Battle of the Books

I’ve been hosting a Battle of the Books competition with my middle school students for the past five years. The first two years at Central Middle (where their amazing current librarian continues the tradition) and for the past three years at Episcopal. This year, the competition finally expanded and we hosted three school-level competitions at area schools, with the winner from each moving on to a regional competition.

School-Level Competition

In October, I announced this year’s competition and invited students to form their teams. I require students to submit their team roster (with ten team members) and the name of their teacher sponsor to me via email. This year, I had six teams participate. Also this year, two other area librarians were hosting at their schools and collaborated with me every step of the way. For our book list, we pull heavily from our Louisiana Young Reader’s Choice Award List to select the ten titles that will be used in our battle. We try to round out the list with a variety in genre, character, and themes. This year, we used the following ten titles:

After the teams were formed, I ordered a set of these ten books for each team and distributed them so they could begin reading. The teams then have approximately 8-10 weeks to read as much as they can. I don’t micromanage or require students to read so many books to participate. I let the teams take responsibility, divide up the reading as they see fit, and dig into the books.

In December, we held our school-level competition. The competition consists of five rounds: three rounds of multiple choice questions using Kahoot, a written response round, and some type of puzzle/challenge round (that varies from year to year).

Each of the three Kahoot rounds has a total of 20 questions — two from each book. Each team has one iPad that they use to answer the questions, earning points based on speed and accuracy. Kahoot is easy to use and makes the scoring process much easier, too. I space the Kahoot rounds out, so we start with a Kahoot, do the written response round, another Kahoot, complete the puzzle/challenge round, and then the top three teams compete in the final Kahoot round in front of the entire middle school.

The written response round requires students to work together to formulate several responses to open-ended questions. For example, one of the written response prompts we used this year was: “In Restart, Chase‚Äôs memory loss gives him an opportunity for a fresh and new perspective. What character from any of the other books would have most benefited from a fresh start? Explain why you chose this character and what that opportunity would look like for them.” Each team responds to three prompts, and the responses are ranked against each other with points awarded accordingly.

The puzzle round has been different every year. We’ve done BreakoutEDU Games and puzzles of different kinds. This year, students had to match book titles, author, character, a quote, and an image relating to the book:

Having the final round in front of the entire middle school is a blast — it gets the teams hyped up and it helps students who did not participate learn more about Battle of the Books so they may want to join a team next year.

Our winning team was a team of 8th grade students, many of them have been together as a team since they were 6th graders, which made it extra special! That team went on to participate in the first ever regional competition.

Red Stick READgional Competition

My dream of having a regional Battle of the Books competition finally became a reality this year! Sara Gomez, librarian at Central Middle, and Laura Foy, librarian at Denham Springs Junior High, also held their school-level competitions and we all brought our winning teams to compete.

We were able to host the READgional at our beautiful Main Public Library. The Teen librarians there let us take over their gaming room for the day and they were incredible hosts. Before kicking off the competition, we wanted our students to get to know each other a little. We found a great ice breaker game from Cult of Pedagogy called ‘Lines and Blobs.’ First, students had to line themselves up alphabetically by first name (meaning they had to tell each other their names). Next, they got into blobs (groups) by how many of the books they read for the battle (get to know your competition). Then, they lined up by their birthdays (January 1-December 31). They had to get into blobs again by the number of siblings they have. Finally, they found a partner (from a different school, of course) that had the same favorite book genre and made each other’s nametags.

For this READgional competition, we had three rounds: two Kahoots and a game. The Kahoots were set up just like the school-level Kahoot rounds, but with new questions. For the game, we did the Saran Wrap Game. In the Saran Wrap, we put tickets worth 100 points. Students were lined up alternating by school (Episcopal, Central, Denham, etc.) and were asked trivia questions (we used the questions from the school-level Kahoots, but didn’t make them multiple choice). While a student answered questions, another student behind them in line worked to unwrap the ball (while wearing oven mits) until the student answering questions got one correct — then the ball and mits were passed on. Because there was definitely a level of luck to this game, we used the points from the ball to rank the teams in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, then assigned points accordingly that were more in line with the Kahoot rounds and didn’t have extreme point gaps. Laura Foy, the librarian from Denham Springs Junior High, made this great video where you can see our day in action.

The competition was very close overall. The Episcopal team did me proud, though, and pulled off the win!

Our teams spent the rest of the afternoon together enjoying pizza for lunch, a behind the scenes tour of the library, time together exploring the Teen section of the library, and playing games. We had the students video reflections for Battle of the Books, and here’s what one of my students had to say:

Over the years, I’ve had lots of questions about how we run our Battle of the Books competition, so hopefully this will answer many of them. This is honestly one of my favorite events every year — it’s a great way to celebrate our readers and get more students hyped up about books!

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