books,  librarian

Mapril Madness Tournament of Books!

Coronavirus changed Education … and Quickly!

The coronavirus certainly made things in the education world a little difficult. Teachers had to design eLearning plans on the fly, grading is different, and parents are having to monitor their children’s usage of the Chromebooks – are they really doing work or are they just playing NitroType?

It affected my “work” as an aspiring librarian as well. Not only did I end up having to complete my practicum hours by watching webinars but my March Madness Tournament of Books – something that had been going really well in the first two weeks of March, when we were in school – kind of fizzled out once all the kids were at home. However, it was a great idea and it was a lot of fun to do. I fully intend to do it every year that I’m a media specialist (which hopefully starts soon).

Today’s blog post focuses on how I set up and ran my Tournament of Books. It started out as a March Madness Tournament and ended as a Mapril Madness Tournament. Hopefully, you can get some ideas from this post for your next Tournament!

My bracket on the wall outside the library

First, I turned to trusty TeachersPayTeachers for inspiration. I had read a blog post by The Brown Bag Teacher about her Tournament of Books and, luckily, she had a great resource that included printables and pictures. I printed all the signs for Elite 8 and Final 4 and such (and ended up not using them because they were too big for the bulletin board that I was utilizing but I’m definitely keeping them for later) and was ready to get started. 

I picked sixteen fiction books that ran the gamut of genre, age, and interest. I chose some “classic” novels like Animorphs: The Invasion and Among the Hidden. I picked some “gritty” realistic fiction like The Hate U Give and Crossover. And I picked some feel-good ones like Wonder. I even threw in a little Neal Shusterman. I printed out small pictures of each cover, laminated them, and created my bracket. I also printed paper brackets (with the first 16 books already filled out) and had these available for students to fill out, predicting what book they thought would win. Students who guessed correctly would be entered in a drawing for a gift card. Yay gift cards! 

One side of the bracket
The other side of the bracket!

And then the Tournament started. I created a special site, which I’m linking here, for all the March Madness content. Each day, I’d post the covers of the two books who were competing, blurbs about each one, and a video that I created talking about each book. Here’s the video I did for Everlost versus Projekt 1065 if you’re curious to see what it looked like. Students then clicked on a linked Google Form to vote. At the end of the day, I tallied the votes, printed the winning cover (a little bigger), laminated it, and added it to the Tournament board. 

Website screenshot

In the next round, the Elite 8, I filmed the videos at home and let my cat (or a dog from the animal shelter) predict their winner. It was at this point that the coronavirus caused schools to close so voting was a lot more limited. Our Instructional Coach would post short videos I’d send her on Instagram Stories to remind students to vote but it just wasn’t quite as successful as it had been when we were in school. The final match-up was between Wonder and The Hate U Give. I don’t have all the filled-out brackets here with me at home but I know that most of the entries predicted one of these two to win so that was cool! To be honest, I was kind of bummed with how this finished out because it was going so well up until the closure but I’m still glad with how it turned out overall. 

I was impressed with the participation of the students – and grateful for the encouragement of the teachers. One 6th grade ELA teacher was using my videos each day as the “read-aloud” portion of her class and having all her students vote. An 8th grade Science teacher (cross-curricular, baby!) offered incentives to students who voted each day. A 7th grade ELA teacher told me that her students asked to see the videos each day and would repeat my catchphrase (“A vote for a book could mean candy for you,” said at the end of every video) with me – how cool!! And an overwhelming number of teachers participated in the paper brackets – which could be because my principal let me offer a jeans pass…teachers will do anything for jeans, I’ve discovered. We were averaging about 300 votes a day, which was amazing!! Granted, once eLearning began, we dropped to about 25 votes a day but, hey, I’ll take what I can get. 

For my first time doing Tournament of Books, I was glad with how it turned out and glad with the participation that I got. Luckily for me, our Instructional Coach had done the bulletin board last year so I was able to use her site as a template and use her letters for the bulletin board. Obviously, I chose different books but it was nice to have somewhere to start. I absolutely loved filming the videos (seriously, I have no shame), and I loved hamming it up and encouraging kids to read. I think that if I did this as the real librarian, I would purchase extra copies of the books in advance – even if it meant going to a secondhand book store and buying them myself – so that the students could read them. One of the downsides was that I chose a book, Belly Up, that kids thought sounded really good … and it wasn’t in our library. Whoops! I can’t wait to take this project into my own media center!

And one thing’s for sure – this just proves (again) that I’m meant to be a librarian.