Battle of the Books - Frequently Asked Questions
presented by Howard County Library System and the Howard County Public School System
What is Battle of the Books?
Battle of the Books is an exciting academic competition for Howard County fifth grade students. Students form teams and read 16 books selected by Howard County Library System (HCLS) staff and Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) media specialists. The books cover a range of reading levels for all levels of readers. Students test their knowledge in a fun competition that challenges them to pay attention to the details.
What is the benefit of participating in Battle of the Books?
Students gain knowledge and enjoyment from reading books and discussing them with others. In addition, they enjoy a fun experience of playing the actual Battle which emphasizes teamwork, good sportsmanship, and respect.
When is it?
Battle of the Books will be held from 7 pm to approximately 10:30 pm on Friday, April 4, 2014. Battle locations will be announced mid-November.
How do I register?
Each team will designate an adult to register the team. Each team may register only once. Registration is now closed. The coach will be notified by November 12 via e-mail confirming their team's participation.
Who can participate?
Each team consists of five Howard County fifth graders who attend the same school and an adult coach (at least 18 years old).
Students should name their teams and are encouraged to dress in team shirts or other spirit wear at the competition.
If coaches wish to change their team's name and/or team members, they must do so by February 7, 2014 via e-mail to email@example.com.
When do we find out which books to read?
The book list will be distributed at the October 8 informational meeting.
Where can I obtain the Battle books?
Each team will receive a set of books, courtesy of the Battle sponsors, which must be picked up at one of the mandatory coaches meetings on November 19 and 21 at the Miller Branch. A limited number of copies of the books are available to borrow at HCLS branches. Battle books are subject to the same circulation period (three weeks) and fines ($.20/day) as other library materials. If possible, books will be available in audio format, although some Battle questions will address visual details in the books, such as illustrations and photographs. Because cover art may differ between hardcover and paperback editions, no questions will be asked about book covers.
Who can be a coach?
A coach may be any adult over 18 years of age, such as a parent, volunteer, older sibling, scout leader, or teacher. Please note: A coach can serve as coach for only ONE team.
The coach or designated adult for the team must attend one of the mandatory coaches meetings offered on either Tuesday, November 19 or Thursday, November 21 at 7 pm at HCLS’ Miller Branch, even if s/he has served as a coach in previous years. In addition, the coach or designated adult must also attend one of the Battle logistics meeting in the spring, either Tuesday, February 25 or Thursday, February 27 at 7 pm at HCLS' Miller Branch. See Coaches Reponsibilities page.
How is the Battle played?
Each team is responsible for reading the preselected list of books. Teams decide how to share this responsibility among team members and when to hold team meetings.
All teams will compete against one another on the floor of a school gymnasium. Each team will be located in a grid on the gym floor. Each team has 30 seconds to talk quietly among themselves, then a designated team “scribe” will write the team's answer on a sheet of paper. When 30 seconds are up, time is called, and all pencils must be put down. All answers are strictly from memory. No notes or books may be used. After answer sheets are collected and turned in to the scorekeeper's table, the moderator will announce the answer.
Will there be prizes?
Each member of the three top-scoring teams at each location will receive a gift card from a local bookstore, a medal, and a personalized team READ poster. The three top-scoring teams will receive a trophy for their school. In addition, prizes will be awarded to teams for Best Costume, Best Team Name, Best Team Spirit, and Best Civility (sportsmanship). Everyone who participates will receive a Certificate of Participation.
Does spelling count on the author's name?
First, about the spelling of the author's name. We treat that the same as for the title. You want to spell the author's name correctly, but if there is a minor spelling error, the answer would still be counted as correct. Just as with the titles, the scorekeepers need to know the intent of the answer.
Is it okay to have a poster propped on an easel during the Battle of the Books with our team name and a design (without using the names and authors of the books we are reading!)?
As far as the poster and easel, I don't think that would be a good idea, mainly because the space is limited in your team's square. If you want the poster to serve as your banner as you do the procession, that is fine, but you would need to find a way to keep it out of your way during the competition.
No. Teams sit on floor mats provided by HCLS.
I have a 7th grader who is my assistant coach for our BoB team. He would like to attend BoB and I was wondering how he can be part of the event?
He may participate in the processional and then go sit in the audience, but that would be the extent of his possible participation. The rules clearly state that the coach may be any adult over 18 years of age. Coaches do not sit with their teams during the battle. They sit with another team to monitor and encourage that team during the battle. There must be an adult coach present at the battle to sit on the gym floor. Without an adult coach on the floor, the team will be disqualified.
Can elementary school principals arrive with their school ID and attend?Tickets were distributed to administrators at each of the schools participating by our counterparts at HCPSS. They should have received them.
Just to confirm, the kids will NOT be asked names of chapters titles in the books, correct?
Actually, that is INCORRECT. There in fact, may be a question that says, "In which book is there a chapter called...." We have had a question like that in the past as well as questions about pictures that show up at the beginning of chapters. Actually, that is INCORRECT. There in fact, may be a question that says, "In which book is there a chapter called...." We have had a question like that in the past as well as questions about pictures that show up at the beginning of chapters.
