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March Madness Takes on a Whole New Meaning

March Madness Takes on a Whole New Meaning

It was Piggie versus Skippyjon Jones in the March Madness finals.

The excitement at Heritage ECS was palpable, especially for the first graders in Mrs. Sellers and Mrs. Vogelsang’s classes.

The teachers had introduced a new twist to March Madness this year – a competition to find out the favorite book character.

The project started with the class discussing characters, character development, and contrasting and comparing characters. After a few weeks, the class began the culminating activity of their character study: the March Madness project.

Small groups worked together to select a favorite character and created a life-sized version of the character out of butcher paper, labelling the character’s internal and external characteristics. Students loved lining the school hallways with their life-sized characters. This was Oliver’s favorite part of the project. “I liked making the life size characters. It was challenging and I really liked the experience.”

Each group was also in charge of writing an opinion piece to “campaign” for people to vote for their character. The students realized that not everyone knew about the characters, so they read aloud from one of the characters’ books. These recordings were all put on Seesaw (an online platform that allows students, parents and teachers connect) so that others could view the “campaigns.”

This part of the project was great for reading fluency, as well as helping the students work on the first grade listening and speaking standards.

The students voted in the first round to narrow it down to the Elite 8; from there on the voting was open to families and anyone in the school that wanted to participate.

“We try to involve the parent community as much as possible, and this was a perfect project to do that,” said Vogelsang. “It was also very motivating to our students to get the school community involved in the voting as well. Other Heritage students would make it a point to walk down our hallway to look at the brackets.”

Voters not only selected their favorite character, but had to state why they were voting for that character. First grader Rehanna said she “liked reading different people’s opinions.” Lilybet agreed. “Voting on Seesaw was fun. I liked seeing how other people voted. It was also fun announcing the winner on morning announcements.”

Once the voting was finished (772 votes were submitted!), the learning continued. Not only did the classes count the votes, but they worked on story problems figuring out how many more votes one character got over another.

The March Madness championship was a close one, with Piggie receiving just five votes more than Skippyjon Jones.

The students then worked with their teachers to plan a fun day to honor Piggie and celebrate all their hard work. One of first grader Harper’s favorite activities was a STEM challenge where students had to build a nest that could stay on their head with three eggs (plastic!) inside. This idea came from one of Mo Willems’ Piggie books called There’s a Bird on Your Head. First grader Ivy said, “making the Piggie bookmarks on our celebration day was fun.”

The students took ownership of their learning throughout the entire project. “We are the teachers and are here to guide the students, but we want the students to tell us how they want to learn,’ said Sellers.

Vogelsang agreed. “We love planting ideas and seeds. And to watch the students develop a love for creativity, reading and thinking outside of the box to become problem-solvers.”

Sellers said another takeaway with this project is that students learn about failure. “Students need to try things and see how it goes. If they run into a bump, then they can regroup or change course. They learn that failure is okay, and they build the stamina and grit to get through things.”

Will they do the March Madness Character Project again. Definitely. Especially when students like Bella say they enjoyed the project because “I like challenging my brain and doing things that take a long time.”