Every weekend, like most of America, my family watches football. In the summer, we have baseball. When baseball and football aren’t on, there’s always hockey and basketball. Plus, I’m a runner who does road races.
Last year, in the face of all of these sports, I decided to try something different.
We watched the Boston Marathon live in my classroom as a math lesson. We also used the marathon for geography, history, reading, writing, art, and science. And you can, too! You can use your hometown team(s) to teach your kids, too. Bonus, this works for all ages and all school settings.
This is the easiest subject to teach with sports. Sports are all about numbers. They run on the bottom of every televised sports event ever, from NASCAR to golf. Use them! Over a season, you can chart wins and losses on graph paper; compare various statistics like ERA or batting average or rebound rate or shots on goal or whatever.
Sports work nicely with graphs, with fractions and decimals, with all of the basic math functions, and with word problems. With running and car racing, you can teach elapsed time and speed over distance. With any sport you can cover math related to measurement: distance between bases; distance covered in X laps around Y speedway; distance traveled between City A and City B for an away game. High school students could even use their own school’s athletic teams!
Reading and Writing
Sports generates a LOT of words. Newspapers cover sports seven days a week. There are magazines devoted to just sports, even weekly sports serials aimed at kids. Read these! I mean, scan them first for adult content and remove any that you find. And then read these! The students can then summarize the articles; find the main ideas and details; identify the main characters, problems, solutions, and story arc.
Then there are the fictional stories. See? So many words! There are books for students of all ages, interests, and reading levels. Stock your library with these books. Use them to teach concepts of reading fiction, which are similar to nonfiction reading skills.
Then you can write about it. Write poems and stories about sports. Write research reports about favorite athletes.
History and Geography
Almost every professional sport has a hall of fame, meaning that there is history in there.
The rise of the popularity of baseball and the Civil War were overlapping events. A Civil War Union General, Abner Doubleday, is even the mythological “father of baseball.” With just a little research, you can connect sports to almost every single period of history. You can even connect sports to women’s history, African-American history, Jewish history, and even more.
Every event that takes place, happens somewhere. There is a place on a map that connects to sports, to history. You can discuss countries, empires, and global geography. You can connect your students to Ancient Greece through the Olympics. You can connect them to the mid-1800s through baseball. They can travel to an icy lake in Canada with hockey or a small gym in Massachusetts with basketball. And running. Well, running will take you everywhere.
Science is a little harder. However, with little kids you can focus on properties (color, weight, size, shape, material, etc.). Older kids can work on velocity, aerodynamics, and speed. They can also work on human biology. For examples, how muscles work, how to repair injured muscles and ligaments. Sports science is a real thing, and you can align it to your curriculum.
Art is everything. Art is drawing, painting, creating anything. What child doesn’t create art related to sports? They doodle soccer balls in the margins, create epic game plans, design new football jerseys, or just draw their favorite player or team. Use this! Let them create art about sports!
How do you use your student’s interests to drive your instruction?