Is is OK for Coach's to wear shorts the night of the Battle?
Absolutely! The gyms are not air-conditioned.
Do kids/siblings need tickets to attend BoB tonight? If so, where could we obtain additional tickets?
Children not participating in the Battle require a ticket and must be accompanied at all times by an adult. Children are not permitted to roam the school building unattended.
How do you handle pronunciation of words from other countries? Will the moderator read those words slowly?
The moderator reads all questions at a reasonable pace (not talking fast) so the students can hear the question. Part of knowing the book will require knowing the words in the book.
Do the BoB questions reference story elements such as setting, theme, or genre. For instance, might you ask, "In what novel was there a theme about the importance of saving the rainforest?"
Yes, there could be questions about setting, theme or genre.
It was said that there would be no questions regarding the front and back cover of the book or the inside of the front and back cover of the book. I understand that a prologue or epilogue would be fair game, but what about copyright information, dedications, information about the author, acknowledgements, etc?
Questions about copyright information, dedications, information about the author, acknowledgements, reviews, etc. are not asked.
For the procession into the gym, will team members be allowed to wear masks?
Be sure they can see clearly through the masks, so they are not tripping or running into things. Masks should be removed during the competition.
What is the maximum size for team banners?
The maximum banner size is 22" x 28".
What can be included on the team banners?
Team names should be included on team banners, but titles of books, pictures of covers, author names, and character names are not.
If an author or title name is missing an apostrophe, will points be deducted or considered incorrect answer?
We just lost one of our participants. Can we have a team of just four students?
Yes, you can still participate with just 4 team members. That is one of the reasons we now require everyone to start with 5 players. (On the day of the battle, teams need a minimum of 3 players in order to participate.)
I didn't see this spelled out anywhere - do the answers have to be author's last name first, i.e., Buckley, Michael or can it be Michael Buckley?
There is no specified format for the name of the author. Either way is fine.
I understand they were told that short quotes (e.g. 4-7 words in length) are not asked but that longer quotes would be asked. I understand they were also told that short passages (e.g. 4-7 words in length) are not asked but that longer passages would be asked. Could you clarify?
It could be one sentence or it could be three. Bottom line, there could be a quote or passage taken from the book.
Are the pictures from the books projected onto a large screen?
No. The pictures may be described, but not shown.
One of the students has a significant vision related problem. Can any accommodations be made in such a situation? If the student isn't able to write the answer within 30 seconds, is it best to have other teammates write instead?
If accommodations are needed, we will make them. However, there is nothing to actually see during the competition. All questions are spoken...there is nothing to see on a screen or otherwise. If this student (or anyone on the team) has trouble writing the answer within the allotted 30 seconds, I would recommend having someone else write the answers. There is no rule about who is writing answers. It can be the same person for the entire game or it can rotate. Not all students are required to be the writer.
One of the students asked what happens if they need to use the bathroom at times other than the break?
We encourage the students to use the bathroom before the competition and during the break. They may also want to keep in mind that drinking a lot of water will cause them to have to go to the bathroom more often. We would allow them to go to the bathroom. The coach would need to signal a volunteer/staff person so the student could be accompanied to the bathroom. They would have to wait until the moderator is between questions and would not be able to return to the team until between questions.
Students were told each piece of paper has to be labeled with team's name at the top - is that correct? Do they label all their pieces of paper before the questions are asked OR is this done during the 30 second timeframe allotted for each question?
Each team will be given papers that are already labeled with their team name and question number.
How many questions will be asked per round?
There will be 12 or 13 questions per round. The last question per round is a bonus question and will be announced as such. The questions are numbered continuously, meaning in round 2, you do not start at question 1 again.
When does the 30 second clock start?
The 30 seconds will start after the question is read for a second time. The moderator will say something like "Time starts now".
Is there a penalty for encroaching into some else's grid? For example, if someone were to jump up (after a question say), or somehow move into their neighbor's grid, would you be disqualified? This would be a momentary encroachment, not sustained? How are we keeping others' in/out of the grids?
There is no penalty for encroaching in someone else's grid. No one should be jumping up (at any time), so that should not be a problem. As the coach sitting with a team, you are responsible for making sure the team stays within their space.
Can the team wear a watch? This would be especially useful in the case there isn't a count clock available to see.
Yes, team members can wear watches. They may NOT use a cell phone or iPod to tell time. It must be an actual watch.
Just to be certain, the team is not penalized for a wrong answer, i.e. you don't get points taken away from you if you answer the question wrong?
If an answer is wrong, nothing happens. No points are taken away. A team can only earn points if answers are correct.
Can you jump up (or stand for a short time) during a round?
Can you mark out answers? For example, if you want to change your answer before the time is up, can you mark out (with a slash) the wrong answer? Is there an official way for the answer to be marked out if you don't want that answer to be evaluated?
Yes. You can cross out the answer and rewrite a new one. You can erase, or cross out the old answer. If you want to circle the final answer, that is fine. There is no official way for the old answer to be marked out.
When you bring food to the cafeteria, where should it be left? Will there be tables set up in the cafeterias so that you can leave a bag with a name label on it?
