March Madness!

Growing up, I was never really into basketball. I was terrible at playing it, my city doesn’t have a team (Pittsburgh has everything else, but no basketball!), and the only college in Pittsburgh that could have been good (Pitt) wasn’t.

That all changed when I went to college and saw the hype over March Madness every year!

Many of my new friends came from tried and true college towns, such as Columbus, Lexington, or Charlotte, whose teams consistently made it into the tournament. I thought it was crazy that they treated their college teams like Pittsburgh does with the Steelers – and if you’re from Pittsburgh, you know exactly what I mean! The thought of basketball being so huge was foreign to me, but after watching the games and getting caught up in all of the excitement, I am now hooked.

It became even more exciting last year when Pitt was a #1 seed! In addition to being a Pitt fan, my BFF got me rooting for Kentucky – the #1 overall seed this year and an amazing team. We attended a game last month at Rupp Arena and it was UNREAL. Seriously. If you have never been to a college basketball game at a large school with a good team, I highly suggest you go. The players ran into the arena with fireworks shooting overhead – in an indoor arena! Crazy.

Anyways, all that being said, I am now a huge college basketball fan and love this time of year, so I really wanted to do something fun with March Madness in my classroom. During the month of March, our whole school studies one country – this year we’re learning about China – so rather than each individual teacher planning her own unit, we each teach a lesson to the whole school. This leaves many afternoons open for other activities. I was excited to do some March Madness activities because it would tie in math, geography, reading, writing, and research skills!

To start our our March Madness unit, I explained what March Madness was and how seeding worked. Each student was given a bracket to fill out in order to predict who would win each game, all the way to the championship. They also predicted a score for the championship game, just in case of a tie 🙂 We mounted their brackets on construction paper and hung them up in the room. Every day after games are played, I update their bracket by either crossing out the team if they guessed incorrectly or drawing a star if it was correct. Each round is also worth 32 points – for example, in the first round when there were a possible of 32 predictions, each game guessed correctly was worth 1 point. In the second round with only 16 possible predictions, each game was worth 2 points. The third round games were worth 4 points, and so on, each time totaling 32. I write their totals on the board so that they can keep track of who is in the lead. I also include their totals for each round on a chart that is posted above our brackets.

Whew – sorry that was a long paragraph! Here is one of my student’s brackets right now:

Here are all 14 brackets:

After we filled out our brackets, each student was given a list of all 64 teams in the tournament, their wins-losses for the season, and a blank. They paired up with a friend to calculate the winning percentages of each team. We then looked at which teams had the highest and the lowest. They were allowed to make changes to their bracket based on this information – and several of them wanted to 🙂

Here’s my copy (it’s a mess b/c we wrote lots of other stuff on it too!):

Once all of the students had done this, we next discussed what state each team comes from. They wrote the state name or abbreviation next to the team on their percentages page. Next they determine how many teams were from each state. We found out that the state with the most teams in the tourney (5) was North Carolina! (One thing I emphasized was the fact that the teams in the tournament are not the states’ only teams! They seemed to think that because Hawaii has no teams in the tournament, it means they have no teams at all…so we talked about how these are the best of the best!)

Each student received a map of the U.S. while I had a larger one hung on the board. We then filled in each state with a different color based on how many teams that state has in the tournament. For example, NC has 5 teams so we colored it orange; KY, OH, NY, and CA each have 4 teams so we colored them purple; etc, creating a key in the corner of the map.

Here is a student-colored map…

…and mine on the board:

Once we colored our whole map, we determined the fraction and percentage of states with 5 teams, 4 teams, and so on. We also looked at the distribution of teams, noticing that the majority of states with teams are in the eastern part of the country. We discussed why this might be.

Our next task involved each student choosing a team they were interested in learning more about. I created an information page for the students to fill out while doing research about their team. It involves everything from basic information, such as the team’s mascot, colors, and coach, to more detailed, such as the heights of each player and their field goal percentages (and looking to see if there is a correlation between the 2!). I found some websites for the students to use while conducting their research and set them off on their own.

Update: I have since uploaded the team research fact page I created to TpT – check it out!

Now, I only have access to 6 or 7 computers in my room and the 4th grade room next door, so I created something for the rest of the students to work on while the other half was doing their research. I compiled a list of all of the Rounds 1 and 2 games that had been played and recorded the final score, as well as in what city the game was played. The students answered 13 questions about these games, including what games had the highest and lowest total points scored, what games had the highest and lowest points scored by a winning team, how many upsets there had been, which teams traveled the farthest/least far to play their first round game, and which two teams that played each other are farthest from/closest to each other geographically. They were allowed to use a calculator and an atlas to help with these questions.

So what do you think?! This is what we have done so far; I am hoping to have each student present the information learned about their researched team, but I am trying to figure out a creative yet simple way to do so. Maybe a poster?

