Skip to main content

Murray Journal

It’s only the first battle, but students want more

May 24, 2018 01:01PM ● By Julie Slama

Team G.O.A.T. and Book Worms pose after the final round with emcee, Murray School District Assistant Superintendent Scott Bushnell. (Katrina Shewell/Grant Elementary)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has lived for years in a circus-themed mall, met Ruby, a baby elephant who was added to the mall, Ivan made a decision, which may have captivated eight teams of Grant Elementary fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students who were reading “The One and Only Ivan” as part of the school’s first America’s Battle of the Books competition.

Students on each team were expected to read about five or six books — and some read more — so each team had read 30 books on the list before the contest. Some books were classics such as “Because of Winn-Dixie” and “On the Banks of Plum Creek” while others were more modern-day favorites such as “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” and “Wonder.” 

Questions about the books were posed to students so if they answered correctly with the title, they would receive 10 points and they could earn five additional points if they could name the author of the book correctly. For example, if students could correctly name the title “Harry’s Mad” and author of the book, “Dick King-Smith,” to the question, “In what book was a house burglarized of its china, silver and family pet,” the team could receive 15 points.

“We had a parent hear about it and approached us if we could do it here at Grant,” librarian Katrina Shewell said. “Kids have read books in genres they normally wouldn’t have and they’re comprehending and furthering their reading skills through Battle of the Books.” 

Each student could select a friend to be on the same team. Then, pairs were assigned other students on their team to try to represent all three grade levels. The teams typically got together at least once each month to review or switch books, she said. 

“We had some copies of books in our library. Some went to Murray Library or found them online, but many students shared books or said where they found them with one another,” Shewell said. 

Teams named themselves, with names such as S’more Books, Fireflies and Wild Grizzlies, and created posters for the competition.

“We had three types of competitions — a super challenge, where the first one who stood and answered the question correctly got the points for his or her team; a battle of one team versus another such as in Family Feud; and a relay style where the team who first ran to the judge to be asked a question and if they didn’t know the answer, they would have to run back to the team to get the answer and back to the judge. It helped to see them run off their nerves since they had so much energy,” she said. 

In the final round, Murray School District Assistant Superintendent Scott Bushnell served as the emcee between team G.O.A.T. (Jordan Fitts, Carson Milne, Easton Murray, Mallori Anderson, Mia Dickerson and Brooke Jorgensen) and Book Worms (Abigail Borsos, Sydney Nielsen, Preslee Stock, Ema Zullo, Ava Dennis and Alyssa Thayer) in a school-wide assembly, which had younger students cheering on both teams.

“It was tied up to the last question in the final round so that last question could have gone either way for the win,” Shewell said. “It was a nail-breaking round.” 

Amongst the prizes student participants received were books, teddy bears, candy bars and pizza coupons while the first-place team, G.O.A.T., received $30 Target gift cards and second-place, $15. 

Already, students are asking for the names of the books to read for next year’s competition. Shewell said they may move the competition earlier in the year so it would be completed before SAGE year-end testing and they may also introduce incentives as they read their books.

“The students just loved it so we’re hoping it will become a district-wide competition,” she said.