Each school is set up differently, so it will depend on your assigned school. Keep in mind that in some schools the cafeteria is not right next the gym. The intermission is only about 15 minutes and going to the bathroom should be a priority. There may not be a lot of time for a lot of snacking. Make sure the students eat before the event. If they must have one (or it is medically necessary), you will need to leave the snacks in the cafeteria. The school system has a very firm policy about no food or drinks (including water) in the gyms. There should be tables in the cafeteria set up, but you leave your stuff at your own risk. There will not be anyone watching items in the cafeteria.
Will there be any questions on any epilogue or prologue or introduction? Or names of chapters?
Yes, the epilogue, prologue, introduction and chapter names are all fair game for questions. The only exception would be an introduction that is unique to a particular edition of a book. If the introduction is part of the story, then it is fair game.
If the team writes the correct title but is only able to write only partial author correctly (either the first or last name) before time runs out, will this be awarded a point or no points?
If there is only a partial author name listed, no points are awarded. In order to get points, both the title and the author's (full) name must be correct. If they are running out of time, leave the author's name blank, because then they'd get 1 point. (But ONLY if the author's name is blank. Again, if it is partially written in, no points are awarded.)
Can the team start writing the answer to a question while the question is still being read?
Yes, the team can start writing while the question is being read. However, keep in mind that it is very important to hear the entire question in order to get the correct answer. They should not be talking while the moderator is reading the question. It is distracting to other teams and could cause others to not hear the entire question.
Does the assistant coach need to attend the logistics meeting? What role does the assistant coach play at the battle? Do they walk in with the team?
No, just as long as one of the coaches attends the logistics meeting. The assistant coach can proceed in with the team in the processional, but then they would need to move to the stands. The assistant coach would be a stand-in in case the coach gets sick or is unable to perform their mentoring duties the night of the battle.
Can the assistant coach take part of the costume from the kids after the procession? We are debating on a hat with decorations which might be kind of big.
That should be fine. However, it would be better not have large, bulky pieces of the costumes. There may not be a lot of space for the assistant coach to hold it in the stands, either.
Can the team have a clipboard or lap desk to write down the answers or do they have to write on the floor mat?
Yes, they will have clipboards to write on when writing the answers.
Wondering if it would be ok to have books/authors on the costume as long as the books/authors are not the ones in the contest?
Technically, it should not be a problem, but realistically, I wouldn't do it. I will be honest with you. In the past, we've had coaches take a very hard look at other teams costumes and sadly, ready to jump on anything they perceive as not following directions/rules. I would hate for there to be a conflict on a costume and have the students be upset about it. I think it would be better to steer away from any book titles or authors as a part of your team's costume.
Will the picture questions differentiate between photographs and illustrations in the books? For example, "Which book has a photograph of..." vs. "Which book has an illustration of..."? Or would a general question/term be used (ex. "Which book has a picture of...") and the kids should know it applies to both photographs and illustrations?
I think the best solution would be for them to think about both (illustrations and photographs) when they hear the word "picture". I can't promise that we would be sure to say one thing over another. If they hear the word illustration or photograph, it will be specific. If they hear the word picture, it could be either one.
Do I need to dress up to coordinate with my team? Is it allowed? Is it required? Also, what about the assistant coaches?
Coaches and assistant coaches are more than welcome to dress up to coordinate with their team. It is certainly allowed and absolutely NOT required.
Can the girls in my team wear the picture of a character (without names) on their costume? Also, can the cover pictures (without titles or authors) be on any costumes?
The answer is no, for both questions. I think it would be too iffy and quite honestly, I would hate for another coach or parent to point fingers about cheating (even though I know that is not your intent) and upset the girls. I would shy away from anything having to do with the books or characters for the costumes.
Can the name of any of the characters or book titles be on costumes?
Absolutely NOT. That would pretty much amount to a giant cheat sheet. No book titles, character names or authors may be on the costumes, banner or anywhere else on the persons of team members or coaches.
Are electronic devices allowed at the event.
No electronic devices are allowed on the gym floor. Audience members in the stands can use them. However, they must use earphones so that no sound distracts the students on the gym floor.
I assume you are allowed to ask questions about illustrators? For example, could a question be "For which book is Margot Tomes the illustrator?"
Actually, we do NOT ask questions about the illustrator. Often, the illustrator is the same as the author, and we don't want to go down that path. Interestingly, we've had older books that were republished with a different illustrator and then the illustrator would depend on the edition of the book each team read, so that could make things confusing....So, bottom line is, NO, we will not ask a question about the name of the illustrator.
I was wondering if there was an update since last month's logistics meeting on how the time will be kept during the Battle?
The moderator will read the question 2 times. When s/he finishes reading the question the second time, s/he will say, "begin". The timekeeper will start the time on a stopwatch. When there is ten seconds left, the timekeeper will say "10 seconds". At the end of the 30 seconds, the timekeeper will ring a bell and pencils will need to be put down and the cards go up in the air for the runners to collect. The time will not be visible, however, the students pick up the rhythm of the 30 seconds pretty quickly.
2014 book list: Sample Questions
Information for coaches
Rules and Procedures
Frequently Asked Questions