ESPN in the classroom
by John Pearson
The New York Giants won the Super Bowl just a few weeks ago, and it was one of the best contests in decades. College basketball is in full swing, pro hockey is mid-season, and Major League Baseball (scandals, at least) is in the news every day.There's no doubt, we are a sports-obsessed culture.You can even find golf on TV, if you consider that a sport.
Many, if not most, kids love sports as well. When sports are integrated into the classroom, there is often an increase in interest and participation.
There are many ways to link sports into the academic curriculum. Sports scores can easily be culled from the newspaper or internet and used as data in student creations of graphs. Batting averages are good in the study of decimals and percentages. NFL players’ off-field actions are often quite useful studies for law students.
Wait, I meant to focus on elementary school examples here.
Here's an idea for a creative writing exercise. Have students create a 30-second Super Bowl commercial. Remind them to consider that this ad would cost them $2.7 million if it were really aired, so it has to be super.
For geography class, the kids could research fun facts and locations on a map of all of the teams participating in World Cup Soccer. Just be ready to discuss vocabulary words "riot" and "hooligans."
Earlier this year, I had my kids play a game called Placeball, based loosely on baseball. The kids would "run the places," calling out the value at each one. Cries of, "Ones! Tens! Hundreds! Thousands! Ten Thousands! Hundred Thousands!" filled the room, and ideally filled their brains.
Sometimes I use sports-related tables to monitor progress or test results. Learning the multiplication facts is an ongoing goal of my third graders. I keep track of their progress on a giant football field bulletin board on the back wall of my classroom. When a student masters the 4’s facts, his jersey moves to the 4-yard line. Scoring a Multiplication Touchdown requires progressing from the zero to the 10-yard line.
When the NCAA college basketball tournament starts, I begin my own tourney in the classroom. I call it "March Mathness" and I draw up brackets containing the names of all my students. We continue studying the topics in the curriculum, but weekly test scores determine which students move to the next rounds and which are placed into the "Second Chance Competition."
These are only a few examples and ideas. I haven't even touched on boxing, NASCAR, tennis, or the Olympics. But if it's something that excites the kids, it will almost certainly inspire them to try harder academically.
And for those kids who still want to be stubborn, no matter what -- you can always put them in the penalty box.
John Pearson is a third-grade math and science teacher in Dallas, Texas. He has degrees in mechanical engineering from Duke University and Texas A&M, so most consider his math abilities adequate enough to teach nine-year olds. He is also the author of Learn Me Good (Lulu, 2006), a funny, fictionalized account of his first year in education. Read more at www.learnmegood.com