Nicole Jacobsen
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In March, Middle School students at the Episcopal School of Dallas accepted a new challenge from their teachers that combined writing, reading comprehension, and artistic ability. The annual “Battle of the Books” competition would still encourage students to read, write, and think more imaginatively, but a new “triathlon” format would give them the freedom to combine a variety of skill sets for the chance to win a gold, silver, or bronze medal.

ESD English teachers, Meg Fahrenbrook ’01 and Steve Gende, teamed up with Middle School librarian, Leslie Beatty, to offer writing and book review challenges, a comprehensive question section, and a book review trailer contest to showcase student’s artistic abilities. Medals were awarded to the highest-scoring students in each grade level.

“This new format allowed students to make connections between the books we had read as a class and then to their own lives,” Fahrenbrook said. “The culminating project was a way for students to reflect on what they had learned from each of the books and think about why each of the books was chosen.”

Writing Challenge – During the month of March, students wrote books reviews and published them online via KidBlog. Classmates could then access the reviews and rate their fellow classmates on content and completion. Students earned points for submitting reviews, as well as reviewing other student’s work.

Reading and Comprehension Challenge – In early April, students separated into teams and answered a series of questions from the book, Boys Without Names, by Kashmira Sheth. The book tells the story of a young boy from a rural Indian village who shares stories with his peers in an effort to unite his village and put an end to bullying. Points were awarded to each group for each question they answered correctly.

Book Trailer – To wrap-up the challenge, students worked together using iMovie to create a trailer of their favorite book. Students were awarded points based on creativity and accuracy. Some groups, rather than produce a movie, made creative art projects that represented different themes in the books they were assigned to read.