March Madness Poetry Bracket

I love using students’ interests in one thing (March Madness) to get them excited about another thing (poetry). Lessons like Poetry and Basketball inspired by Ja Morant and the NBA All-Stars game, and this visual reading lesson inspired by the the Super Bowl LVI half-time show are two of my most visited #TeachLivingPoets posts–and two of my students’ favorite poetry activities. I’ve seen a few March Madness poetry brackets floating around (which are also amazing!), but I wanted to make my own filled with some of my favorite poems that I know students will love.

All living poets!

All of these poems are classroom appropriate for the high school level, and most are good to go for middle school as well. You know your students best so I encourage to watch the poems before you share them with your students. Neil Hilborn’s “OCD” contains one quick F-bomb; and “If I Should Have a Daughter” by Sarah Kay has a “damn.” It is also important to note that “Dear 7th Grade Self” deals with the topic of suicide so you may want to provide a trigger warning. When you download the Slides, it will force you to make a copy, so if you want to switch out one of the poems for another one you prefer, you are able to do that. I have provided two alternate poems that are 100% middle school-friendly at the end of the post.

I also included a blank bracket page if you want to print it out or share with students. Each poem has a video to watch which is linked in the bracket and has its own slide.

Everything is ready to go!

So what does this look like in class? My plan is to start out every class with a poetry battle as the warm up. We will watch the first two teal videos that are up against each other and take a quick heads-down hands-up vote of which one they like better. Could I be fancy and make a Google form – sure – but I’m looking for speed here. A quick show of hands is going to be my move. I’ll keep a tally for all of my classes and fill in the winner at the end of the day. The next day, I will announce the winner and we will watch the first two purple poems and vote. Then next day is the next pair of teal, then the next day, the next pair of purple, and I’ll keep alternating back and forth until the first round is complete.

For the round of Elite 8, I will show the two contenders again since it may have been a while since they initially saw them. We’ll keep alternating teal and purple through the rounds until we get to the final match up. Once we enter the Final Four, I plan on having some class discussions about the four final poems. What do they like? What about them has gotten them this far? What is the poem’s message? What do you notice about its structure? Things like that. Honestly, I want the students to drive the discussion so the more open-ended the questions, the better.

There’s also this simple and fun Reaction Form where students can quickly rate each poem and provide a reflection if you want something tangible for them to fill out as they move through the tournament.

I want this to be fun so besides some discussion and voting, so I personally don’t plan on tying any assignments to my March Madness poetry bracket. I ask that you please keep the #TeachLivingPoets credits slide at the end of the Slides when using or sharing.

Download the March Madness Poetry Bracket HERE.

Two alternate poems appropriate for young audiences: “Cat Poem” from Brave New Voices 2015 finals, “Paper People” by Harry Baker.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post and are able to, please consider donating to #TaechLivingPoets and help support the cause and my work which is always free to you!

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @MelAlterSmith for more fun poetry activities!

Some other lessons you might be interested in:

2 thoughts on “March Madness Poetry Bracket

  1. Love this, thank you!

    Heads up for other middle school teachers, there’s one more F-bomb at the tail end of “Elementary”. Can be easily clipped out by stopping the video at 3:05 rather than going to the end of the clip.


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