March Madness For Counselors: Career and Coping Skills

Do you love March Madness? Check out these fun ways to incorporate March Madness into your school counseling program. This blog has been updated from it’s original post in 2021.

Career Madness

No one expects a young child to choose a career at an early age, but learning about occupation options helps inspire them to go after their dreams as they grow.

How It Works:

First, teach about careers.

There are several ways to do this:

  • Use the fun facts sheets in my activity pack to share more about each of the top careers on the morning news.
  • Post links to videos or websites about the careers on your webpage, Canvas page, Google classroom, etc.
  • Link directly into your bracket. When I send out my virtual bracket (either in PDF or in Google Sheets) I link each job title with a resource about that career.
  • Teach about teach career with a career station
  • Collaborate with your teachers and/or librarian to do some career research
  • Host a career day and have a speaker with that job speak to students BEFORE doing your bracket.

Tips of student debates:

I am OBSESSED with this idea from Cheryl Fleming@FlemingWNES5. Having students debate what career they think is the best is an incredible way to practice SO MANY SEL skills and promote cooperative learning.

(I didn’t write a lesson plan for this exact idea- this was just how one amazing counselor used this set.) If I were to write it into a lesson here is what I would do:

  • Share with students the career choices and they could pick their favorite. You could use any of the Google Forms included to have students share with you what career they picked or they could just write it down.
  • Collaborate with your school librarian to have student research the career they picked (if you want). You could also have them spend a little bit of time on any career websites.
  • Have students individually or in groups write down their top reasons their career should win. They can also create a poster or presentation about their career and why it’s important.
  • Set ground rules for the debate. Use this resource on using debates in the classroom. I use Socratic Seminars a lot to set those limits. Here are some tips:
  • Have students vote! They would do a classic eyes closed hand raise or use the included Google Forms.

Here are some of my favorite resources for careers:

Videos from Radical Jr.

Next, share the bracket.

You can do this in your own classroom, each week having students vote and then keeping a tally to see which career advances. It would be a fun way to start or end each class, if you are seeing students frequently (weekly or bi-weekly.)

I let my teachers pick what was best for their class. They could choose to do it as a class or allow students to vote individually. If they let students vote individually then they gave each student a copy of the bracket or sent them the Google survey.

I also gave them options to complete it on paper or through a Google option (like using a Google form to create a survey). They turned their brackets into me and those became the “vote” to decide which careers and coping skills advanced.

I found most of my teachers prefer paper because their email is so overwhelming. Here is a sample e-mail I sent them:

“It’s almost March Madness and to align with our school-wide goal of getting our students college and career ready, I’m doing a Career March Madness!

Here’s how it works:

Each week in March I will put a printed bracket in your mailbox. You can vote for the winning career in each bracket as a class or make copies and let students vote individually.

It’s almost March Madness and to align with our school-wide goal of getting our student’s college and career ready, I’m doing a Career March Madness!

Here’s how it works:

Each week in March I will put a printed bracket in your mailbox. You can vote for the winning career in each bracket as a class or make copies and let students vote individually.

Highlight the winning career for each bracket and put the bracket(s) back in my box so I can tally the scores.

Each week we will narrow down the winning careers until we get our Career of the Year.

  • How can my students learn more about each career?
  • Ideas: Upper grades have students practice their debate skills by having students research each career and then make arguments about why their career should win. It’s a great lesson on how to debate, and support opinions with facts while learning about careers.

If you have any questions just let me know!


Important notes:

In the past, I have either picked our starting careers or had my students vote on their Top 16 and then I paired them to create the bracket.

You can pair the careers any way you like. I like to partner careers in the same cluster or with similarities- skills, attributes, education level, etc. For example, travel agents and bankers both work with people and social skills are important. I also paired YouTuber and pro athlete because they are so popular among my students. You can also do this beforehand (you pick the Top 16) and then skip straight to voting for the Elite 8.

Tips on using Google:

These activities are designed to be different each year- with many options for pairings that change each year. I have no way of knowing what you partnered up with, so the Google Forms in my Career packet is a survey that is simply a list of the careers. Here are some options for voting using Google Forms:

  1. Add more questions and each question asks the students to choose between the pair. I’d suggest this option! So for voting on the Elite 8 you’d have 8 questions of 2 pairs. Then when you send out the next survey vote for Final 4 you’d have 4 questions with each pair from the Elite 8 round. When you send out the vote for the Top 2 it would have 2 questions- using the example above question 1) YouTuber or travel agent and 2) podcaster or artist.

2. Find your pairs on the long list and whichever has more votes wins.

In this big list the careers aren’t paired. You’d have to compare the pairs on the results.
So if on the bracket the pair in the Elite 8 is between podcaster vs. news reporter, I’d find each one the results and the one with the highest votes makes it to the next round. In this case podcaster would make it to the Final 4.

Tips on using paper brackets:

These work best for individual classes and individual students. If a teacher used a paper bracket for a school-wide vote, I would tell them which career or skill had advanced so they could vote accordingly.

Now, share the results.

I like sharing winners on a bulletin board. This helps everyone know which careers are winning and gets everyone excited for the next round. You can also share the winners of each round on the morning news.

What if I am not doing this school wide?

That’s fine! If you are a classroom teacher consider having students research and debate each career. See above for those tips. Then just follow all the steps above and share out in your class meeting. Then have a big reveal to announce the winner.

Coping Skill Madness

This works just the same as the above.

1st: Teach the coping skills.

  • Teach each skill on the news
  • Send out videos or PAWS mini lessons to your teachers
  • Practice or teach in class
  • Teach throughout the year and then do a quick review before starting your bracket
  • Practice each skill as a station: You can also set up each skill as a station during a class and then let students practice before creating their own individual bracket to take home. Never done centers in class? Counselor Keri has some great ideas.

2nd: Share your bracket

Just like the career March Madness, you could do this virtually or on paper.

I prefer to use the coping skills bracket in a whole class setting, where each student gets to select their own winning coping skill. You can do this in one classroom lesson or stretch it out over several.

3rd: Share out the results

Again you choose the way you want to share about the winner.

Flipped idea:

If I have been teaching about the skills all year, I like to have students start class by completing the bracket. Then I have stations/centers set up and they get to spend the rest of class in the center that was their winner. For ex. if “journaling” was their winner, then there is a center with paper and pencils for them to journal.


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