321, jump ball! Are you ready to tip off into March Madness?
March Madness is a big part of the American sporting calendar and a chance for people from all over the United States to get behind their team in one of the country’s premier basketball competitions.
You’ll probably be hard-pushed to find many people who don’t know what NCAA March Madness is, especially high school or middle school students, but in case you or any of your students don’t, here’s a quick rundown.
What is March Madness?
March Madness is the nickname for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, sometimes referred to as the NCAA bracket, which takes place each year in March and April. It generally features 68 college basketball teams from around the US, starting with the eight lowest-ranking teams playing the First Four matches. The winners of those games join the other 60 teams in the main tournament which is divided into four regions of 16 teams each. Each team is seeded and basketball games are played in a bracket format with the winner of each game proceeding to the next round until just one is left standing. In the first proper round, higher seeded teams play against lower-seeded teams as a reward for their high seeding. The first proper rounds usually coincide with St. Patrick’s Day weekend and the Final Four takes place in early April with the eventual winner being crowned national champion of college basketball.
March Madness classroom activities
Although March Madness is a basketball competition, there are plenty of ways to incorporate March Madness activities into non-sports related activities in your classroom at any grade level.
Here are some ways to slam-dunk March Madness into your different curriculum areas when you are creating your lesson plans for March and April.
The most obvious way to celebrate March Madness basketball is with your own basketball competition. You could have mini-games between groups in your class, or if you can get the whole year group involved, set up your own tournament with brackets just like the NCAA tournament. Check out our editable tournament bracket templates in the Kami Library.
If you have keen teachers or parents, then think about setting up a friendly “teachers vs. students” or “kids vs. parents” game.
Of course, March Madness games are not limited to basketball. You can use the March Madness bracket system for any competitive sport you’re practicing with your students.
For not-so-athletic students (or younger students), you could organize a gentler game like balloon basketball where the aim of the game is to keep a balloon in the air and pass it across the room to score in a basketball hoop (or a trash can) — not as easy as it sounds!
Themed March Madness math activities are a great way to make practicing math skills fun. You introduce concepts like fractions and percentages, place value, and odds to students. You can get students to calculate each team’s chance of winning depending on a set of statistics or challenge students to pick the results in a bracket and then see how close they get to the actual results. You could also run an alternative competition where you calculate the odds of a team winning based on how students think their mascot would fare against the opposing team’s mascot.
The tournament bracket competition format can be applied to a whole range of activities.
Have your students to some March Madness reading! Create a series of brackets with books you have read in class recently and ask students to vote for a winner, giving their reasons why. You could present the bracket on a bulletin board and hold a vote with your students each lesson.
For younger students, you might want to choose book characters or even characters from movies or TV shows to go up against each other.
For very young students, you can always create a wordsearch with book titles you have read in class.
Organize a spelling bee
Use the bracket format to organize a simple spelling bee for your class. Students can compete in each round until an overall winner is found.
You can use the bracket templates in the Kami library to make it easy to keep track of your competition.
Learn more about St Patrick’s Day
The first weekend of real competition in March Madness takes place over St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Devote a class to learning more about St Patrick and the origins of the day. To find out more about St. Patrick’s Day activities, check out our blog. Younger students will love the St. Patrick’s Day printables in the Kami library.
Research a team
Teams in March Madness come from all over the United States so it’s a good opportunity to learn more about the country. Assign students or groups of students a team to research. They can report on:
- Where that team is from
- Their mascot
- Their team colors
- Interesting facts about the area they are from
- Interesting people that come from that area
- Interesting landmarks
Arts and crafts
Everyone loves an art project! Here are some ideas for March Madness:
Draw your own mascot
Older students can design their own mascot from scratch but younger students might do better with a printable mascot outline to color in.
Design a team shirt
Students can choose their favorite colors and design their own logo to create a basketball team shirt.
Design posters to support your team
Let students choose their own favorite team or support your local team if you have one. You could hold a pep rally one day with all the posters on show.
There are lots of experiments you can do with a basketball! Why not take this chance to study pressure, gravitational potential energy, wind resistance, speed, velocity, and thermal energy? Not to mention the cognitive science behind hand-eye coordination and learning visuospatial tasks. If you aren’t a science whizz, there are lots of resources on the internet like the Science Buddies website that have simple March Madness-related experiments to do with your students.
So make the most of this time of year, and use a much-loved sports event to create fun, engaging, and impactful learning moments. Do March Madness the right way this year — swish!