4th – 6th Graders Rock the Newbery Game

Buzzers 2

BOING!  “The Westing Game!”

HONK HONK!  “Moon over Manifest!”

DING DONG!  “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH!”

DING!  “The One and Only Ivan!”

These are a few of the answers the 4th-6th graders excitedly called out when we played a Newbery Award game in the library this week.

I’ll tell you the secret to making answering book title questions so much fun:  It was these answer buzzers that each make a different loud, funny sound. Go to Amazon and order them by Learning Resources. You can do it right now. I’ll wait here.

Buzzers 1A fun-loving colleague from a nearby school district elementary library loaned me these answer buzzers, and gave me the inspiration for creating this game. It cannot be overstated how much fun it is to answer a question when one gets to hit one of these buttons first. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these should be used in court when questioning defendants on the stand. They are just that compelling.

BOING!  I confess, I did it.

HONK HONK!  Yes, I stole those items.

DING DONG!  I had accomplices, and I’ll name names.

DING!  I’ll tell you everything, as long as I get to keep hitting these answer buttons!

I displayed Newbery Award and Honor books on a large table, and gave a short talk about the Newbery Medal. “Who knows what these gold and silver round stickers mean?” I shared some of the eligibility criteria, like the book must have been published in the United States in the preceding year, the author must also be a citizen of or reside in the United States, the book can be fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, and that children up through age 14 are the intended potential audience. I also shared some of the history; it is named for John Newbery, and the first award was given in 1922.  Information can be found right here on the Association for Library Service to Children website.

Students eagerly raised their hands to tell me which books on the table they had read and loved.

Holes was awesome, both the book and the movie!”

“We just read Island of the Blue Dolphins in class!”

The Graveyard Book was soooo good!”

“I’m reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle right now, and it’s the best book I’ve ever read.”

“My teacher read, Carry On Mr. Bowditch out loud to us last year.”

I believe the best advertising for books is from peers, and this was even better than I could have hoped for.

I made a two-page list of selected winners and honor books that best suited my needs for the game, that are in the school library collection, and made enough 2-sided copies for every student.


To make 4 teams quickly, I randomly set laminated, color-coded cards that matched the buzzers on all the chairs before the classes came in and sat down, to designated what team they were on.  I learned from a teacher that if you say, “You have 30 seconds to get to your team table,” they get there MUCH faster.

Chairs with Color Coded Cards

Game Table 4 Game Table 3
Game Table 1

I read out clues, and teams searched the lists for books that met the description, and rushed to hit the buzzer first, and called out their answers.  Below are some of the clues I came up with, but there are so many other possibilities.

A book title with Mr., Mrs. or Dr. in it
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Carry on Mr. Bowditch
Dear Mr. Henshaw
Mr. Popper’s Penguins (be sure to point out the year this was a winner–1939!)
The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

A one word title

Day of the week in the title
The View from Saturday
The Wednesday Wars

Book title has the word “game” in it
The Westing Game
The Egypt Game

Insect in the title
Cricket in Times Square
House of Scorpion

A sea mammal in the title
Island of the Blue Dolphins

An animal in the title
Julie of the Wolves
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Sign of the Beaver
Turtle in Paradise
Witch of Blackbird Pond

Title includes something to do with space
Sing Down the Moon
Moon Over Manifest
Walk Two Moons
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
A Corner of the Universe
Number the Stars

Book title has a number in it
The One and Only Ivan
26 Fairmount Ave.
Three Times Lucky
One Came Home
One Crazy Summer
The Hundred Dresses
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963

The last class of the day went MUCH smoother than the first, and I fine-tuned the process as the day progressed.  One lesson I learned:  We kept score for some classes, but not for others.  Funny thing, it didn’t really matter.  Kids loved playing whether they were earning points or not, and I just kept replenishing the books on the Newbery Award table as they were checked out.

