March Madness with a twist

While basketball fans big and small compared their brackets and cheered on their teams for March Madness, Norfolk Collegiate’s lower school joined the fun with a twist.

Our fifth-grade students worked on a project titled "March Book Madness" where they formed a bracket-style tournament with their favorite books.

“We are deciding which books can beat each other in a head-to-head match-up,” said Robyn Maus, fifth-grade teacher. “It’s kind of like the huge NCAA college basketball tournament that happens every year, but instead of Kentucky facing Duke in a game, we may get The One and Only Ivan battling The Blood of Olympus, or Fish in a Tree trying to crush Wonder.”

Students were able to nominate their favorite books in hopes that it would go head-to-head with other books and receive more votes.

“Students have been arguing for their favorite books, nothing shows how much someone loves a good book like an argument over another good book,” Maus said. “So far, favorite titles are Crossover, Land of Stories, Roller Girl and Fish in a Tree.”

Students were thrilled to be a part of this initiative.

“First, we started off with book-storming, it’s kind of like brainstorming but for books,” said Logan Reed ’23. “We had 74 books and we had to narrow it down to 64 books now we’re at 32 books.”

Each student had the opportunity to vote for his or her favorite books.

“[To vote] we get a little sheet and it has brackets on it with the book’s name and we select which one we want to win from each bracket,” said Ellie Frank ’23. “Then we see which one wins and highlight it within that bracket, and we keep doing that over and over until we get to the 2016 book of the year.”

The lower school tournament is a direct result of a Mathas Grant awarded to second- and fifth-grade teachers Lolita Kraft and Robyn Maus. This grant program allows Collegiate faculty to apply for grants which provide support for development opportunities, courtesy of Keryn and Ted Mathas ’85.

“Our grant’s goal was to foster a community of readers here at the lower school. There is a national book tournament but we wanted to make one of our own,” Maus said. “Last year we started our March Book Madness in fifth grade; second grade is getting their bracket started as well.”

This tournament creates a tremendous amount of book buzz at our lower school.

“It gets kids excited about books and reading,” said Maus. “It introduces new books to readers and also connects children to authors.

“I think it’s really fun because most of my favorite books are in this competition, so it makes it sort of intense and more of a competition,” said Logan. “You also have to try to persuade some of the other students to vote for that book and it’s just really fun.”

“I just really love books, honestly,” said Ellie. “It’s like the new I Like Pie; I like books.”

This project goes beyond the classroom as it introduces families to a whole new world of book reading with their children. Parents also filled out their own brackets and some students wrote letters to the authors.