For most of my career I’ve had students who were cricket fans with limited exposure to baseball. They could go on for hours about wickets and bowlers, and knew the current possessor of the Cricket World Cup (yes, that’s a real thing, if you didn’t know, and as of 2019 it is England), but had no clue about the great American pastime. One year I had a particularly avid group of cricket fans, so my summer school co-teacher and I decided to use this to our advantage.
That summer we planned an entire two week’s lesson plans around baseball and cricket. The first week the students were the experts, teaching us all about cricket. The second week we turned the tables and taught them all about baseball. The entire experience was finished off with our own playoff–first a game of baseball and then a cricket test match.
Our math was full of probabilities, statistics, fractions, and percentages; things we’d tried all year to get the students interested in and suddenly they couldn’t get enough of. Batting averages, error calculations, runs and outs….it was a frenzy of math calculations.
Science class involved learning about things such as aerodynamics, force and motion, even fulcrums and levers. My co-teacher even snuck in some health studies by talking about air pollution and how it can affect our breathing and athletic performance.
During social studies, we learned geography by mapping out team locations. This connected back to math when we started talking about time zones and travel distances for certain teams to compete (though not baseball or cricket related, the students enjoyed playing What Time Is It In? during this lesson). Going further, we did short biography projects on famous players from both sports, and looked at the changes in each game throughout history (they really got a kick out of looking at old uniforms!).
But, being ESL teachers, we really kicked things up during our ELA class. We started both weeks with vocabulary. The students worked on their own to find the English words for cricket equipment and rules they wanted to teach us. When it was time for baseball, we introduced the terms and used a vocabulary sort activity to help them practice. Beyond vocabulary, there were reading comprehensions on the rules for each game. Each day we did read alouds of books such as Baseball Saved Us and The Berenstain Bears Go Out For The Team. As a longer reading comprehension, we read Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia, and worked on baseball-related idioms.
Students gave oral presentations about technique, famous players, and the history of each sport. We also had fun listening comprehension exercises each day such as Disney’s How To Play Baseball and Abbott and Costello’s Who’s On First routine (get a graphic organizer for free). Of course there were plenty of writing activities as well, such as the previously mentioned biographies.
Those two weeks were unanimously voted as the best two weeks of summer school ever by students and teachers alike. We had so much fun, and learned a lot more than I ever thought possible in just two short weeks. Several years later some of the baseball activities and materials ended up reappearing in my lesson plans for National Geographic’s Level B Inside curriculum, unit seven, More Than a Game (get your own copy of my plans for free using the link). It was the end of the year, after state testing was finished, and no one was feeling very motivated. Once again, these activities got everyone’s energy going again and ramped up engagement. Maybe they can do the same for one of your classes? Happy teaching, everyone.