Monday, April 25, 2016

March Madness Nonfiction - Celebrating Our Champion!

On Wednesday, April 13, our entire school community gathered in the gymnasium to announce the champion of our March Madness Nonfiction Picture Book bracket!  The energy was amazing as kids (and teachers!) were cheering for Growing Up Pedro or Tarra & Bella.  Some students even made posters rooting for their favorite book!

This assembly was truly a collaborative effort and involved participation from all classes.  One of the members of our support staff is a varsity basketball coach, so we asked him to be our master of ceremonies.  Jason did a phenomenal job setting the tone for the event!  He even created a special playlist of basketball related songs to create an energized atmosphere!

We started by announcing the 14 picture books that were part of the bracket.  Each class selected a student representative who marched in our parade of books in front of the school.  Jason announced each title and author while the students cheered for some of their favorite books from our tournament!

We had two classrooms decorate a box for the finalists which we used to reveal the results.  

For the main event, we selected two teachers who were passionate about the final titles.  Mary, one of our third grade teachers and huge fan of Tarra & Bella, created masks for two of her students to showcase their favorite book.  Sydney, one of our fourth grade teachers and a huge fan of Pedro, wore baseball attire during the announcement of her favorite book.  She even threw a first pitch in honor of Pedro!  The entire school community was waiting to hear the results of our nonfiction tournament!

Finally, it was time for the big announcement! Jason led the whole school in a countdown for the big moment.  At the count of one, Valerie and I ripped open the boxes to reveal helium balloons floating out of the box for Growing Up Pedro.  As you can imagine, cheering erupted in the entire gym!

The best moment of the assembly for me was when I shared a special message from Matt Tavares.  A few days before the assembly, I e-mailed him to let him know our school had selected his book from a collection of sixteen outstanding titles.  It was such an honor to read aloud his response to our entire school.  By looking at the faces in the audience, I could tell how special our students felt to hear from the author of their favorite book.  Thank you so much, Matt!  

At the end of the event, I asked the students to raise their hands if they wanted to have another March Madness bracket next year.  The vote was unanimous!  We've already started to collect potential outstanding titles to share with our students next spring.  

Here are a few of our top contenders for March Madness 2017!

It's hard for me to express in words what this March Madness bracket meant to our school. For the past six weeks, we've been energized about read aloud, picture books and nonfiction.  Kids couldn't wait for their teacher to share a new book each day!  Our students were passionate and jubilant, not about basketball, but about books!  This event brought our school community together in such a powerful way.  As one of my colleagues shared, "this is the most awesome thing we've ever done! "  I can't wait to see what next year brings!  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book March Madness

In the spirit of the annual March Madness basketball tournament, my colleague, Valerie Glueck and I designed a literacy related March Madness bracket of nonfiction picture books to foster a love of nonfiction in our reading community.

Our Reading Tournament kicked off on March 4th with a collection of sixteen outstanding nonfiction picture books.  Teachers in every classroom at Williams Elementary School read aloud eight picture books from one side of the bracket with their students. Classrooms discussed not only the content and structure of the text, but also their favorite features. After the texts had been read aloud, students voted between pairs of books to determine which nonfiction books would move on to "The Elite Eight".

After the winners of round one were determined, teachers then read the four books from the other side of the bracket.  Students participated in rich classroom discussions in order to select our "Final Four" Nonfiction Picture Book Champions.  Here are the four final texts in our March Madness bracket which will be announced at school this morning!



March Madness has not only created an energy and excitement for read aloud; it has also exposed students to more nonfiction, which can be a neglected genre.  Teachers have used our March Madness bracket as a springboard for discussions of text features and structures, vocabulary and author's purpose.  The fifth grade teachers shared that our nonfiction study has led to deep discussion about a variety of topics with students.  Most of all, students have been surprised by the fact that all of the books are about real people and events!  Readers have been inspired to look up extra information about topics after read aloud.  One teacher shared that her students can't wait to find out which book they are reading each day.  Students have found a renewed curiosity in a variety of topics through the tournament.  A fifth grader shared, "The books were interesting because I learned new things like in How to Swallow a Pig. I learned a lot about animals I didn't know.  It was fun to read the books and it was exciting!"  Another student explained, "The titles give you a lot to think about like No Monkeys, No Chocolate.  So I like that these nonfiction books really make you think about things for a while and then sometimes your thinking changes." We love that our students are becoming reflective and inspired by the books in our collection!

Another exciting feature for students and staff has been the connection with some of the authors through Twitter. Melissa Stewart created a nonfiction blog post about our nonfiction book bracket encouraging schools across the country to follow our lead in reading aloud more nonfiction.  Twitter has allowed authors to follow the progress of their books through the bracket.  After the initial posting, Matt Tavares, author of Growing Up Pedro tweeted, "Going against @duncantonatiuh in the first round? That's gonna be tough. Go Pedro!" It's exciting to see the energy from our project extending outside the walls of our school!

Regardless of the final champion, the staff has enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate reading as a school community. Our students are the real winners as they've developed a greater appreciation for nonfiction!

Next Wednesday, I am looking forward to announcing our final champion and sharing pictures from our school wide assembly!  Stay tuned!