Creating Olympic Buzz in the classroom
Every two years people across the globe pause to witness incredible feats of athleticism, sportsmanship, and unity during the Olympic Games. Students are naturally curious about the Olympics so why not use that interest in the classroom?
Since my focus is always to mix academics with fun and relevant topics, I created these informational reading and writing lessons on the Olympic Games to help my students improve the quality of their informational or explanatory writing.
I make time in my schedule to teach these ELA lessons when it is a Summer or Winter Olympic year, although they can just as easily be used anytime!
Set the Stage
To begin, I start by creating some interest and familiarity with the Olympics (which is pretty easy during an Olympic year). I like to introduce a few Olympic news clips, videos, or stories, especially if there has been a recent Summer Games or if the Winter Games will be coming up. Here are a few short clips that “prime the pump” and get students thinking.
While introducing the lesson, I also plan time to have a brief class discussion where we explore what the students already know about the world’s modern Olympic Games. Learn more about the classroom discussion strategies we use.
My end result is to have students write an informative/explanatory essay, so I provide a prompt question to help them organize their thoughts, ideas, and notes during future lessons. We are studying both the Summer and Winter Games which lends itself nicely to a compare/contrast text structure. With that in mind, my prompt is “Discuss what you have learned about the similarities and differences between the Summer Olympic Games and the Winter Olympic Games.”
Pair-Up Olympic Articles
I copy two different informational texts about the Olympics for the next lessons. It is important to me that every student has copies of the texts in front of them because I want them to ‘own’ what they read as they take notes, highlight, and mark them up. Read more about how I use paired texts in the classroom.
As students are studying the Olympics, it is important that they are given ample time to talk about and process what they are learning. I give students small chunks of time throughout these lessons to sit in pairs or small groups and discuss what they have marked and highlighted in their texts. Peer-to-peer talking helps students solidify what they are learning and results in more focused writing later on.
Provide a Graphic Organizer
Once students are familiar with the texts, I give them a graphic organizer. The purpose of the graphic organizer is to help students during the prewriting process. It helps them remain focused on the prompt as they take notes and group information in an organized way. Think of graphic organizers as supports for students to compose strong, well-written informational or explanatory essays!
Offer More Resources
Besides the two Olympic texts, I also like to provide other resources for students to gather even more facts and ideas that will help strengthen their writing. Our grade level standards require students to access information from diverse media formats so I like to add newspaper articles, short news clips, or videos from youtube. The Olympics are some of the most widely covered media events so finding additional resources should be a cinch! Of course, as students learn new facts from these resources, I encourage them to add the information to their graphic organizers.
Here is a short video from youtube that provides 10 interesting facts about the Olympic Games.
Once students are armed with info about the Summer and Winter Olympic Games and they have organized their thinking on a graphic organizer, it’s time for them to write an essay in response to the prompt.
As they are writing I always provide some kind of anchor chart, checklist, or rubric for students to reference. These tools serve as another reminder of the components students should include while writing. (Your grade-level writing standards will help you know what skills to include!) These tools also provide an opportunity for students to evaluate their own writing before turning it in.
The Olympics are highly engaging for students because they love learning about these popular, global competitions! Their natural interest in the Olympic Games provides plenty of motivation as students write informational essays that go for the gold!
Happy teaching! ~Tatum
The work has been done for you! If you would like to create Olympic buzz in your classroom using the paired texts (differentiated for a variety of reading levels), grade-level graphic organizers, checklists, writing paper, and lesson plans that I use for this lesson, just click on the image below!