Teachers around the country are taking advantage of current interest in winter sports and teaching lessons based on the Olympics.
A team of the Toms River New Jersey district’s educators spent days — 250 hours in total — crafting a plan that would make the fast-paced and often visually stunning Olympic games into a cross curriculum lesson plan for more than 4,000 Toms River elementary school students.
The students learned about the potential and kinetic energy of the athletes in science classes, used national flags of participating teams in geometry lessons, and were schooled in Olympic history. The teachers worked to weave the lessons into five subject areas — math, reading, writing, social studies and science — to overlap and connect the district’s curriculum like the Olympic’s five symbolic rings.
“Everything’s in the context of real life,” South Toms River Elementary School Principal Dennis Holzapfel said.
Teachers worked to prepare lessons that were relevant to what the students were seeing on television, but also honed skills that are emphasized in the new Common Core State Standards. The new curriculum standards, adopted by New Jersey and 44 other states, list skills that students should master by the completion of each grade.
In the district’s South Toms River Elementary School, fourth-grade students paired together to read about eight different Olympic sports, then quizzed each other afterward.
“Part of the Common Core is working on speaking and listening skills,” said interim Assistant Superintendent Marianne Gaffney, who helped craft the Olympics lessons. “It’s something they’re going to see on the news. It’s something where they feel they’re participating in the real world activity, and that makes it more engaging to them.”
Fourth-grader Josh Gyimoty said the lessons fed his interest in snowboarding and ice hockey. His reading partner Leslie Vega, 9, said she was intrigued by figure skating because of its combination of ballet and ice skating. Vega was also awed by the courage of Olympic athletes.
“I think it (the Olympics) is cool and exciting, because even though it is scary, I think that you can follow your heart … and do whatever you want,” Leslie said.
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Read more about Common Core State Standards