track of which team got the most questions correct.  It was a tight competition because the students knew the books so well.

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I take no credit for any of this competition, but I just had to highlight what these teachers and students did.  Bravo to Ms. Mills and Ms. Garrett for giving even more of our students a voice in this fun competition during the busy end-of-the-year rush.  They all did an awesome job, represented our school well, and showed that they knew their books well!

2015 Barrow 5th Grade Battle of the Books

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Twenty two 5th graders have been busy since December reading a list of 10 books chosen to be a part of the 2015 Battle of the Books.  Students formed teams of 4-5 students.  Each student read at least 5 books and agreed to be an “expert” on at least 2 books.  Here are this year’s titles:

  • Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn
  • Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret
  • Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia
  • The Giant Slayer by Ian Lawrence
  • Shooting Kabul by N H Senzai
  • Wonder by R J Palacio
  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Students spent 2 days per week practicing during their lunch for about 30 minutes.  In Battle of the Books, a detail from one of the books is given in the form of a question.  For example, “In which book does a principal wink when a big surprise is coming up?”  On their team, students have 30 seconds to huddle and discuss.  The team captain gives the answer of the book title and author.  For example “Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea”.  If they get the question right, they get 5 points.  If they miss it, the next team has a chance to steal the question for 3 points.

Today, our 5th graders participated in 2 rounds of competition.  Their scores from each round were totaled and the two top teams competed in a final battle with 20 questions in the library.  The Reading Mustache Panthers and LJSG were our top 2 teams.

BOTB 2015 (8) BOTB 2015 (11)

As usual, the competition was fierce, but in the end the Reading Mustache Panters are the 2015 winners.

Each year, I think about how Battle of the Books fits within our library program.  It takes a lot of time, but each year I see students get involved in this competition that don’t get involved in other things the rest of the year.  I also see students who discover new favorite books and authors because they have to read from a list.  Even though some of the pieces of Battle of the Books don’t mesh with my own personal preferences, they do speak to what some students like.  For that reason, I think Battle of the Books is one piece of our library program that should stay.  I wouldn’t want our whole program to be based on reading lists and competition, but I’m so glad that a small part is.

Our winning team: Reading Mustache Panthers

Our winning team: Reading Mustache Panthers

Our runner-up: LJSG

Our runner-up: LJSG

Congratulations to this year’s winners.  Now, they will go on to the district competition and compete against the other 13 elementary schools in the district to defend our district title.