I am always looking for ways to introduce teachers to new books to read aloud to their students. I have given book talks, displayed titles, and even created book tastings for teachers. Teachers always appreciate the fresh, new ways in which we explore titles together, so I decided to try something new: a March Book Madness Bracket. Inspired by the March Book Madness global collaboration, I decided to create a smaller version for teachers to experience eight new titles for their classrooms in a single professional development session. It was a great success, with teachers happily reading books and thinking about how they could connect the idea to their own classrooms. I did it by following these steps:
Find good books. Choose books to share with teachers based on their grade levels, content areas, and students’ interests. I created two brackets: one for kindergarten to second grade and another for third through fifth grade, each a blend of fiction and nonfiction. Have one copy of each book available for teachers to read and, if possible, a few extra copies for those teachers eager to bring the books back to their own classroom after the bracket. Need some inspiration? Take a look at the recommendations from Scholastic Reading Ambassador John Schu or head to the Association for Library Service to Children’s Notable Book Lists.
Create the bracket. There are a few options to create your own bracket. I searched for a bracket with eight entries and pasted it into a Google Slide. I then added the images of the books I had selected and organized them into four initial rounds of voting. Here are the two brackets I created:
You could go low-tech and create the bracket on a large piece of chart paper as well.
Decide on the voting. I decided to have my teachers vote using Google Forms. I created a single form that listed the four rounds of choices for them to choose from, as shown below:
I also created voting slips shaped like basketballs for teachers to write their choices on. I wanted to highlight the different ways we could vote based on the ages of our students and our technology prowess.
Host the bracket. Although you could spread the bracket out over as many days as you prefer, I held the bracket in a single setting, fast-forwarding through a longer event to model the entire experience for teachers.
Teachers sat at four tables and read two books for comparison. They focused on their initial impressions, how students might respond, and how they might use the books for instruction in the classroom. After reading, they came up to the Smartboard and voted, using the Google Form I had open. We rotated the books for four different rounds until each group had read all eight books and voted for their top four choices.
I displayed the results of the first-round voting immediately through Google Forms and updated the bracket in real time to show teachers exactly how they might do the same.
We then reread the new round of competing books and voted using the paper basketball cutouts, tallying our votes on chart paper, modeling another voting option. We continued with our final round until we had a decided winner.
Debrief. After a brief celebration of the winner, discuss teachers’ reactions. What did they think of the titles shared? What did they think of the voting bracket? How might students respond to something like this? How might it excite readers and connect students to new titles? How did it help support their own literacy lives? These questions led to lively discussions about creating a culture of reading in our classrooms.
Teachers appreciated the opportunity to participate in the voting bracket as a way to cultivate excitement for reading in their classrooms. What better way to beat the long, late days of winter than with some book excitement?