Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Using March Madness to Cultivate a Love of Literature

I cannot take credit for this idea.  I first saw it on Facebook, linked by a teacher-friend.  The article had a simple picture that caught my attention.  To be honest, I didn't even read the article.  I just saw the picture and my mind started going crazy on how to make this work for 1st graders.

I took a large piece of butcher paper and drew a very large bracket with a big Sharpie.  I hung it in the hallway across from our door so that the kids could see it, as well as the rest of the school.  I can't tell you how many other students, teachers, and parents stopped to look.  I even overheard a few older students talking about which books they thought would win.  It made my heart smile.  :)

One of the main questions I've had is whether or not I let the students choose the first 32 books.  I did not, mainly because it was such a last minute project and I needed to get it going.  I picked 8 books from 4 different genres.  I created categories for Classics, Humor, Mixed-Up Fairy Tales, and General Fiction.  I wanted to expose the students to a variety of genres and open their eyes to some literature that they may not have explored before.  I tried to throw in some books I knew they liked, too.  I Googled images of each book I chose and just copied and pasted the images into a PowerPoint, printed, and laminated!  I put a little masking tape on the back of each image and put them on the bracket.  The pictures of the books made it a little more exciting and colorful.

I had to get this done before Spring Break (which is this week, PTL!), so I read a set of books from each category every. single. day.  

I started off each read aloud by saying that we were going to have another tournament.  Within the Classics category, I gave a little bit of background for each book.  They loved learning how old some of them were!  ;)

After I read the two books, I passed out little paper ballots to each student.  I reminded them each time that they had to vote for they one THEY liked best.  The paper ballots were a good way to do it because they really did want to keep their vote a secret.  If we simply raised our hands, know how that goes, especially with little ones.  ;)  I have a feeling the race wouldn't be as close!

After all the votes were tallied each time, I would announce the winner and CHEERS would ERUPT.  They were so excited every single time!  There were some definite shockers, like The Giving Tree.  I totally didn't expect that one to make it past the first round.  

Another question I've had is if I read the books after reading them once.  YES!  I read them every. single. round.  It got a little annoying by time the finals came around, but I felt it was important for them to hear them each time in order to compare them to the book it was up against.  Surprisingly, they loved it each time and I really think it made a different.  They had such a fresh perspective when it was up against a different text the next time.

After the tournament was over, we went around to a couple of classrooms that took a big interest in our competition and announced the winner.  They ended up reading the book to them as a class because they practically had it memorized.  ;)

So who is the 2015 book winner of Mrs. Kirby's 1st grade class?  I'm so glad you asked.  :)  It was the ONLY unanimous vote during the whole tournament (which provided a great opportunity for a quick vocabulary lesson!).


I definitely recommend this activity for next year in your classroom!  It was a DEFINITE hit with my students and I don't think they'll ever forget it!