On the edge of their seats, searching the inner recesses of the brain for phrases from favourite books, straining to get their hand up first - and that's just the teachers.
The end-of-round spot questions are the truly sticky-palm moments in the Kids' Lit Quiz, imported from New Zealand and orchestrated by quizmaster Wayne Mills.
After each round of themed questions for the school teams, Mr Mills gives the Year 7 and 8 pupils a chance to win an extra individual prize, and then throws in a question for parents and teachers. "I want children to realise that grown-ups read for pleasure and get rewarded for it," he says.
For the pupils, flagging from their exertions (the questions are pitched at keen readers, taking in general knowledge about authors, books on film and TV, popular series fiction, traditional tales and myths, and picture books remembered from childhood), the spot prizes offer a chance to see the coaches put through their paces. Nineteen teams from 12 schools, plus the Youth Agency's gifted and talented programme, competed in the first regional heat in London this week, held at Bancroft's School in Redbridge.
"Go on, Miss!" hissed the Year 7 team from Claremont High, in Brent, as librarian Heather Powell snapped up the first pound;10 book token.
English teacher Peter McEvoy of Bishop Challoner school in Tower Hamlets, sweating it out on the sidelines with colleague Jennifer Ashe, was relieved when they had both picked up a prize. "The kids will leave us alone now," he said.
The Kids' Lit Quiz, sponsored by The TES, is intended to boost reading in Years 7 and 8. "That's the age where you really need to grab readers or you've lost them," says Mr Mills, a former teacher who now lectures in education in Auckland. Regional winners will compete at the UK final in the North-east on December 18 for a place in the New Zealand final next summer.
See www.tes.co.uk for results update. London heat results: 1.
Youth Agency team B; 2. Bancroft's team A; 3. Youth Agency team A (Hornsey School for Girls).Wayne Mills' Kids' Lit Mini-Quiz will be published in The TES on Dec 12. Entries may still be accepted for some heats: email email@example.com