This complete unit plan can be taught in five class periods, or lesson components can be taught individually as described below.
The focus for students in this age group is to gain an understanding of the history of the Olympic Games, research into the history and the sports, and to write a comprehensive research paper on their topics.
Background (1 day)
Hold a class discussion on the upcoming Olympic Games. Ask students if they remember the last Olympics. Prompt students to talk about why the games are held, and the spirit of international cooperation that the games are meant to foster. At the end of the discussion, tell students that they are going to look at the history of the Olympics in order to know more about the present day Olympics especially when they watch them on TV in August.
History of the Games
Either hand out printouts of the background article on the Olympic Games or direct students, in groups of two or three, to the computers where the article is already loaded. Once they have read through the articles, students should raise their hands in order to receive the Organizer Pattern: Timeline . Once they have the handout, students should go through the Olympics in Photos activity. As they click through the photos, students should fill out their timelines with appropriate details.
If there is time at the end of the class, have students return to talk about what they learned. Did they find any facts that surprised them? What were they and why were they surprising? Looking at their filled out timelines, do students want to make any guesses as to what kind of historic events could happen in this upcoming Olympics?
Have students hand in their filled out timelines for teacher assessment.
Investigative Reporting (34 days)
Tell students that they are going to be reporters on the scene at the Olympics, and they have an assignment: write an in-depth article on the history of an Olympic sport or an athlete. As good investigative reporters, they need to dig deep into the subject matter.
Direct students to the Scholastic News special report on the Olympics and hand each student a printed copy of the 5 Ws (PDF). Either pick a topic for them to explore (a specific event, an athlete, Greece, etc.) or have them pick a topic on their own. They should fill out the 5 Ws graphic organizer as they explore and read different articles through the end of the period.
On the second day, have students continue their research and continue filling out the 5 Ws graphic organizer while exploring the Research Starters: Olympic Games . Give them the class period and have them hand the filled 5 Ws graphic organizer for teacher assessment.
If more time is needed, send students to the library or use the Background Information section to send your students for more online research. If appropriate for their topic, encourage students conduct interviews with local sports figures – these can range from retired Olympians who may live nearby to other students who play on the school teams. Students should interview these subjects on Olympic dreams, recollections, memories, etc.
On the third day, have the Be a Reporter game loaded on the computer and hand back the KWL charts. Instruct students to follow the steps in the activity, write an in-depth news article. Be sure to have them print out their articles.
With the students' articles, you will create a class magazine for the Olympics. Students can use the Olympic Spirit Postcards to create magazine covers, or they can draw covers by hand. Have students submit their covers, and as a class, vote for the one that will be on the cover and the image that will be on the back cover. The rest of the images should illustrate the magazine between the articles. See assessment and evaluation.
Extend the lesson
In My Backyard (13 days)
Print out the article “How Olympic Locations are Chosen” for students to read as homework. The next day, hold a class discussion. Now that students have an idea of what past Olympic Games were like, ask students if it makes sense for a city to host the Olympics. On the board, write the pros and cons to hosting the Olympics. Then, ask students if they would want the Olympics to come to their hometown. What would they like about it? How could it help their city or town? Add these comments to the board.
Direct students to the Writing with Writers: Speechwriting activity and tell them that they will be writing and presenting persuasive speeches that will convince the International Olympic Committee to bring the Olympics to their hometown. If there is more class time for the project, have students complete the activity the following day. Or, these final steps should be done as homework. Some class time should be devoted for practice with one another before recording their speech. Check back within a month to see if your speeches were published online!
Explain to the students that the Greeks also influenced the English language, they are going to find out through the “It's Greek to Me” activity. Print a study list (PDF) for students to review – students can review in class while other students are on the computers or they can all review the list at home as homework. Students should play the game repeatedly, trying to get gold medals and improve their vocabulary.
Why do we have the Olympic Games?
Why is it appropriate that the Olympics are being held in Greece this year?
What qualities would you need to be an Olympic athlete?
Do you think some sports require different qualities (e.g. teamwork) than others?
Looking at how the purpose and theme of the Olympics have changed over time, what would you predict future Olympics to be about?