Teacher Tips

This News In-depth report about the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games will help your class celebrate the differences and similarities among people and remind students that we all have gifts to contribute, no matter what our abilities. In this issue, you'll find stories about the Special Olympians' bravery, hard work, and determination. You'll learn about the sports in which they compete, from cycling to power lifting. You'll also find out how the Special Olympics got started 35 years ago, how Ireland has prepared for the 2003 World Games, and how athletes, coaches, volunteers, and families all join forces to produce the Games. To make the most of the online articles, use them in conjunction with the mini lessons and PDF reproducibles that follow.

Lesson 1: Then and Now

Materials: PDF reproducible Special Olympics: Then and Now

Curriculum Connections: study skills/organizing information, comparing and contrasting, math

Objective: By creating a compare/contrast chart to organize information, students will explore how the Special Olympics have evolved and grown over the past three decades.

Getting Ready: Read the online article titled "Special Olympics Tops 2003 Sports Events." Explain that students will create a chart comparing the first Special Olympics with the world games to be held this year. Before beginning the activity, invite students to predict some of the ways in which the Games might have changed over the years.

What to Do:
  1. Distribute the reproducible and point out the blank chart grid. Point out that all of the information students need to complete the chart can be found in the list of clues on the reproducible. In some cases, students will need to apply math and logic skills to a clue to find a particular piece of information.
  2. Have students work through the clues and complete the chart. Afterward, review students' answers.
  3. Discuss the patterns revealed by the chart. According to the chart, what has happened to the Special Olympics over the past three decades? Have they stayed the same? Grown in size? Changed focus? Students will discover that while the spirit of the Games has remained the same, they have grown significantly in terms of number of athletes, number of sports, number of countries participating, and other key aspects.

Lesson 2: Using Context Clues

Materials: PDF reproducible Using Context Clues

Curriculum Connections: language arts, defining vocabulary in context

Objective: Students will use online articles about the Special Olympics to develop vocabulary skills; specifically, they will practice defining unfamiliar words through context clues.

Getting ready: Ask students to share their strategies for dealing with unfamiliar vocabulary words when they read. Do they skip "mystery" words? Look them up in a dictionary? Point out that most students probably already use context clues to define new words, although they may not be aware of using this reading strategy. Context clues are the other words in the sentence, as well as the sentences and paragraphs surrounding the word.

Explain to students that there are two types of context clues. One is the overall meaning and purpose of the passage. For example, in this issue about the Special Olympics, when students encounter the word "hoops," they can guess that it refers to basketball. That's because the articles are mainly about sports. The second type of context clues includes the specific word clues found immediately near the unfamiliar word. These clues often wholly or partially define the new word. To demonstrate, read the following sentence and ask students to define philatelists:

To the delight of philatelists, or stamp collectors, worldwide, the U.S. Postal Service has honored the Special Olympics with a commemorative stamp.

What to Do:
  1. Distribute the reproducible and complete the first question together. Have students choose definitions for the rest of the words on their own.
  2. If students cannot determine the meaning of a word from the sentence, have them find the word in this online issue to read the fuller context. The words on the reproducible can be found in the following stories:
    Question 1: Ireland Kicks Off 11th Special Olympics World Summer Games
    Question 2: Stamp of Approval
    Questions 3-5: Torch Run Covers 9,000 Miles
    Questions 6-8: Sports
  3. Have students double check the definitions of the words in a dictionary.

Extending the Lesson: Have students make mini dictionaries of words that are new to them. First highlight or underline the words from this reproducible, then add any other words from the online issue that were unfamiliar. Divide a notebook into alphabetized sections, then write each word—along with a definition, part of speech, and sample sentence—in the appropriate section.

[Answers for reproducible: 1. B; 2. A; 3. C; 4. C; 5. A; 6. B; 7. C; 8. B.]

Lesson 3: An Athlete's Oath

Materials: none

Curriculum Connections: debate, language arts/writing

Objective: Students will discuss the meaning behind the Special Olympics oath and debate the importance of winning in sports and other contests.

Getting Ready: Discuss the nature of an oath and the reasons people take oaths. Point out that leaders usually begin their tenure by taking an oath of office. Witnesses in courtroom trials take an oath to tell the truth. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and other club members often take oaths promising to live by the principles of their organization.

What to Do:
  1. Read aloud and/or write on the board the oath Special Olympians take before competing in the Games. It is: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." Explain that this oath is derived from an oath gladiators in ancient Rome took before entering the arena.
  2. Invite students to discuss what this oath means: How can an athlete be brave while competing in a sporting event? Is "bravery" especially meaningful for the athletes of the Special Olympics because of the challenges they face?
  3. Ask students to think about the sports or other competitive activities in which they are involved. Ask: What are your goals when you set out to play this sport or perform this activity? How important is it to you to win? How do you feel when you do not win? Is bravery and good sportsmanship as important as (or more important than) winning?
  4. Using the goals and ideas discussed in step 3, have students write their own oaths that they might take before engaging in a sport or other activity.