Tuesday, April 18, 2017

5th Grade Book Madness 2017

When you're a 5th grade teacher, PARCC testing over, and there are only 6 weeks left in the school year, what do you do? Anything to keep the students engaged. AN.Y.THING.  For the five of us on our grade-level team, it's all about reading. The third trimester brings with it warmer weather and spring sports, which often lead to a downtick in reading volume.

What to do... what to do?

Our answer is what a lot of teachers have already been doing: a March Madness-style tournament, but instead of college basketball teams, we've got books! I've been thinking about doing this for a while, but could never really figure out how to get it going, until I read this AWESOME blog post by Mary Kienstra (@beebekienstra on Twitter ~ she's definitely worth a follow.) Mary's how-to, combined with her students' enthusiastic response, galvanized me into taking the risk. The team agreed and, armed with this calendar to help us stay on track and make sure we had enough time to reveal the Book Madness Champion, we were off to the races!

The first thing we did was had our students nominate their favorite book using this Google form (thanks, Mary!) The students were super excited, pouring over their reading lists and book logs, trying to figure out which book they've read so far this year was worthy of a nomination. Once all 100-ish students had submitted their nominations, our team of teachers spent some time together whittling them down. 32 of the most-nominated novels were culled from the bunch, "invited" to the tournament, and randomly placed on this bracket, which hangs in our 5th grade hallway.

Now it's up to the students. This morning, my class studied the big bracket in the hallway, as well as their personal brackets we created using this online bracket generator. Each student chose the one book they think will "go all the way." There was excitement: "The Lost Hero is on there! I nominated that one!" There was anxiety: "What if Harry Potter goes up against The Crossover? Who will I choose?" And, perhaps most importantly, there was interest: "Mrs. Barber, can I borrow your copy of Ghosts?" "... of El Deafo?" "... of Belly Up?" They even asked me to make a bin of all of the Book Madness tournament books in our class library. Their enthusiasm was the most exciting part for me and, from all reports, my teammates had similar reactions from their classes!

The coming weeks will be spent using our writer's workshop time authentically as the students create persuasive pieces to convince their classmates to vote for books they've read and want to see move further along in the bracket. Students will use Padlet collaboratively to create and share their pieces, and to comment on peers' pieces. Then, each Friday, students will view their fellow students' pieces and cast their vote on a Google form as we go from 32 books to the Sweet 16, to the Elite 8, the Final Four, and the championship round. We'll tally the votes over each weekend and update the bracket so the students can see who won when they arrive each Monday morning. The Book Madness Champion is expected to be revealed on the last Monday of school. I'm thinking we need to have some sort of celebration!

My hope is to see the excitement and enthusiasm that my students have had about reading all year - and especially during our fantasy book club unit - continue throughout the rest of their time together. I LOVE that this is a grade-level collaboration. We've been looking for ways that the students can work together, and I can't think of a better way than to share our love of books.
Thank you to the wonderful crew at Two Writing Teachers for allowing me to share a slice of my classroom life.


  1. What a fantastic idea--I'm definitely stealing it! It is difficult to make it through the month or so after testing, but this looks like a way to make things just a little bit better (or a lot bit!). I especially like the weekly voting with a Google form. That's a good way to build excitement as well. Thank you!

    1. You're welcome! Give me a shout if you need any materials or have any questions!

  2. I love the way you are using this to suit your needs! We participated in March Madness with many other schools here: http://marchbookmadness.weebly.com/
    and had lots of fun! I can't wait to hear who wins on your voting!

    1. Thanks! I can't wait to read your Weebly. Thank you for sharing!

  3. What a great way to end the year. I bet the kids a jazzed.

  4. This sounds so fun! I love the March Madness idea - I've seen lots of teachers do it, but I've never tried it. I like the ideas of the persuasive writing and Padlet, too. This will definitely keep your 5th graders engaged!

  5. This sounds like such a great way to keep students engaged! I hope that you'll continue to post about this wonderful collaboration! I want to be a part of your class!


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