March Madness Book Edition – Part 2

Ok, so in case you missed it, check out my last post March Madness Book Edition – Part 1 to see how I initially set this up in my classroom before continuing on. 

Here’s a look at the spreadsheets I made when counting up my students’ top ten lists to select our 32 books to enter into the March Madness Book Edition tournament.  The first example is from my homeroom:

March Madness book tallies 1

Here are the results from my afternoon class:

March Madness Book tallies

Now that we had our books, it was time to begin the tournament! When I filled in the brackets with the book choices, I tried to seed the books appropriately.  For example, I didn’t want to put Crash up against Number the Stars in the first round as those were both very popular with the voting.  I’ll admit, I didn’t use an exact science to do the seeding, but tried to use my knowledge of what books my students like and the data from the initial vote to make the competition even and fair. 

Bracket - 5Gia

To make the brackets, I googled “blank March Madness Bracket” and got a bracket that was empty.  I was originally planning on making the whole thing from scratch on powerpoint, but it was too complicated and too much work so I gave up and went to google.  Google is a lifesaver!! I inserted the blank bracket picture into powerpoint and then inserted text boxes to add in the titles of the books.  Once I was done, I saved it as a PDF and printed a copy for each student to fill out. 

Bracket - 5Chi

Before the kids actually filled out their brackets, we realized that there were a bunch of students who hadn’t read some of the books nominated before.  Therefore, we decided to hold a book chat to familiarize the students with a general idea of what each book was about so that they could participate in the vote even if they haven’t read the book or series yet. 

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

Each student selected a book to do a book talk about.  Some students selected two until all of the books were accounted for.  For homework, the students each wrote a paragraph about their book to prepare for their book talk the following day in class.  While the students were presenting their books, I displayed the covers of the books on the promethean board (thanks google images!) so that they could have a visual representation of the book as well.  Once students saw the covers of some of the books, you heard a lot of “Ooooooh yeahhhh, that book! I’ve seen that one before” coming from them.  

Number the Stars

Source: Google Images

The book talks were a HUGE help and I would definitely recommend them to anyone doing their own March Madness Book Edition tournament.  I teach a 5th grade inclusion class and the levels of my readers is VERY diverse.  The book talks help make everyone feel included.  

Not only did the book talks help the students learn about the books they were unfamiliar with, they also helped them practice their summarizing, main idea skills, paragraph writing, and speaking and listening skills too! A win-win.  

****Make sure to remind the students NOT to give away the ending of the books during their book talks! We read a few back covers and blurbs from books to model good examples. 

Next, I explained how to fill out a bracket to the students.  This might have been the most challenging part of all! Thank goodness for my Elmo to physically show the students exactly how to fill it out! (And there were still some mistakes) If you’ve never seen a bracket before, it can be very confusing.  MODEL, MODEL, MODEL!!! Trust me.  Here’s my example…

My bracket

The students had a blast filling out their brackets.  It was really interesting to see the different strategies they used.  Some students went with the favorited books, while others stuck to their own personal preferences and were trying to convince others to join them and vote for their favorites.  

Once the brackets were completed. they were already starting some friendly banter about which books were better and trying to argue why the books they loved were so great! As a teacher, you can’t complain about that!

student bracket

I collected all of their brackets when they were done and created an Excel spreadsheet for each class to easily tally up their points after each round. (I’ll explain more about this later on.)

The big question my students had was how do the books advance to the next level???? Well, we decided that the students vote and the book with the most votes for each round would advance.  Here’s an example of the voting ballot the students received for the first round.

Voting ballot

Once each class voted, I took some time to tally up their votes.  Here’s an example of how I kept track. 


I debated using the computer or doing it by hand but I think it was less time consuming to tally them by hand. The first round was a lot to do for each class.  But after each round, there were less books involved so it wasn’t as mundane of a task. 

sweet 16 pmThe day after each vote, the students would get so excited to see if their favorite books moved on! It was so great to see.  Again, they were engaged in book talk so much! It was awesome.students march madness

To give the students their points for their own brackets, I went back to the excel sheet I mentioned earlier.  Below is my example (I cut off student names for privacy purposes).

march madness scores

 The number of points each student received varied per round.  Here’s the breakdown I used:

  • Round 1: 1 point per book that advanced
  • Round 2: 2 points per book that advanced
  • Round 3: 4 points per book that advanced
  • Round 4: 8 points per book that advanced
  • Round 5: 16 points if you had the champion

I used a different highlighter color for each round to help me keep track of the points and enter it into the spreadsheet. I highlighted only the books that advanced on each students’ bracket.

winning bracket

For example, after Round 1, this student had 13 points because 13/16 of the books he chose advanced.  For Round 2, he received 10 points, for Round 3 he received 4 points, for Round 4 he received 8 points and for the final round he received 16 points.  Therefore, his total was 51 points. (WINNER!!!)

Here’s another example of my afternoon’s class’s scoring spreadsheet.

march madness scores 1

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

The 2015 homeroom book winner was Crash by Jerry Spinelli! We read this book as a read aloud in the beginning of the year and the students all absolutely loved it! Jerry Spinelli has always been one of my favorite authors.  I’m so glad my students appreciate his writing as much as I do!

In my homeroom, we had a three way tie for first place (myself included!) My husband thinks it’s silly that I played because I’m taking the fun and excitement away from the kids, but hey! I need to get in on the fun too! Plus they love having adults involved.  Our Principal, Vice Principal, Switch Teacher and Paraprofessionals all got involved too! It was a great time had by all! :) (Pardon their faces being blurred out for privacy reasons.)

winners am

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

The 2015 afternoon class book winner was the Percy Jackson series! So many of my students are obsessed with Rick Riordan’s writing.  Some of my boys have even created book clubs (on their own) about the Percy Jackson books!  They come in and discuss their reading and share insight without ever being prompted to do so.  It’s so amazing to see.  Especially for 5th grade boys! Now, even a bunch of the girls are loving Percy Jackson as well after they heard so much hype from the boys. :)

Here are the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners from my afternoon class. Two students and one of our paraprofessionals.  winners pmAll of the winners will receive a free book of their choice from our next Scholastic Reading Club order.  I’m going to use my extra bonus points to buy their books.  They were super excited when I told them the prize! They had originally thought it was just for fun! I loved how appreciative they were when they found out they would actually get to choose a book. 

We had a really great experience doing our own version of March Madness this year and I can’t wait to make it an annual event! The students are already begging me to have a new “April Madness” so we can do it all over again! 

I’d love to hear about your own experiences trying something like this out in your classroom! I hope my explanations were clear! If you have any suggestions for me as well on how to improve this for the future, I’d love for you to share! :) 

Leave a Reply 1 comment

Robin - June 8, 2015 Reply

Love the idea, although I teach second grade. My question is if the book advances, does the same student write another book talk for that book or does someone else do the talk? I think it is a fantastic idea and would like to try it in my room next March! Thanks for sharing. Robin

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