So What Is This #throwdown Thing Anyway?

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:

  1. Any book completed by a student in the month of March counts
  2. Graphic novels count as 1/2 books (later revised for #throwdown2)
  3. The winning classroom will be based on average books read per student, not total number of books
This was a fantastic contest, and our combined 46 students read 208.5 books for over 4 and a half per student! Unfortunately, my students came up a bit on the short end, and we went down 4.19 books/student to 4.9 for Jillian’s students. I’m told they enjoyed their Mackinac Island Fudge prize.
We had so much fun, we decided to do it again. We decided, on April 24th, to begin #throwdown2 on April 25th. So from April 25th until May 24th, our students competed in #throwdown2. This one had slightly different rules for counting books:
  1. Novels in verse count as 1/2 books
  2. Graphic novels count as 1/4 books
  3. Chapter books below grade level count as 1/2 books (henceforth known as the “Geronimo Stilton Rule”)
This one was ridiculous. I figured the March numbers were high because of some long weekends and elevated time reading in class. We flat-out destroyed those numbers — and this with more restrictions! Our students read a total of 262 books, for 5.7 books/student. My classroom ended up on top this time (WOO!) by an average of 6 books/student to 5.36 for Mrs. Heise’s students. The students had a blast, being sure to remind me to do a count when they had finished a book, and really getting excited about their reading.

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.

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9 thoughts on “So What Is This #throwdown Thing Anyway?

  1. Pingback: #throwdown 2012-2013 | The Sister Classroom Project

  2. I think the rules make sense. But who determines the points for books under their reading level? The teacher or the student?
    Still, I love that you guys have been pushing each other to do more. What fun!

    • In my room, it was my call, from knowing the student. Some are obvious: Geronimo Stilton and Michigan/American Chillers are not at level for any of my 8th graders, and they also don’t fit in with our understanding of a choice read novel would be. On the other hand, books like The One and Only Ivan and Wonder are also below reading level, but there’s something different about the them that does fit in with what we would consider a choice read novel.

      The students just sort of know. If I say something counts as 1/2 and they don’t argue much (or their argument is just that we want to win), then I know we’re all in agreement on that assessment.

      • That makes sense. Something tells me that I wouldn’t get too much hassle from making those calls from my students.
        I do love this idea and want to give it a go for next year. 🙂

  3. I love this. I’ve actually tried to get other teacher’s at my school to compete. They think I’m the crazy one. I teach 6th grade Language Arts. Two years ago when I came to my current schools I tried to involve the entire school in a reading challenge. My students read, won great books and the other teachers continued to believe I was crazy for reading so much.
    Every year I participate in the “Fall into Reading Challenge” and the “Spring Reading Thing” put up by Callapidder Days Blog. I do a modified version for my students. They must read books that are at least 100 plus pages and they write reviews, some of which get posted on my website. For each book review they get a ticket to be placed in a jar to win books, gift cards to bookstores. The funny thing is I always have two or three low readers who push themselves and learn that they do enjoy reading. One such girl has read 78 books this school year. Another young man told me that it’s funny how he thought he didn’t like reading but learned he really did. One day I may find a teacher as passionate as myself willing to participate with me. Good luck next year and I look forward to seeing how that works for you both.

    • I love this! I am going to investigate the Fall Into and Spring Thing challenges – had not heard of them before. I would love for my 5th grade class to particpate/challenge. We wouldn’t mind competing with sixth graders! Our reading program this year was based on “The Book Whisperer” philosophy of reading a lot and my kids loved it. We read some great books – One and Only Ivan and Wonder being two faves. Hunger Games and Divergent Trilogy. Let me know if you are interested!

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