There will also be a prize for the student who receives the most points based on his/her bracket. Right now one of my three girls is in first place! I think the boys were a bit shocked by that…haha. I was quite proud 🙂

It’s been fun to see the students come in each day to check out their updated brackets and see how they did. I think many of them are watching the games at home too, because they like to ask if I watched a particular game and if I “can believe that they won?!” or some comment like it.

This has been an exciting way to keep our March busy and fun, and thankfully the students are enjoying it too!!

Link Up!

I joined in with the upper-elementary linky party over at Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies. It’s so fun finding and reading other blogs from upper elementary teachers – they are hard to discover, so I appreciate Lorraine for putting them all in one place!

I have a new post planned with lots of information – but things have been extra crazy in 5th grade! We are busy with March Madness activities, learning about China, and so much other fun stuff! I can’t wait to share it all with you!

Check back soon 🙂


So somehow I got roped into co-coaching the 5th and 6th grade boys volleyball team at my school…

My husband, best friend, and I play pick up games every Tuesday night at a local church. I played intramural volleyball in college, and took a clinic one summer when I was younger. It’s always been a fun sport for me (whereas most others are NOT! I was a singer/actress/dancer, not an athlete!). Despite the fact that I’ve never actually been trained on how to play, I have a blast and am much improved compared to my college days of playing!

Anyways, we have a good solid group of girls playing this year and one of their dad’s is coaching the girls’ team. Unfortunately, only one boy signed up for the boys’ team…bummer. So I was talking to our “athletic director” who organizes the sports teams and mentioned that I’d be willing to help out if a few more boys signed up; I felt bad that there weren’t enough for a team and this one boy who wanted to play wouldn’t get a chance!

So they called up a dad at the school who had expressed interest and the two of us are now the “coaches” for the boys team! I encouraged my 5th grade boys to give it a try, and several of them have come to the two practices we have had so far.

I wasn’t able to make it to Tuesday’s practice, but I was excited to go today! We split the kids up into two groups (mixed boys and girls) and focused on bumping and serving. I must say that by the end of the hour and a half, they had definitely improved their bumping skills!! I was really impressed with their willingness to learn and try new things. Some of the boys are naturals at volleyball and have never even played before!

We are hoping to call up some local schools who would be willing to scrimmage our boys once we get a few more practices in and work on getting the ball over the net 🙂 It will be fun just to see how much they improve throughout the next few months.

I never thought I would be coaching a sports team, but hey, you gotta get out of your comfort zone every once in a while!

Oh, and please keep the patients/victims of the Western Psych hospital shooting here in Pittsburgh in your thoughts and prayers. There are seven injured and two dead, including the shooter; all of Oakland was on lock down for much of the afternoon. It was a scary thing to hear about, especially being so close to home. This is one of those things that is always difficult to discuss with students. At their age, they usually know about these events from their parents or from watching the news. I’m hoping to spend some time in prayer for the victims tomorrow with my kiddos.


Currently March…

Is it really already March?? Geez…where did February go? Here’s my link-up to‘s blog!

As you can see, I filled this out during school, but couldn’t get it to insert the picture. Oh well, here it is now.

And BTW, girls night was wonderful, though many of our friends were sick. Does anyone else watch the Bachelor?? Seriously, Courtney is so frustrating…

One of my next posts will be explaining our school’s All School Unit – it is truly amazing and one-of-a-kind!

My husband’s interview went well today! Praise God! Can’t wait to see what He has in store for us after Ben’s graduation from Physical Therapy school in May 🙂

Hope everyone is having a wonderful start to the week!

Facebook Fun!

As I mentioned in my last post, we are currently reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. The kids are SO into this book – every day, they beg to read “just one more chapter”!

In order to help my students get a better look at the characters in the novel, they are doing a character analysis in groups. Each group chose a character from the novel to focus on.

Their first task was to create a list of 5-10 personality traits as well as quotes/sentences that supported each trait. They next made a list of physical traits, describing what their character looks like. If it wasn’t talked about much, I had them describe what they THINK their character would look like.

I then explained that they would be creating a mock Facebook profile page for their character – and let me just say, they got SO excited! Most of them know what Facebook is due to a parent or relative having an account, and they thought it was so cool that they would get to make one for someone!

I created a mock Facebook profile page for each group to fill out about their character, which includes information such as birthday/age, relationship status, hometown, favorite tv show/book/movie, about me, and “likes”. It also has spots for two “friends” at the bottom, including their picture, name, and relationship to the character. On the back, there is room for “wall posts” from other characters – I plan to have my students write on each other’s “walls” as their characters. There is also an analysis section, where I will ask the students to write their list of character traits and support from the book.

My students started working on this today and were having so much fun! They were asked to create a rough draft of sorts, so that they knew what they were going to write on the actual page and could copy it neatly. They used what they knew about their character from the book to create the page, and they are looking great so far!

This group is almost done – they just have to go over their words in black pen:


You can check out the page on my TpT site:

Do you do anything like this with your class?? I’d love to hear about it!!