Prepping for Bookish March Madness

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March Madness - the Bookish Way!

It started as many of my best classroom ideas start - with an idea from a colleague. We can plan ahead as much as we like, but those small sparks get me more excited about teaching than any intricately planned unit.

So when she sent me a Facebook message asking if I thought it would be fun to set up a March Madness event for books, I jumped right on board. We had to figure out how it would work along the way.

How would we choose the 32 books for our brackets?

1) We decided to have students in 4th and 5th grade nominate their top ten favorites using a Google Doc form.
This ended up being a lot of fun to watch! Three of us had our students participate (which represents 5 separate elementary schools). As my students entered their favorites, I kept hearing phrases like, "Oh, I thought of another great one! What will I have to eliminate?" and "Yes! I have the perfect book!"

2) The three teachers involved then took all that data and examined it. Each of us determined the top 10 or so for our building. Here were mine:

The Hunger Games
The One and Only Ivan
Capture the Flag
Amulet series book 3 (graphic novel series - all 5 books got a good number of votes!)
A Wrinkle in Time
The Hobbit
Eye of the Storm
The Mysterious Benedict Society
There was a decent amount of overlap between the lists, but also some variation.

3) We eliminated a few choices.
- We decided that we would only include 2 books per author (otherwise Riordan would have had a heyday on the list!)
- We also agreed to remove The Hunger Games. This title is controversial in upper elementary, and many parents have not yet allowed their kids to read it. Since the voting will be open to 4th and 5th (and possibly 3rd), we took this title off.

4) We figured out the "spirit" of the choices. We had to take a look at the Harry Potter books. Since we asked students to enter specific books - and not list a series as a whole - the votes for Rowling's books were spread out and didn't hit the top spots. That didn't seem fair, though. So we took the top book (Goblet of Fire) and the first book (Sorcerer's Stone). There were more votes for Deathly Hallows than the first - but since a lot of our classes had commented that they planned to try to read the books that made the brackets we thought it would be more accessible to NOT use the final book in such a long series!

5) All these steps left us with a little less than 30, so we needed to add in a few more. We looked at books that got at least one vote and tried to choose a few we felt were high quality AND varied the genre choices. Otherwise it would be almost all fantasy!

We added:
Lions of Little Rock
Almost Astronauts
A Mango Shaped Space

What have I learned so far?
I have a huge influence on my student's reading habits. Okay, so that might seem like a "duh", but I was still surprised and delighted. Some of the books that appeared heavily on the lists were assigned small group books (Stargirl, The Hobbit, A Wrinkle in Time). Some were books that I had book talked extensively, and the buzz spread. I was thrilled to see two Kate Messner books appear - since I'm encouraging my students to read her work prior to a Skype visit. The biggest surprise was seeing A Christmas Carol! I read that with my fifth graders. (AND I told them they didn't HAVE to put in 10 books. A few students could only come up with 7 or 8 and that was okay.) Remember - we do have an impact!

Our next step will be to organize our books into the brackets. Stay tuned for the next update on how we finagle that! 

Join me at Two Writing Teachers as we share a Slice each Tuesday. 


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