The end of March is traditionally known for its crazy weather (check!), anticipation of spring (check!), and for sports lovers everywhere, the last few games of the NCAA "March Madness" basketball tournament and surprise bracket-busting upsets. In looking for new ways to engage her students and encourage their love of reading, Miss Karlee Schmidt, a third grade teacher at Jacksonwald (and sports aficionado herself who makes a bracket every year), thought that her students would love a similar-style bracket competition with a twist--instead of guessing which basketball team was favored to win, they'd select 16 books to read out loud in March and line them up in a head-to-head competition to find everyone's ultimate favorite book by the end of the month. Last week, just as Villanova was getting ready to beat Michigan for a berth in the Final Four, Miss Schmidt's class was in a nail-biting and heated vote to find out if "Baby Rattlesnake" or "Button Up!: Wrinkled Rhymes," their final two bracket books, would prove victorious. After a drum roll by students pounding their hands on their desks, "Button Up!," Alice Shertle and Petra Mathers' poems about animals wearing clothes, became Miss Schmidt's final winner!
"This was a great opportunity to use a current event in my classroom while incorporating the Fountas and Pinnell curriculum," said Miss Schmidt. "It was a great way to compare and discuss the new interactive read alouds," she said. In fact, word spread quickly around the third grade classes at Jacksonwald that Miss Schmidt's class was making book brackets, which inspired all of the third grade classes to participate. "All of third grade decided to use the same books, and now my class can't wait to see what the other classes pick." Miss Schmidt says that even though no one in her class had a perfect bracket, this year's bracket was the most successful and gratifying March Madness she's ever participated in just by seeing the love of reading that the friendly competition fostered in her students. "My class was so excited about this. I definitely plan to do it again next year!"