Thursday, March 27, 2014

March Madness: Most Influential In US History

I have to admit that I am somewhat of a big basketball nut. March is also when my wife feels she becomes a basketball widow as wall to wall games are on TV and my attention is to needlessly to say somewhat distracted.

I saw last year several teachers who started using a "March Madness Type Bracket" in their classrooms and I wanted to see if I could replicate this in my own classroom. I wanted to take two strong passions of mine Basketball and History and see if this ignites dialog, debate, and learning with my students.

It Started With The List:

This was probably the hardest thing about starting my bracket; who's in and who's out. I wanted to pick people that my students and I had talked about this year so I decided I would focus on Americans we had studied or would be studying within the first week of starting our brackets. So I settled on famous Americans from 1776 to 1930. I than started to list some of the famous Americans we had studied as part of my survey curriculum of US History. It quickly presented itself that I would be able to establish four categories with about eight people in each categories giving me 32 names. I think that number of 32 was a good starting point. There were a few individuals that I had to leave off and others in hindsight I might not include next time but it did give me a decent starting place.

Using I created a 32 team bracket with four divisions: Presidents, Innovators, Reformers, & Military.

Filling Out The Bracket

The success of March Madness in large part comes from all of the brackets, office pools, and competitions that people sign up for leading up to opening weekend. People's investment comes from in large part from who they feel should win. I wanted to recreate that so I created four Google Docs that provided students with short biographies of each of the entries. I also linked to biographies found at to provide students with additional information about each of the individuals to learn about what their significance to US History was (i.e. Alice Paul, George Washington). Students were than tasked with filling out their bracket ahead of time to see who should make their Elite Eight, Final Four, and Championship Game.  Students were encouraged to think critically about each of their choices and be prepared to defend their answers. Students were also told to post who their winner was on my class blog.

Let The Madness Begin

Each Friday for the next five weeks students will vote for which entry should move on. I had a student ask me before we started as they were filling out their bracket "Is there a correct answer?" I had to chuckle and reply, "I don't know how this is going to end and that is the fun. It all depends on how your classmates vote each week."

I also have been enjoying listening to students argue about who should win and why. Seeing students passionate and excited about this has gone beyond my expectations for this project.

Students are voting using a Google Survey I am creating each week and I'm posting results on the following Monday. The nice thing about using GoogleDocs is my ability to quickly determine winners in each round and create the next survey for the following round. I will be excited to find out who makes it to the Championship Round and how students keep going on this project.

Changes For Next Time

A few things I think I might change for next time:
  • See if I can have students generate the list of 32 Americans that should be on the list and open it up to all time periods. I also could make this a larger list and expand up to 64 people. 
  • Have students create signs/posters on who they think should win and post these around the room. 
  • Add a more of a research element into this project where students would need to go beyond posting a blog post, but create some type of final project explaining why this person deserves the title of "Most Influential US Historical Figure." It might be fun for them to create commercials using iMovie or Animoto that we could share leading up to the voting. Students could also create advertisement biography sheets using Edu Gloster or Prezi

March Madness Other Examples And Resources

Do you do a March Madness bracket with your students? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

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