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Reading Competition: Virtually and online

PHOTO PROVIDED A Zoom meeting including Caroline Owens, Mrs. O, Sofia Dressler, Calie Cardinal, Audra Eaton, Rhys Swift, Ashleigha Grossi and Glenn Hough.

In the duration of the coronavirus, many things have been canceled. Parades, celebrations, school. And speaking of school, there are other things within schools that have been canceled, such as field trips, picnics, and other end-of-the year activities.

The Reading Competition is one of them.

A Reading Competition is not exactly what it sounds. Throughout a set amount of time, usually a few months, groups of students from different schools read books from a list, and remember what they read. Generally the teams meet during the school day and see what books are left and practice. Practice is in the form of a teacher, or the coach, reading questions about the book, and the team has about 15-20 seconds to come up with an answer among themselves, and then tell that answer to the teacher.

During this reading competition season, though, things are a little different. The Central Mountain Middle School reading competition team, “Books from Heaven,” started in early 2020, before everything was canceled. The team went about its practices and meetings as usual, until school was canceled, therefore meaning that we could not meet physically. Mrs. Onuskanich, the 6th grade enrichment teacher and reading competition coach, started holding online meetings, via Zoom. The first one was held before the competition was canceled, and more have been held now that the competition has been canceled.

When the competition was canceled, IU8 (the organization that holds the reading competition) gave the coaches the option of making Flipgrids (a online platform that the owner can post questions on and students who have the code can make videos to reply to the question) for the students in place of the reading competition. Our teams, when given the option of Flipgrids or meeting with Mrs. O and the other team members and doing a “competition” between the two teams, choose to meet with Mrs. O and the other team members.

Zoom meetings were held each week, with students from both the seventh and eighth grade team (So Read It) and the sixth grade team (Books from Heaven). During the meetings, the teams and Mrs. O discussed the books and answered questions about them. Currently, the team members have been creating Kahoots (trivia games) about different books from the list, and presenting them to those who attended the meeting. The Kahoots have been presented through Zoom by way of sharing the screen so that the other students can see the question and answer choices, while the participants in the Kahoot answer the questions from their devices. Mrs. O said that “it has been a very rewarding experience for me, as a teacher, to see my kids taking ownership to these leadership roles,” which are making and presenting the Kahoots.

Since the end of the 2019-2020 school year is fast-approaching, Mrs. O is planning on holding a virtual reading competition. She explained that the students who participate in the online competition will be put on two different teams, and a captain will be chosen for each team. The captains are “to have advanced knowledge of the books on the list and must possess leadership skills as well as public speaking skills.” Questions about the books will be read to everyone, and then the two teams will be placed into Breakout Rooms. Breakout rooms are virtual rooms that the host of a Zoom meeting can put you in, and only those in the “room” can see and hear you. The rooms are so that both teams can discuss the answer to the question and the other team can’t hear them. The teams will go back and forth on whose question it is, and if the answer is correct, that team gets a point. In each round, there will be 15 questions. “After two rounds, the team with the most points will be the Grand Champion of the competition.”

Calienna Cardinal, a member of the Books from Heaven, said that she “really liked Reading Competition because it is a way to show how hard we worked,” what with reading the books and remembering what was read.

Brock Lavallee said that his favorite thing about the Reading Competition is that “you get to read and meet kids that enjoy the same genres and books as you and that you can find new books to read.” But he said, “the best part of all is having a great coach like Mrs. O.”

Audra Eaton, also from the Books from Heaven, said, “many kids enjoy Reading team.” I would be inclined to agree with her, based on how many students were at the Reading Competition in the fall, and even how many teams were from our own school.

At the beginning of the competition, Mrs. O put the participants into two teams, and the teams chose a name for themselves. The new names were Secrets of the Book Summer, and Books from Heaven. The teams went back and forth, answering questions, most of them being answered correctly. After both rounds were finished, the teams were tied. Mrs. O gave the teams a tie-breaker question, from “A Swiftly Tilting Planet” by Madeleine L’Engle. Secrets from the Book Summer answered the question correctly, therefore meaning that Secrets from the Book Summer was named Grand Champion, with Books from Heaven in first place. All participants will receive prizes from their coach through the mail.

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