The novelty of novels made for a novel competition at Olive Elementary School recently. And novel team names lent themselves to a novel final tally, with the Fire-breathing Rainbow Peacocks taking first place from the claws of second-place Cats and the paws of the third-place Electric Monkeys.
How’s that again?
Principal Alison Gardner, in her second year at Olive, told the tale of peacocks and cats and monkeys and 22 other teams. The Novel Knowledge competition included 25 teams of mostly four students each in third through fifth grade.
Between December and March, the teams were assigned the same eight books to read. During a one week period, teams took quizzes assessing their novel knowledge. Each 16-question quiz included two questions on each book. The first four days, the teams completed written quizzes. For the first three days, the points were tallied and posted and everyone could see the team standings. On the afternoon of the fourth day, the top three teams and their scores were announced. The Fire-breathing Rainbow Peacocks, the Cats, and the Electric Monkeys would move on to the final challenge to see who would earn the top Novel Knowledge prize.
On that Friday, in an assembly attended by all students in second through fifth grades, the three teams stood on stage for the final 16-question oral quiz. Each team was asked the same question, given 30 seconds to confer, and then asked to show their answers. Teacher Vicki Brown posed the questions while Principal Gardner and fifth grade teacher, Annie Distad, judged the answers, often stopping to confer on the offered answers.
In the end, those four fifth grade boys got to strut like peacocks as they bested the third-graders of the Cats and the fourth-grader Electric Monkeys. Although it ended up that each grade was represented among the final three, that was an unplanned occurrence. In fact, some of the teams were comprised of members of different grades.
Besides getting to read some fabulous books, what did the nearly 100 students who took part walk away with? Their novel knowledge, of course, but also lessons in teamwork and collaboration and decision-making. Should they all read all eight books? Should they each read just two? What if a team member was sick and they all hadn’t read all of the books?
Gardner said, “It took on a life of its own.” She emphasized that the reading was all done outside of school, although certainly some reading could happen during daily silent reading time. But team members met and collaborated on their own time.
In addition to teachers Brown and Distad, Gardner points out that other teachers, as well as Library Clerk Anne Trowbridge, took part, helping craft the quizzes, providing encouragement to the kids, and giving out advice.
Gardner was particularly pleased with the level of enthusiasm of all groups – the students, the staff and the parents. “I knew the children would enjoy it,” she said, “but it was amazing how much the parents enjoyed it, too.”
In her communication to parents, Gardner noted, “In addition to reading some quality literature, students learned teamwork, problem solving strategies and responsibility. Thanks to all the parents and teachers who supported the students during this competition.”
Besides the admiration of fellow students, winning team members received vouchers good for this week’s Scholastic Book Fair. Anyone see a novel theme here?