As I look at the bracket for this year’s NCAA March Madness tournament, I cannot help but miss my own March Madness tournament.
When I taught high school, I knew that come spring time, the kids would start getting lazy and be antsy for the summer. Heck, once spring break is over, you pretty much lost them for the year. So, I conceived of a masterful way to keep them under my control.
Each year during March Madness, I would divide all my students in each class up into a tournament style bracket. They would all have to compete against each other in weekly competitions to advance in the bracket. Each competition would vary between academic and trivial contests, depending on what section of the bracket they were placed. Sure enough, they competed with great enthusiasm because winner would only have to do 1/2 of the work needed for their final.
I also threw in another big twist. Each student had to fill in a bracket, trying to guess who would win each round and overall. Not only did they chose carefully, they created fan/cheering clubs for each match. Each match up that they choose correctly, they would receive extra credit points. Additionally, whoever had the most points in the end also receives the benefit of doing less work for the final.
There was a lot for grabs. Students who desperately needed extra credit (I never gave EC except for the tournament) realized that they could actually pass the class AND skate through the finals. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and gave my struggling students the top seeds. This would piss off the over achievers and cause them to build a fun rivalry, making the whole tournament quite interesting.
Matches per round varied between presentations, photoshopping images, paper basketball, foot races and MarioKart 64 duel for the championship match. The kids had fun and traditional cliques barriers were taken down as they cheered for each other. I had fun organizing it and watching them duke it out. All students in danger of failing, passed. One failing kid did actually win the tournament once. The best part about this is being able to keep the kids interest for the rest of the year.
And yes, my bracket was busted a few times.