I spent much of my weekend grading student papers, reading essay after essay, rubrics and pen in hand. To break up the redundancy of assessing eighth grade persuasive arguments, I watched the NCAA basketball conference championship games. On Sunday, Davidson College exceeded expectations and beat University of Rhode Island by one point. The Rhode Island Rams had a chance to take the lead in the final 30 seconds but failed to score on their last position. The A 10 Conference win secured Davidson’s bid to the NCAA basketball tournament, better known as March Madness. The NCAA basketball tournament, hands down, remains my favorite sports competition of the year. I love to root for the underdogs, like Davidson College, as well as marvel at the confident and experienced-play of those seasoned tournament teams, like University of North Carolina.
For the past three years, I have sought to capitalize on the excitement the tournament generates as well as celebrate our favorite YA books by hosting a classroom tournament: March Book Madness. The 2018 March Book Madness kicks off in our classroom this week with students nominating three books each. Top vote getting titles earn top positions in the bracket and square off against lower seeded books, just like teams seeding in the basketball tournament.
Students cheer, bicker, lament and argue the merits of their favorite books. Each week, using Google Forms, students vote for favorite titles in head-to-head competitions narrowing down the field of 32 books to the sweet 16; from 16 to the Elite 8; and so on. Last year, the underdog and newcomer, The Sun is Also a Star (27) by Nicola Yoon, advanced to the finals against the seasoned but fading, The Maze Runner (22) by James Dashner. Emotions ran high and students were all abuzz in anticipation of the 2017 winner. In the end, The Maze Runner pulled out a slim win to earn the March Book Madness title. While I anticipate another exciting basketball tournament season, I most look forward to the March madness generated in our classroom.