Many of you who happen across this blog post will probably know that my students have engaged in 2 different #throwdown challenges with my Sister Classroom, Mrs. Heise’s class in Wisconsin. Jillian (the aforementioned Mrs. Heise) and I have heard and fielded many questions about this, so we decided it would be a good idea to put some blog posts together. For her amazing post, check out this link right here.
Our story begins on a warm February night (okay, probably a cold night), as Jillian and I were discussing ideas for March is Reading Month (if it helps [and I think it does], imagine me tracing my hand against the canvas of the sky, painting the picture of this narrative). We had talked about a few things, and decided to do March Book Madness with Lea Kelley (more on that later).
But I knew that wouldn’t be enough:
Of course, Jillian, with utmost confidence in her students, was not going to back down from such a challenge. And thus #throwdown was born.
The rules are simple:
- Any book completed by a student in the month of March counts
- Graphic novels count as 1/2 books (later revised for #throwdown2)
- The winning classroom will be based on average books read per student, not total number of books
- Novels in verse count as 1/2 books
- Graphic novels count as 1/4 books
- Chapter books below grade level count as 1/2 books (henceforth known as the “Geronimo Stilton Rule”)
Now, in March, our classrooms competed in March Book Madness (MBM), as mentioned above. This was a wildly popular (my classroom, my assessment of popularity — don’t you counter me on this one!) tournament of fictional characters voted on by our students. Innocently enough, Jillian tweeted this:
And thus was born a competition between the teachers. We filled out brackets NCAA-prediction style, and this became a #throwdown of sorts for the teachers — a #teacherthrowdown. It was fun to watch as the winner we BOTH chose (Katniss) went down in the first round, and we could see our brackets fall to pieces before our eyes.
For #throwdown2, though, Jillian (I think it was her) suggested we also compete in a head-to-head reading challenge. Same rules as the students. A true #teacherthrowdown.
Something magical happened here. May is an insanely busy time for most teachers, and I know neither of us are the exception to this. Jillian had field trips going on and all kinds of grading and planning. I had poetry units to grade, a debate unit to figure out (my little brother has been wanting to come in and debate my students about the value of reading all year — but that’s another post for another time [maybe]), and the biggest thing: 8th grade graduation to plan. There’s usually not much time to breathe. But then there’s the magic of #teacherthrowdown. I started to chisel away time to read. 10 minutes of planning left — not enough time to begin grading another assignment? Time to read. Need to relax at the end of the day? TV’s going off — it’s time to read. Heading up north with the parents to see the little brother graduate college? I brought more books than shirts.
So what is this #throwdown thing? It’s a fun, loosely competitive way to get students excited about reading. The school year’s wrapping up, but if you’re a teacher reading this post, you need to try this next year. Find a classroom to do it with — or do it within your own classes (but I think having different teachers adds to it). But whatever you do, give it a whirl. It’s a blast.
And one last thing I couldn’t find a way to work in above: the students (for the most part) did not just read “easy” books or anything. They read what they wanted to read. They just read a lot. They still comprehended what they read and talked about their reading. They just had fun with it. Jillian and I did, too. Your turn.