Tuesday, May 9, 2017

5th Grade Book Madness: The Final Four

We're getting down to the nitty gritty, folks! The Final Four of our Book Madness Tournament of Books was revealed to the 5th graders this morning! The buzz in the hallway was palpable. A few students from other classrooms actually asked if I was okay (my all-time favorite book series and room theme-inspiration, Harry Potter, was defeated by the amazing Katherine Applegate's Home of the Brave.)

Here's where we stand:
The Final Four: The Lightning Thief vs. Wonder and The War That Saved My Life vs. Home of the Brave
Some observations from the past two weeks as we went from sixteen to eight to four:

  • Students are REALLY passionate about the books they love. Everybody loves a Cinderella story. For this tourney, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's The War That Saved My Life fits that bill. Making this year's Illinois Bluestem list is the only reason this book is on my students' radar. In our class, Kyle has been its champion. He has written persuasive pieces and made a book trailer promoting the book to his fellow students, and openly chats it up throughout the grade level. 
  • The stress level is increasing as we continue to cut the books in half each week. I wish you could be in my room when we vote on Google forms. "Do we HAVE to vote for each pair?" Drew asked me last Friday, simply unable to choose between The Lightning Thief and Telgemeier's Ghosts. (He went with Percy Jackson, having read the entire series with his fantasy book club. He's currently working through The Son of Neptune, clearly bitten by the Riordan bug.)
  • Students are REALLY attached to certain books! "How did Harry Potter lose?" Devyn whispered to Abby, who shook her head mournfully on the way back to our room. Both are knee-deep in the wizarding world, Devyn moving through Prisoner of Azkaban, while Abby is half way through Goblet of Fire. They - and so many others - were actually sad that Kek had bested Harry in this competition. I empathized, fondly sharing that I struggled to find another series to read when I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the summer of 2007. I was feeling what felt like a bad breakup: constantly thinking about the plot of the last book, remembering all the small moments while reading the series, plotting an immediate - and much slower as I TORE through it - reread. The cure for the worst book hangover I've ever had turned out to be Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. When we returned to the classroom, the students DEMANDED to see the online results of our Google voting form, wanting to see the margin by which certain books had won or lost. 
  • The aforementioned buzz is spreading. Our school librarian is voting. Our principal now has skin in the game, and wants to read The War That Saved My Life (at Kyle's recommendation.) Our instructional coach was wide-eyed at the Final Four, shocked that the Potter juggernaut had lost to a refugee from Sudan (seems fitting.) Fourth grade teachers are reporting buzz in their classes, as their students also see the giant bracket in the hallway outside the bathrooms.
The bottom line? Students are talking about reading. They're debating books, reasoning why their peers should vote one over another. They're upping their creativity, finding new, authentic ways to share their love of books (this Padlet has some great examples of book trailers, Vokis, and Powtoons.) And they're EXCITED. This experiment is doing all that I hoped it would do, and so much more. 

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Thank you to the wonderful group at Two Writing Teachers for allowing me to share my weekly school Slice of Life! Other slices by wonderful teacher-writers can be found here!


  1. So happy that it is working so well for you! We did one on March, but now I am wondering if I can have my kids do a top 10 of third grade kind of thing in the last days of school to create a list for next year's class. They could do it complete with book talks, videos, etc. Hmm, now I am thinking!

    1. That's a great idea! I definitely think you should try it and blog about it!

  2. Great post. Another great tool for generating brackets is http://make-a-bracket.com

    1. This is helpful, Luis... thank you for sharing!


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