Monday, February 15, 2010

School-Wide Olympic Events
Spur Excitement, Learning

In schools all around the world, teachers are capitalizing on Olympic excitement as students learn needed skills, information about countries and cultures, and lessons in teamwork. Are you taking advantage of this great teachable moment? If not, you might learn from these schools that are making “Olympic” efforts to develop students’ knowledge and skills.


At Pine Meadow Elementary School in Sartell, Minnesota, a two-week competition got underway last week with a Parade of Nations and the lighting of the Olympic flame. The events -- organized by the school’s phys ed, art, music, and media specialists -- aim to leverage Olympic excitement across the curriculum. Students in each class represent a different country as they read and learn about that country and its culture.

One second-grade class, for example, represents the country of South Korea. Teacher Angela Paulson chose that country because one of her students’ mothers was born there. Paulson and the schools’ specialists are teaching lessons about the country and its culture. For example, in art class, students translated their names into calligraphy, because South Korea is noted for its calligraphy. (See an online Korean calligraphy translator.) In music class, students are learning the national anthem of Canada, the Olympic host country, and listening to music from their adopted country. And during the next two weeks, students in phys ed classes will compete in events such as curling, where students sweep bean bags into targets, and skiing, where students “ski” on swatches of carpet. (Read a St. Cloud Times news story, Olympics Offer Cultural Lessons for Sartell Students.)


In Mishawaka, Indiana, parents and students at the K-6 Beiger Elementary School recently competed in a Reading Olympic event. In games such as the A to Z Race, Amazing Anagram Dash, and Riddle Run, students exercised their bodies and their reading skills.

This is the second year in a row for the evening event, which aims to entice families to begin reading together, according to co-organizer Beth Schwier. She hopes parents might play some of the fun reading games they learn that night with their children at home. “Anything a family does together as a family is good,” she told the South Bend Tribune. (Read the article, Games Put Reading Skills to Test.)

At Donlin Drive Elementary School in Liverpool, New York, students recently completed an Olympic-sized reading challenge. Students read more than 2,400 books in a community-wide effort that increased reading enthusiasm at school and home.

Principal John Sardella and the school’s reading teachers organized the event, in which the Olympic torch was passed between classrooms each time students completed 80 books. The torch traveled through 23 cities on its way to Vancouver. The entire trip was tracked on a map in the school’s main hallway.

“It’s a fun competition,” Sardella told the Eagle Newspapers. “It also falls under our goal to keep increasing our New York State scores.” (Read the article, Donlin Drive Goes for an Olympic Reading Record.)


If you didn’t hold a Winter Olympics event this year in your school, perhaps you will use some of these resources to plan one for next year. Winter is a great time to focus students on reading, and these Olympic events can be held every year, not just during Olympic years.

Let the Games Begin! Let the Learning Begin!
Check out these lesson ideas from Education World.

Science of the Olympic Winter Games
Explore the science that makes athletes swifter, higher, stronger, in this resource from NBC Learn and the National Science Foundation.

Tips for Hosting a Reading Olympics in Your School
This printable (pdf) document offers valuable tips and ideas to consider.

Reading Olympics
More fun activity ideas from

Reading Olympics: A Competition to Build Reading Comprehension
Help your students discover an excitement for reading with this time-saving handbook that shows you how to create a reading competition in your classroom or school.

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