How to Host a March Madness Book Tournament with as Little Effort as Possible

Obama Meme March Madness
I will not pass up the opportunity to use an Obama meme

Hosting a March Madness Book Tournament in your classroom is an easy (and free!) way to get your students super excited about the books they have read. You may have seen pictures floating around Instagram or Pinterest and felt overwhelmed or intimidated by how much extra work this type of activity might mean for you. However, I’m here to tell you that it really doesn’t take a lot of effort for a book tournament to be an exciting activity for your students.

Step One: Create the Bracket

Last year’s bracket! RIP the “H” in March that fell down and was never found 

First things first: identify where you will display your bracket. If space allows, I recommend that you use the hallway outside your room. This will not only show off all of the awesome reading that is happening inside your room, but it also gets all of the other classrooms intrigued, which means that students from other classes will inevitably stop to talk about what’s happening on the way to the bathroom. If you don’t have hallway space, a bulletin board or wall in your room will work just as fine.

Grab some blue painter’s tape and google “March Madness bracket.” Do not think you can create this free-hand, unless you are some kind of wizard. You will need to refer to the picture. Don’t stress about making it even, or perfect, or perfectly even. No one will notice once the books are up there. I recommend cutting the tape as you go; I have made the mistake of tearing it, and it’s a pain to go back through and trim the jagged edges.

Also, you can buy pre-made March Madness sets off of TPT, or you can be cheap like me and make your own using cute fonts on your computer. No shame either way!

Step Two: Select the Books

blue solo cup
This is how I collected my students’ votes this year. It’s very high-tech. 

I like to keep my March Madness tournament low-maintenance, so I am simple when it comes to selecting the books that will be included in the bracket. Our class novels (we have read four by this point in the year) are obviously automatically included. To gather suggestions for the remaining twelve titles, I ask the kids to write down the title of the best book they have read so far this school year. It takes two minutes of class time and also builds anticipation for what’s being posted in the hallway! After you get all the suggestions, identify the titles with the most votes. Those are the books you’ll add to fill out the bracket.

Print out the book covers (if you have access to a color printer, congratulations, but there’s nothing wrong with living that black-and-white life) and laminate them. If you are really smart, you will save them for future years, but if you’re like me, you will lose them and have to repeat this process each February.

Step Three: Host the Tournament

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 5.34.16 PM
Zane and the Hurricane won in 2017, and Making Bombs for Hitler won in 2018. What can I say, I really pick winners when it comes to class novels!

Each week in March, I have the kids vote for the book they think should advance in each section of the bracket. I make a Google form that I post in Google Classroom, and students vote using their Chromebooks. If they haven’t read a book in that bracket, I give them the option of abstaining from the vote, or they can make a judgment call based on the synopsis and cover. I don’t freak out about making kids read all the books that are included, because I don’t have enough copies for that to happen, and because I don’t think they need to do that in order for the tournament to be fun and successful.

And that’s it. Literally. After each round of voting, we move the advancing books on the bracket, and the kids LOVE seeing which books make it out of each round. It does a ton to jumpstart conversations about reading in my classroom and in the entire hallway, and it also is another way for kids to get recommendations from their peers about which books to read. Because the students choose the books, the kids are more likely to pick up a title that they haven’t read but that got nominated for the tournament.

March Madness doesn’t have to be a big, scary obligation on top of your already overflowing spring to-do list. If you want to go all out and make kids do corresponding projects or read all of the books, go for it. But if you just want to celebrate the reading that’s been done so far, and get kids excited about books in your classroom, that’s great too.

Have you hosted March Madness before in your classroom? What tips do you have?

3 thoughts on “How to Host a March Madness Book Tournament with as Little Effort as Possible

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