Battle of the Books: FREE RESOURCES

March Madness, ELA Style

It's that time of year again! When students' drive for reading is in the 3rd Quarter slump, I love to reignite that love of books with a fun, basketball-themed reading program with a hint of competitiveness. This is a great idea that you have probably been introduced to by now (and a lifetime of kudos and thanks to the idea's originator), so I'm going to break it down for you and illustrate how I set this fun reading mini-program up in my classroom!

Battle of the Books-March Madness

Step 1: Explain March Madness

Yes! You may actually have to spend a few minutes explaining to some of your kiddos what the heck a bracket is! I get so into my own NCAA basketball bracket that, sometimes, I forget that many people, especially younger kiddos, haven't a clue what the Madness of March is--a bracket is a whole new language! 

But fear not--it takes two seconds to explain. Here is a #FreeDownload of the Google Slides I use to explain the whole process to my own kiddos. Have at it! :)

There is even a link in there ^^ to a Scholastic Kids article about the NCAA's March Madness that I have used as a nonfiction reading passage before!

Step 2: Explain how the "Madness of March" Works in Your Class

Step 3: Let Your Students Decide on the Tournament Books

This is arguably the best part (until I say that again in steps 5 & 6 😁)!  Give your students choice here and let them suggest books that deserve to be a part of the reading tournament! I make this happen in my classroom with Google Forms, but it could easily be done with Survey Monkey (or the like) or even just a good old fashioned scrap paper or whiteboard vote! If you are interested in the Google Form route, feel free to copy my 2-question voting forum below:
After my students submit their votes (they suggest one book that is their favorite of the year and a second book that they've really been wanting to read but haven't yet), I put them all in one column (you can do this through Google sheets, Excel, or Numbers) and click to sort them alphabetically. This helps me clump titles that were suggested more than once. It's pretty typical that 10-20 titles will be suggested more than once. Round up your most popular suggestions (add or remove books at your discretion) until you've collected your student-chosen "Sweet 16!"

Here are the books my kiddos decided on for our tournament this year:*
Each title was an absolute hit with my students and really got them READING!


In your Sweet 16, be sure to "match up" books that you think match well against each other. It doesn't matter how you choose to do this. It just so happened this year that my kiddos chose books that I could match up into genre categories (for the most part).

Here is a messy* look at my "match-up" process:

*emphasis on the "messy." I write my most popular suggestions on sticky notes and stick them to the fireplace to visualize the best match ups? IDKitworksforme! 

Step 4: Set Up the Actual, Life Size Bracket in Your Classroom

Yay for more #freebies! You are welcome to use my files to set up your own Battle of the Books. The dates are obviously, preferably for this year (2017), but let me know if you'd like an updated or blank copy! 
I laminate these pieces for durability and repeated use using my favorite toy ever--the Scotch thermal laminator linked below*. Admittedly, I own TWO for school and one for home because...MustLaminateAllOfTheThings! ;)  I also buy the thermal pouches linked below* in BULK because....ILoveLaminating....but seriously because they're only $11 for a pack of 100? Yes, please!


Here is what half of mine looked like (before I ran out of tape to do the other half):

Here* is the tape pictured above (how I make my brackets). I use this tape for every classroom and household labeling/dividing opportunity under the sun. It is cute, doesn't leave any gross residue, and it even can be pulled off paper without ripping it. Incredible. Once again...I MustLabelAllOfTheThings. 

Then just stick a picture of the Sweet 16 book covers on the Sweet 16 squares!

Step 5: Have Your Students Make Their Brackets!

Now might be a good time to remind them how brackets work--and an even better time to talk up the fun of the Battle of the Books! Let them know how fun it is to vote on their favorite books, and in order to vote, they have to READ some of the titles! :)

My students make their "picks" based on which books they think will win or which books they want to win! I always offer the winning book as a prize to anyone with a perfect bracket! You can offer a simpler prize as well, but it really adds to the fun! :)

When I have my final Sweet 16 titles, I make a student bracket print-out with all of the Sweet 16 book covers on it. This year's looked like this:

But here is a blank copy for you to print and copy! Just write your classroom's Sweet 16 titles on the Sweet 16 lines and copy enough for your kiddos!

Step 6: Battle of the BOOK TALKS!

Talk these books up! Book talk these books! Talk them up. Talk them up. Talk them up!

I just slap a picture of each Sweet 16 book cover on its own PowerPoint slide and basically copy and paste its Amazon summary next to it... Easy as that! Then I will "Book Talk" and hype up about 4 books a day over 4 days. If my students have been introduced to the books, they are better able to make wise reading choices, and more likely to participate in the Battle of the Books in general! 

Step 7: Make Your Tournament Books Available to Kids

Seems like the obvious step, but I figured it couldn't hurt to add it in here ;). Although, this can be the pricey step if you maintain your own classroom library like I do. I like to have at least 1 hardcover copy of each of the Sweet 16 Books available for my kiddos. I end up using Scholastic Bonus points or my own ca$h money to order them via God's Gift to the Earth: Amazon Prime. 

(Scroll up and click those book images from Step 3 to get your hands on any of the books we used for our tournament this year!)*  ğŸ˜Š

Most of the books your students choose for your Sweet 16 are likely already available in some form or other in your classroom or school/local library, but it's certainly helpful to have as many copies available! :) (or just ask students to loan their copies of the books to the class for the tournament if they already have their own at home!)

Step 8: Keep Dancing!

If you downloaded my file above, you saw that I have benchmark dates for every round of my battle. It's helpful to establish those early on so your kids know when voting will happen. On each benchmark date, set up a new vote (Google Forms, Survey Monkey, scrap paper, or whiteboard vote!) to have students vote on their favorite book from match ups they read! 

Add a picture of each winning book cover to the "Elite 8" squares and talk the books up again! 

Rinse, wash, and repeat for the "Final 4" and "The Championship Game" until you have a winner! Deem this your "Book of the Year" and award prizes for any perfect brackets!  

XOXO Happy Reading :)

*Amazon Affiliate Links: Up to 10% of any purchase you make through one of my affiliated links contributes to my I'mDrowningInStudentLoanDebtAndIChoseToBecomeATeacher? Fund 😩 .  My affiliate links will only ever be directed to products that I use regularly and from which my personal and/or professional life truly benefit.

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