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New Lesson: On the Ice Just in from Torino!

Goals: Students will read a news story about a 2006 Olympic Winter Games athlete and write autobiographical compositions in response to comprehension questions.
Time Required: 40 minutes
Materials: On the Ice Student Reproducible (PDF), pencil or pen, paper
1. Introduce students to the sport of figure skating and discuss the history and rules of figure skating competitions. History of Figure Skating The first pair of ice skates was made more than 5,000 years ago. Animal bones were used as blades, and the skates were attached to feet with leather straps. In the mid-1800s, an American named Jackson Haines attached metal blades to a pair of boots, creating the kind of ice skates we use today. Haines was a pioneer who dared to combine ice-skating with dancing. Because of this, he is considered the founder of modern-day figure skating. Figure skating got its name because skaters earned points by skating "figures" such as circles into the ice. Today skaters such as Sasha Cohen, Kimmie Meissner, and Emily Hughes perform difficult jumps, spins, and footwork to achieve high scores. Each figure skater must compete in both a short program and a long program. In the short program the skater performs a series of required moves. The long program is more flexible—the skater performs the moves he or she chooses. The skater with the highest score after both programs wins the gold medal!

2. Ask students if they know of any previous figure skating gold medalists (e.g., Tara Lipinski, Sarah Hughes, Oksana Baiul). Explain that for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, the gold medalists in the already-completed events of men's, pairs, and ice dancing were all from Russia—men's champion Yevgeny Plushenko, pairs winners Tatyana Totmiyanina and Maxim Marinin, and ice dancing gold medalists Tatyana Navka and Roman Kostomarov. American figure skating medalists in Torino included ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, who won a silver, the first medal won by an American in that event in 30 years.

3. Discuss the rigorous training and determination that athletes undertake for the chance to compete at the Olympic Games. Olympic figure skaters practice their routines numerous times for many hours every day. They also compete to earn a spot on their country's Olympic team. Just being able to participate in the Olympic Winter Games is itself a remarkable achievement.

4. Distribute copies of On the Ice Student Reproducible and read it aloud with the class.

5. Allow students time to complete this activity.

Have students share their essays with the class.

Photos, left to right: © Rick Rickman/NewSport/NewSport/Corbis; © Joe Cavaretta/AP Wide World.