The Sibert Smackdown is an activity intended to build enthusiasm for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal, which is given each year as part of the American Library Association’s annual Youth Media Awards. It focuses on picture books because they are more manageable to read in a school setting.
Here’s how it works. Students in grades 3-8 read the nonfiction picture books on your class’s Mock Sibert list. You can use the list I’ve compiled below or you can create your own list. My list includes titles that have strong kid appeal, will promote good discussions, and can be used as mentor texts in writing workshop. They reinforce the research techniques and craft moves included in most State ELA standards.
Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth
Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor by Laurie Wallwark, illustrated by Katy Wu
The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby
Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Miranda Paul, illustrated by John Parra
North America: A Fold-out Graphic History by Sarah Albee, illustrated by William Exley
Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki
A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Two Brothers, Four Hands by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Will some of these books be named on Monday, January 27, 2020, when the Sibert Medal committee announces its winner and honor titles at the ALA Youth Media Awards ceremony? Who knows, but I do have a pretty good track record.
You may also want to consider titles on the Mock Sibert list created by Alyson Beecher. Anderson’s Bookshop creates a Mock Sibert list that includes picture books as well as middle grade titles. The last time I looked, they hadn't posted this year's list yet, but keep checking the link.
After reading your Mock Sibert titles, students choose their two favorites and use this worksheet, which you can download from my website, to evaluate and compare the books before they vote. The worksheet features a kid-friendly version of the critera used by the real Sibert committee.
I also suggest using the guidelines developed by former Sibert judge Melody Allen. They are available here, here, and here.
I’d also recommend reading this post, which describes how some educators have modified or enhanced the Sibert Smackdown! in the past. It's so important to create learning experiences that are perfect for your particular students.
I’d love to hear how your students are progressing, and so would other participating teachers and librarians. Please use the Twitter hashtag #SibertSmackdown to share what you are doing.