Several students stopped by after school to ask if we could do more games like that, and even brainstormed ideas on what the games could be. (“How about a Wheel of Fortune Game?  You could make a big wheel and send us off searching for books…”)  You can’t buy that kind of excitement.

Oh my goodness, I just checked:  Amazon has a Wheel of Fortune spinner!

Ninja Storytime

Ninja! by Arree Chung

From the moment I finished reading, Ninja! written and illustrated by Arree Chung, I knew I had to create a story time using this picture book about Maxwell, a boy obsessed with ninjas. He silently sneaks around the house, surprising unsuspecting family members, surreptitiously thieving snacks, abruptly ending his dad’s couch nap, and earning both the outrage of his little sister and disapproval from his mother. In the end, he invites the little sister to join him in the ways of the ninja, and one is left to imagine the amusing havoc they will wreak together. The spare narration of Maxwell’s ninja thoughts amusingly contrasts with the illustrations, which show the true picture of what is really happening.

I had a much younger group than usual at the public library storytime, which ranges from K-5, so I highly edited the excerpts I had planned to read from two non-fiction books, to give background information about real 14th century ninjas, not just the ones kids are accustomed to seeing in cartoons and action movies.

Ninja, by Jason Glaser and Don Roley.


You Wouldn’t Want to be a Ninja Warrior!  A Secret Job That’s Your Destiny, by John Malam, and illustrated by David Antram.

You Wouldn't Want to be a Ninja Warrior

First Lessons in Ninjutsu, on page 10 of, You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Ninja Warrior, was the inspiration for creating an obstacle course for little ninjas-in-training. The challenge was to create an age 5-10 appropriate, kid-appealing, non-injury-producing, collateral-damage-avoiding, indoor-space-confined way to practice beginner ninja skills. My creative co-workers chimed in with great ideas and supplies to use, and it took many hands and weeks of planning and prepping materials.

After reading, we adjourned to table stations with craft supplies that children rotated through at their own pace, before starting the ninja training course.

Craft Activity Tables:

1)  Assemble a jointed paper ninja puppet

Ninja Puppet1Ninja Puppet2

2)  Color a pre-made origami ninja star (to use on the training course and take home)


3)  Assemble nunchucks, using painted cardboard tubes, yarn and hole punches



Ninja Training Course:

1)  Disguise:  I had new, donated t-shirts leftover from past athletic events (thank you City Parks & Recreation Department!) to make ninja masks. YouTube has many videos on how to turn a t-shirt into a ninja mask.  Alas, the group was young, and none of them wanted to wear a ninja mask.

Our amazing teen volunteer demonstrated the course.

2)  Balance:  Walk on rocks and a narrow piece of cardboard over water. Participants could make each subsequent trip more challenging for themselves by walking forward, backward, sideways, etc.


4)  Kicking:  Kick over boxes covered with wood-grain printed paper. We started with one box on each stool, and then stacked them three-high later. Some of our little ninjas were too short to kick them, so they punched them instead.


 5)  Escape:  Crawl through tunnel


6)  Weaponry:  Throw paper origami ninja star at target (hula hoop taped to the wall).

7)  Stealth:  Maneuver through a series of laser beams (red yarn tied between two rows of chairs).



8)  Agility:  Jump over bushes made with large, crumpled sheets of green butcher paper.

Repeat as many times as possible, until a parent/guardian insists it’s time to go
for at least the third or fourth time.

Online Resources

Be sure to check out the website, www.arree.com, which has a wealth of fun things to do, including Ninja coloring pages, an activity guide that includes instructions on how to make an origami ninja star, and a hilarious book trailer.

Visit www.ninjefyme.com to upload a photo of yourself, and add a ninja costume.

A few more photos from a shorter 30-minute Ninja Storytime at the elementary school for the transitional kindergarten classes, which included the Ninja! book by Arree Chung, the ninja training course, and no crafts (definitely no ninja stars or nunchucks).  I was able to make the red yarn laser beam section twice as long–and twice as awesome.