Lesson Topic: Introducing the Olympics

Teacher:  Jessica Hasenbein

Title: Evolution of the Olympics

Grade: Fifth

Time: Approximately an hour

MMDS Learning Standard:

·      Student will be able to demonstrate “reference and information research skills to gather and organize information,” by creating a KWL chart.

NCSS Teaching Standard:

·       Teacher will “enable learners to apply ideas, theories, and modes of historical inquiry to analyze historical and contemporary developments, and to inform and evaluate actions concerning public policy issues.”  In achieving this goal, teacher will use a KWL chart to both activate students’ prior knowledge and encourage investigatory inquiry.  Teacher will also pose evaluative questions for students to discuss in small groups and to drive reflective journaling. 


UW Teaching Standard:. 

Standard #7 -Understands and Adapts to Multiple Forms of Communication:  Students will be able to communicate their ideas in large and small group discussions, as well as by journaling.

Materials Required:
Large KWL chart
-Chalkboard and chalk
-Attached handouts

o   Adapted readings from The Olympic Games by Theodore Knight

o   Journaling/Reflective Write

 Lesson Context:  Olympics! is a unit designed to capitalize on current world affairs, with the purpose of using the occurrence of the Olympics to initiate an exploration of greater social issues as students’ practice critical thinking about meaningful, real-world dilemmas.  “The Evolution of the Olympics” is the introductory lesson to this greater unit.  Prior to beginning the Olympics! unit, students will have practiced working in small group settings collaboratively, and engaging in reflective journal writes.  This unit can be taught anytime the Olympics resurface in world news (whether during the actual Games or during the bidding process).  Modifications should be made as necessary.

Lesson Introduction: Lesson will begin by teacher asking students what worldwide sporting event has been in the news lately.  Class will briefly discuss the current events (possibly reading a featured article), in order to establish a meaningful connection to the lesson topic. 


·      Class will begin a KWL chart listing what students “know” and “want to know” about the Olympics.  Teacher may add questions, to guide students thinking about the Games’ origins and purpose. 

·       Class will be divided into small reading and discussion groups

·      Adapted readings will be handed out

·      Reading will be “set-up”: Students will locate Greece on a world map.  Definitions of reading vocabulary (empire, gladiator, prejudices, outlived, attained, periodically, and model) will be discussed and written on the board for reference.

·      After completing the shared reading, groups will be directed to pick out information to add to the KWL (learned column) and develop two additional questions to add.

·      The whole class will reconvene to add information and questions to the KWL, while discussing text (clarifying any confusing passages or ideas).

·      Students will engage in a 15 minute reflective write (handout attached), responding to question prompts

·      Students will share-out their ideas within the small groups

·      Students’ writing will be collected

·      KWL should continually filled in throughout the entire unit

Assessment:  Students’ preexisting knowledge will be informally assessed in the construction of the KWL.  Students’ learning will be informally assessed as the KWL chart is filled-in with new information and questions.  Students’ reflective journaling will also be informally assessed for their understanding of the “Olympic” idea.

Modification: Small groups can be arranged heterogeneously to promote student scaffolding, but also to guarantee positive engagement.  Students could create individual KWL charts, in addition to the class constructed chart.  Teacher may want to introduce lesson by reading current news article connecting to Olympics



Directions: In small groups read text.  Highlight and discuss information, which can be added to the KWL chart.  Also, think of 2 more questions which can be added.


The Olympics in Ancient History                                             

Nobody knows when exactly the first Olympics festival began.  However, we know that the Games started very early in Greek history, because it was written about by some of the earliest Greek poets.

In the Olympic beginnings, the athletic competition was limited to include only male Greek citizens.  Foreigners, slaves, and women were not allowed to compete. The athletes who did compete in the ancient Olympics were among the wealthiest citizens.  Competitors had to have enough money to travel to and from the Games, and to pay their living expenses while training.  In the early Games, athletes competed to honor the Gods and win their blessing. Winners were only rewarded with a wreath.  When an athlete won, he would be expected to host and pay for a huge banquet to celebrate.  Because of this, the ancient competitions were mostly limited to members of the wealthy, ruling class.

The Down Fall of the Ancient Games                                     

The ancient Olympics were influenced by the history of Greece.  When Greece was a very powerful nation, the Olympics grew in size and importance.  However, when the Roman Empire conquered Greece (around 100 BC), much of the Greek way of life was replaced by the Roman culture.  Sadly, the Olympics lost most of its original significance.  Greek competitors once competed for religion.  During the Roman era, athletes began playing for personal honor.  They began demanding prizes and money for competing.  Cheating and bribery increased among athletes and officials.  The Games became a violent form of entertainment.  There were battles between animals, slaves and animals, and gladiators would combat to the death.  During these times, real athletic competition faded away and the Olympics died out.

The Olympics Rise Again!

In 1892, a man named Baron de Coubertin, of France, reintroduced the idea of the Modern Olympics.  His “grand Olympic idea” was that the world will not “have peace until the prejudices which now separate the different races has been outlived… to attain this end, what better means, than to bring the youth of all countries periodically altogether for amicable [friendly] trials of muscular strength and agility [speed]?”  (pg 37).    For the Baron, the Greek Olympic history was the perfect model for promoting world peace.  In 1896, the first Modern Olympics Games were in Athens, Greece. 

Reference: Knight, T. (1991). The Olympic Games. Lucent Books: San Diego, CA.


Questions to consider in a 1-page reflective write:

1) How has the Olympics changed over time?

2) What was the Baron’s goal when introducing the idea of the “Modern
Olympics?” Do you think the Olympics can achieve this goal? Why or Why not?