Book Madness 2017: Reading in the Brackets

By: Mary Kienstra on: April 2, 2017  in: #tlap, creating, Engagement, reading


Filling out a bracket for March Madness is always exciting.  Which team will be this year’s “Cinderella?”  How will my favorite team do?  Which team will win it all?   A few years ago I decided to capitalize on this excitement.  In my classroom, it’s Book Madness 2017: Reading in the Brackets!  If the brackets are fun for NCAA basketball fans, they’ll be even more compelling to 4th and 5th graders who love to read.

It all starts a few weeks into March with each student filling out a Google Form to nominate their favorite book for Book Madness.  The next step is the students create book commercials to persuade their classmates to vote for that book.  This year, many kids used the iMovie Trailer app to create short videos to “sell” their book.  A few kids created posters and book covers. A few wrote book reviews.  Choice is the key for this one.

We post the book commercials on our class website and spend a bit of class time watching and commenting on each.  This is an essential step as not all kids have read every book that was nominated and interesting book commercials might persuade their classmates.  I’m always amazed at the creativity on these projects. With no constraints, they soar.

My students are greeted with this sign taped to a black curtain hanging on the bulletin board. Are they excited? You bet!


The next part is the brackets.  I put the books on the brackets and create a Google Form for voting.  This is where the fun starts!  The kids take a look at their books in brackets and begin to predict what might happen.  I use an online bracket generator to create the paper version for kids to fill out their own brackets, predicting which books will win.  This creates a level of buy-in also.  We hang those up in the room for those who enjoy that type of competition.


Day 1

Each day, I reveal the next round and the voting continues.  The discussion around the Final Four is exciting as now it starts to get real.  I work very hard to make sure this is not a popularity contest among my students.  It’s all about the books.


Revealing which book is the Book of the Year in our Book Madness 2017 contest is a true highlight.  I contacted Polly Holyoke, the author of The Neptune Project via Twitter and she agreed to meet my class on Skype.  My students asked wonderful questions and interacted easily with her.  She was so gracious to spend her time with us.  I know my students enjoyed meeting her.  Authors are their rock stars!  Many thanks to Polly!

Any activity that gets kids excited about reading is a good activity, but this is one of my favorites.  Yes, it takes a few days out of my reading “curriculum” but isn’t it worth it?  Arrange your priorities to reflect your beliefs.  These are the experiences that kids remember.

And guess what?  Now all the kids in my class are eager to read The Neptune Project!

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