We all know that one of the biggest challenges that teachers face is time. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get everything done that needs to get done. I experienced this in the classroom myself, one, because I was always trying to do too much (I think it’s a character flaw) and two, I was always behind my teammates with instruction. Needless to say, I was scrambling during the second semester when I came to the harsh realization that I needed to have all of my curriculum taught by April, and sometimes March.
One of the plans I devised to help me get caught up was to teach little bits of content throughout the day in a way that would allow me to pre-teach skills that I knew I would struggle to teach in the last weeks before the state test. At the time, this was generally measurement and graphing.
The first year that I tried this idea was in 2004 at the start of the Winter Olympics. Like any Olympic year, teachers and students alike were abuzz with excitement about the Olympics. I was excited too, as I’ve always been a fan of the gymnasts. During this first year, I tied the Olympics into several content areas. I assigned each of my fourth graders a country that they had to learn about and then use the web to keep track of the medals the country earned. I even made little medals in three different colors to display on the large graph that we created in the hallway.
This first graph was a simple picto-bar graph, which was the major graph my students had to be able to analyze. Each day when the students arrived, they had to add the data to the graph for their country to illustrate the current medal count. Not only was this activity fun and relevant, the students loved comparing the count totals.
The data gave my students a unique opportunity to apply graphing concepts in a real-world situation and allowed them to see how and why we analyze data. What a great experience!
In case you haven’t guessed yet, the next Winter Olympics will be held in February of 2018. As we begin winding down for the semester and preparing for the Spring, I encourage you to think about how you might use the Olympics to emphasize data and statistics. I’ve put together a few ideas below:
- Pictograph: Keep track of the medal count for the U.S. or a country of their choosing.
- Stem-and-Leaf: Graph the finish times for one of the events.
- Line Plot: Plot the number of athletes from each country.
- Bar Graph: Keep track of the medal count for the U.S. or a country of their choosing, then separate and graph the women vs. the men.
I hope these ignite a spark and you can find some other ways to integrate the classroom with the Winter Olympics.
Sound Off! How do you use the Olympics in your classroom?