For the past three months my fourth grader has been engrossed in Battle of the Books. This annual events kicks off the beginning of March with a book party and students receiving a special package of story maps, books, and a book list. The 100 fourth graders are sent off on a mission to read as many books as possible for the battle that occurs the end of May. Each class battles against the other to obtain the title of “Book Champion” by answering questions identifying the books and authors for the 80 titles in a spelling bee – like event that parents are invited to attend with a celebration at the end.
The day of the battle, the entire fourth grade had read more than 1,400 books in that time frame and my daughter’s class of 17 students was the top class to read 509 books. For three months she was determined to read 40 books. Every night we would read an hour before bed and talk through the characters and stories. She was on a mission and the night before the final count, at 37 books she came home from school to powerhouse through three books to meet her personal reading goal. The books ranged from picture books to chapter books. I suggested reading the easiest books first (those with the fewest pages) before getting to Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was intense the last week of the battle.
Amazed by the excitement in the air among the fourth graders the day of the battle, I thought how can I do this in my own classroom and make the Battle of the Books relevant in middle school. Already gamifying my classroom, why not add another layer with a school year long battle of the texts.
My list contains 100 titles – some still to be determined. The books are in order of the reading and writing units we have throughout the year. You will notice that I have included poems, books, essays, TED Talks, and even podcasts. Why not include a variety of texts for students to read and engage with. My students will have a notebook specifically for their reading notes and sketch notes. The directions for the notebook are below. I am using the directions from English teacher and podcaster, Brian Sztabnik Summer Reading Assignment for his students.
For every book you read you will keep two (or more) pages of notes/sketchnoting to organize your thinking about the text. “How you organize those three pages is up to you. I know that this is vague and undefined, but look at it another way. I am empowering you to do what you feel is right. You have the freedom to do what you want. You can create whatever you want. All I’m asking you to do is create three interesting pages of notes about your reading experience. When there are little to no rules, the possibilities are endless. It is up to you to make it awesome!”
I am planning the last Friday of each quarter to hold a battle – of sorts. In Classcraft teams students will be asked questions related to the books. The team with the most questions answered correctly will earn treasure to use in class. The 4th Quarter the entire 8th grade class will battle all their classmates. The winning team of the epic battle will earn an even bigger advantage on your final exam.
For every 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 books read and notes completed, students gain XP and various prizes to be utilized in class for their benefit. The student that reads all 100 books . . . well you will have to wait to collect your fortune! — As for my daughter’s class, there was one student who read all 80 books and won a $100 Amazon gift card.
The energy and excitement during the battle among the fourth graders was contagious. I was amazed how many books the students read and their collaboration to work together during the battle supporting one another. This is something that I want to recreate with my students in the upcoming school year.