The Joy of Learning

We would like to welcome our guest blogger Josh Hoekstra who has written an interactive curriculum to be used in school or at home

This time of year is always exciting.  You hear people talking about it at the grocery store, gas station, work, and beyond – “How are your brackets” “How about that upset” “Sweet sixteen” “Final Four”….yes it is NCAA basketball national tournament -March Madness.  This time of year allows even the smallest basketball enthusiast to participate in picking teams they believe will win and lose.  We watch as teams move forward in this college basketball tournament to finally determine the national champion.


I have had the great fortune of teaching U.S. History to high school students in Minnesota for the past 14 years. During this time, one thing has become crystal clear; the more interesting, high-quality and in-depth information I bring to the students, the more they learn and the more they enjoy learning. Just like the excitement that comes with March Madness- I wanted to capture that enthusiasm about US history.  This led to the development of Teach with Tournaments.

Teach with Tournaments involves the simple process of taking people or events that you want to study and placing them on a tournament bracket board (similar to the NCAA March Madness Tournament) in an effort for students to decide, for themselves, who/what was the Most Courageous American in history, or What was the Most Important Scientific Discovery in history, or Who was the Most Influential Founding Father in American history – just to name a few.  The educational opportunities are endless!

Teach With Tournaments can enliven the learning process for your children. Children you think have very little interest in learning suddenly become participants in their own education. In fact, students whom I rarely heard from prior to this lesson became some of the most active and engaged participants. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, students communicated with each other and demonstrated a deep passion for material that has real value. Seeing students research, debate, vote and celebrate victory or mourn defeat is something that I will always cherish. When students are engaged, their body language and the look in their eyes says it all. They sit up straighter, ask questions and actually linger after class to ask more questions. For a teacher, there is nothing like it.

This is an exciting time of year in my classroom but you do not need to wait for March Madness time to create this excitement in your home or classroom.  As parents and fellow educators we can take this principle and use the ideas of Teach With Tournaments to inject life and joy into the learning process. Allow your children the opportunity to debate and research things that excite them.  It is ok to have a little competition in the learning process.  It helps to give children personal accountability and you will be surprised at the amazing learning that occurs.


Josh Hoekstra

Teacher, husband and father

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