LEAven Blog


March Madness: School Style

Last week, my students were a lot more excited than usual. We’ve had something exciting almost every day (birthdays, field trips, summer camp enrollment, etc.) and Spring Break is quickly approaching. With these exciting things come high energy levels, impulsivity, and a need for varied instruction, a.k.a, March Madness.

Though I’m not much of a basketball player or fan myself, I decided to embrace the “March Madness” by creating brackets for students. Some brackets require students to debate, and then vote for what they think is the best of two options at a time. Others require students to compete against each other. Both types can be used for all ages. Here are some ideas on how to use brackets in the classroom:

Book Bracket:

Create a literary bracket where students nominate and vote on their favorite books. Read the books as a class, set up matchups, and progress through the rounds until you determine the ultimate class favorite. If time allows, reread each book or a section from it each round before the vote. I did this as a book tournament when I taught preschool, and I was amazed to hear some of the reasons four-year-olds liked one book over another. My fourth graders like this, too.

Cleaning Competition:

Use a random number generator to set up a bracket for students to compete in cleaning their desks or a part of the room. Use a timer for each round, shortening the time allotted to clean each round. You can judge the first round, then have the students who are out judge the other rounds. This can help you get a clean room quickly and it helps the students know what you look for in a clean classroom.

Historical Figures Face-Off:

Have students research and nominate historical figures or battles for a bracket-style competition. Through debates or presentations, students can argue why their chosen figure deserves to advance to the next round based on historical impact or achievements.

Exemplary Vocabulary:

Use brackets for a vocabulary competition. Pit words against each other, and have students vote on which word they think is more interesting or useful in a given scenario. Even brackets as small as two lines can expand student vocabulary immensely!

Coding Challenge:

Set up a coding challenge bracket and assign a more challenging coding task each round. Students can showcase their skills and learn from one another. You can do this with math problems, too!

There are endless ways you can use brackets in the classroom. You can use brackets as an attendance activity to get students in the door on time and excited for school; you can use them as brain breaks and even review games. No matter the activity you choose to use them with, I encourage you to try using brackets. They help funnel the excitement where you want it during these March Madness days!

Esther Edwards, formerly Esther Dunlop, is in her eighth year of teaching. She teaches fourth grade at St. Luke’s Lutheran in Oviedo, FL. She enjoys teaching all subjects, but she especially enjoys facilitating STEM explorations.