For a few years now I’ve wanted to do a March Madness poetry bracket activity with my students, but it never seemed to work out due to various factors.  However, this year I made a commitment to doing it!  I used a blank template from the wonderful Amanda at Mud and Ink Teaching, and here is the bracket I created:

Here is how I planned my bracket activities:

1. I linked to each poem in the bracket and kept it as a constant fixture in our daily Canvas lessons.
2. For each day we played March Madness poetry, I included a section on my Canvas lesson with the links to the poems as well as video readings.  I feel taking time to let students watch/hear the poems read aloud in the initial Sweet 16 rounds is important as poetry is meant to be heard.  The video below will show you how I incorporated this on my daily Canvas lesson pages:

I curated all of the poem reading videos into Canvas Studio so that the videos would be viewable by students if working from home.

3.  Once we listened to the poems, I sent students the ballot the voting form through the Canvas messaging/email system.  I did not post ballots on the Canvas lesson because I wanted them to read and hear the poems.

4.  As we moved deeper into the rounds, we would listen to the poem again if it had been several days since students had seen/heard that poem from a previous round.  However, for every voting round, I gave students time to re-read the poem.

You will notice the diversity in the poems I selected; you will also notice that this is a fairly sophisticated selection of poems for 8th graders.  So often poetry gets “dumbed down” for middle school learners because they are exposed to only silly poems or poems that are from certain writers.  I wanted to choose a wide range of poems that would give my students a gentle entry point to learning about different styles of poetry and poets.  I loved seeing their choices by different class sections and the overall outcome of each vote; the students were usually eager to see the winner of each round, and one class in particular really got into the activity with their interest and passion in the poem voting (clapping and cheering!).  Our ultimate winner was:

I definitely recommend making time for this March Madness poetry in your calendar next year!  This is a terrific learning opportunity for students and a way to expose students to poems even if your curriculum map doesn’t allow for a more in-depth poetry unit.  March Madness Poetry has definitely been a highlight for me and my students in what has probably been our most challenging school year of our lives and reminds me that poetry is appropriate in all seasons of life!