A fun challenge

Students at West Side are getting more out of reading by answering trivia questions for points

Photos by Jenny Kirk West Side teacher Tammy Dulas recently facilitated a Book Battle between two teams.

MARSHALL — A new library project called Book Battles has West Side Elementary students reading, answering trivia type questions and practicing their teamwork skills.

Last week, 14 Book Battles took place between 28 different teams. Several more book battles will be taking place this week and throughout the month as winning teams continue to advance through the single-elimination bracket at both the third-grade and fourth-grade levels.

“This is our first year doing the Book Battles here,” West Side Principal Jeremy Williams said. “The students pick teams within their class and they have a book list. So between the team, they have to read all the books on the list. Then they compete against another team in the same class.”

For the most part, Book Battles are taking place over the lunch hour, Williams said.

“They come in and they answer questions related to the books they’ve read,” he said. “Whoever gets the most points moves on to the next round. It’s pretty cool.”

Media specialist Kaia Johnson brought the idea to West Side, having seen it take place at her previous position in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“We did the Book Battle there, so I thought we should try it here,” she said. “We wrote a Pride in the Tiger grant and we received it from them. So they donated money for us to buy lots of different copies of the books and also to buy audio books for kids who might not be at that reading level or are just more of an audio learner.”

Each team consists of four students, or fewer than four if someone on the team happens to be sick or moves out of the district.

“The kids got to form their own teams of four at the same grade level,” Johnson said. “They had 12 books to read total, so that came out to an average of three books per student. I know there are some students who read the whole book list themselves, but they could divide it up however they wanted as long as each book was read by at least one person.”

This past Thursday, the team of Musin Ahmed, Elijah Conway and Mohamed Mohamud had a Book Battle against the team of Cannon Craigmile, Richard Hill-Berry, Jackson Sirovy and Ethan Seehusen. Technology teacher Tammy Dulas facilitated the competition.

“You’re going to get 30 seconds to discuss, so don’t just shout out the answer,” Dulas said. “You have to discuss as a group, come up with an answer that you agree on and then the captain has to say the title. It’s five points if you get it right. Then there are three bonus points if you know the author, so a possible total of eight points.”

Dulas then announced that if a team incorrectly identified the book, the other team would have 10 seconds to discuss and potentially steal the points.

“You have a chance to get the title and the author to steal the points,” she said. “But if the team gets the title right and not the author, the other team can’t just steal the author because that’s just a bonus.”

Dulas added a few quick reminders about demonstrating good sportsmanship.

“So we’re respectful and we don’t taunt anybody,” Dulas said.

The two third-grade teams took turns listening to the question, huddling together to see if they could come up with the answer and then sharing their answer aloud. In some rounds, they were successful. In others, they couldn’t quite come up with the correct answer.

In one round, Dulas asked a team to identify which book had a dog named Search Light. In another round, a team was challenged to figure out which book included a dog named Watch.

If the book was part of a series, such as “The Box Car Children” or “Magic Treehouse,” the students had to correctly identify which one in order to collect the points.

Another time, Dulas asked a team to name the book in which its main character almost got sucked up into a vacuum. Later, the opponents were asked to identify the book in which Otis played a guitar in a pet shop. The following round, the first team was asked which book had a mother and father who were U.S. Air Force pilots. The second team was challenged to identify the book in which the parents worked as sharecroppers in Georgia.

“The kids started reading the books before Thanksgiving,” Johnson said. “They had the whole winter break to read. They have really been enjoying reading the book and (now), a little bit of friendly competition.”

Johnson added that each team has been starting to battle about once a week. Eventually, the competition will be held in front of a larger audience.

“We’re just starting our second round,” Johnson said. “(Later), we’ll have a whole big assembly and the Cat in the Hat will be there. That will be on February 27, which is the Wednesday during Dr. Seuss’ birthday week.”

While educators know that reading is always good for academic success, the Book Battle experience also introduces students to knowledge bowl type scenarios and encourages teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership skills. It’s also a lot of fun.

“It’s been an enjoyable experience,” Johnson said. “It’s been especially fun hearing some of the parents talk about their kids reading the books and talking about them at home.”