Teachers Put Educational Spin on March Madness

Staff Writer

While many were focusing on three-point shots and hoping that their brackets make it to the end of March Madness, second-grade students in New Bremen had a different sort of bracket they were focusing on.
March is also National Reading Month and 16 teachers and faculty in the New Bremen School District nominated their favorite storybooks for a chance at being the top pick by the entire second-grade class.
“The second-grade teachers saw it on the internet and we thought it would be a fun thing to add to just our everyday reading to make it fun,” said Diana Kramer, a second grade teacher. “And the kids are into the basketball and March Madness also, so it’s just another way we can show them how to make reading fun. And reading is really, really important.”
The faceoff between short stories started last year and was such a hit amongst the students that it had to be brought back again. It was so popular that teachers didn’t have to tell students it was coming back.
“The kids actually looked forward to it this year knowing that it was coming up without us even saying anything because they remember seeing the bracket in the hallway last year and they talked about it last year,” she said. “And this year they got to be the participants and vote on their favorite book.”
Called the Tournament of Books, the students had the stories read to them two at a time before voting on which was their favorite, moving it to the next round.
“Some of the scores were 31 to 29, some were 25 to 10; you know there was all kinds of scores,” Kramer said. “So we listened to all the books, then we all went back to our home room and they put their heads down and they had to think about what book was their actual favorite and for most of them it was very, very difficult.”
When they reached the final four, the individual who nominated the book came into the classrooms and read the story to the students. Originally, the second-grade teachers had hoped to have all the participating faculty and teachers read their books to the 60-some students. They soon realized that would be a much more difficult task and settled for the final four.
The books in the final four were “The Wonky Donkey,” by Craig Smith, nominated by Will Hoskins; “Corduroy,” by Don Freeman, nominated by Holly Smith; “The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors,” by Drew Daywalk, nominated by Jason Schrader and “Too Much Glue,” by Jason Lefebvre, nominated by Tonya Homan.
“The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors,” was the grand champion for the 2019 Tournament of Books.
One aspect Kramer noted that was fun for the students, among many aspects of the tournament, was being able to see the administrators and other teachers in a different atmosphere than what students were used to. Hoskins, for example, is the elementary gym teacher who spends most of his day getting the students up and moving, not sitting still and reading a book.
At the end of the day, the tournament was all about promoting reading and showing students the many different styles of books out there for them to choose form.
“Reading is really, really important and we try to make it as much fun and expose them to as many books as possible, too,” Kramer said. “Some of the stories were classics, like ‘Corduroy’ was a classic, and ‘The Wonky Donkey’ and ‘The Legend of Paper Rock Scissors,’ those were both new books that were written in 2018.”