Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Bracket Challenge

One of the activities my daughter enjoyed most in middle school was her teachers' use of a Bracket Challenge. The premise is simple: Assign a person or a term or event or classification of something to a student or pair of students. Give them some time to research and develop claims as to why their assigned term (or whatever) is the best, the most influential, the most unforgettable, or whatever. 

Then, a tournament begins. Create a bracket of all the terms or people or events. For each match, students will compete against each other in friendly competition. One student (or pair of students) states the case about why their person/term/event is the best. The other student (or pair of students) will counter those arguments and make their own case. Then the class votes on which team was most convincing. That team will advance in the bracket. Eventually, a winner will be named.

According to my daughter, using a Bracket Challenge in class makes a lesson more fun. Kids like the competitive aspect of the process. For many, they are motivated to research more and prepare more when they have a chance to "win." I like that kids are doing most of the talking. Instead of listening to a teacher talk about types of energy, kids learn about the topic and talk about it with their peers. Because students have to debate a little, they probably listen more closely than if the lesson was more traditional.
I have written several times about the awesome tools at One of the templates there creates a bracket. The flippity templates begin as a spreadsheet. Type in your topics and click a few buttons and you have a completely customized bracket that can be projected in class during the challenge. Click the winner of each match and they will automatically advance. Not feeling comfortable with spreadsheets? Flippity has that covered, too. Each flippity tool has a set of instructions to walk you through the process, but there is also an option to create a quickie bracket without the spreadsheet step.

Which President was most influential? Which historical event most determined the outcome of a war? Which family of elements on the periodic table is the coolest? Which part of speech is the most important? Which musical genre best represents the US? Which algebraic property is most important? All these questions and more can be answered with a Bracket Challenge.

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