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Go for the Gold!
Olympic Games Spark Classroom Activities!

Capitalize on your students' Olympic interests with Internet-inspired activities. Included: A dozen activities -- and four Teaching Masters -- for use across the grades.

Official Olympic Logo

Take a close look at the emblem of the XVIII Olympic Winter Games, to be held February 6 to 22 in Nagano, Japan. What do you see? A flower? A snowflake? The emblem's hexagonal shape mirrors the shape of a snowflake, an appropriate symbol for the Winter Games. The shape also resembles the flowering Alpine plant -- a purposeful symbol underlining the fact that Nagano emphasized environmental considerations in its staging of the Games. But a closer look reveals more! Take a look at the pictograph symbols designed to represent each of the Olympic sports that are part of the Nagano Games. Do you see a few of those symbols (and their shadows) cleverly "disguised" in the emblem? See if your students can pick out the sports represented in the emblem!


Why not take advantage of your students' interest in the Olympic Games? "Team up" with Education World -- use the educational activities below to capitalize on your students' interest! Many of the activities make use of Internet sites. The activities can be adapted easily for use across a wide range of grades.

Read a schedule. Invite students to read an Olympic Games event schedule. Use one of two schedules, whichever might be easier for your students to read. Use the Nagano Olympic Winter Games Schedule from CNN/Sports Illustrated. Younger students might need to use a ruler to help them read the columns on this grid schedule. (An alternative schedule from the official Olympic Web site is set up in text form.) Use Teaching Master 1 with this activity.
Answer Key: 1. February 8; 2. three; 3. downhill; 4. seven; 5. no; 6. February 19; 7. February 21; 8. luge; 9. February 12; 10. ski jumping.]

Make a bar graph. Invite students to keep track of the number of gold, silver, and bronze medals that USA athletes win at the Winter Olympic Games. Make a copy of Teaching Master 2 for each student to use daily as they keep track.

Math (for young students). Invite students to use the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympic Medal Standing Chart to answer the math questions on Teaching Master 3. (Teachers might let students complete this worksheet while online or they might print out and copy or post the chart for students to use.)
ANSWER KEY: 1. 4 more; 2. 13 medals; 3. 23 medals; 4. Japan; 5. 4 more; 6. 43 gold medals; 7. 16 bronze medals; 8. Canada; 9. 4 teams; 10. 7 medals.]

Math (for older students). Hand out copies of Teaching Master 4. The Teaching Master provides word problem practice in adding decimals and other math concepts -- all related, of course, to the Winter Olympics.
ANSWER KEY: 1. Syd, Peter, Hans; 2. Shelley, Christie, Annlee; 3. Michela Fijini, 13 seconds.

Geography. Invite students to work in pairs to complete this activity. Provide each student with a copy of a world map that they can write on. Then students can use Winter Games 101 from the U.S. Olympic Committee Web site. The chart lists the sites of 20 Winter Olympic competitions dating back to the first Games in 1924. (The list includes this year's site -- Nagano, Japan -- and Salt Lake City, home of the 2002 Games.) Students should use atlases, the Internet, and other resources to locate on their maps the sites of all the Winter Games. They can write the year on the map; for example, the year "1924" will appear on the map at the location of Chamonix, France.

Create a timeline. Continue the activity above using the same resource, Winter Games 101. Invite students to create a timeline. Place the name of the host city by the correct year on the timeline. This might be the perfect opportunity to talk about the reasons why there were no Olympic Games in 1940 and 1944.

More geography. Use the Parade of Nations from the USA Today Olympic Web site. Assign two or more countries to each student. Provide each student with an 11-inch by 17-inch sheet of drawing paper. Students fold the paper in half. On half of the paper, the student provides information about the country's location, population, capital, primary language, and national anthem title (as provided on the Web page). On the other half of the sheet the student draws the country's flag. Put the pages together to create a "Parade of Olympic Nations" book.

Listening. Read aloud Ceremonies and Symbols, one of the sections from the World Book's Olympic Games Web pages. Then ask students the following questions to see how well they listened.

  • Which country's athletes always lead the parade of athletes into the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremonies? (Greece)
  • Which country's athletes are the last to enter the stadium? (the athletes of the host country)
  • What does the Olympic flame symbolize? (it symbolizes spirit, knowledge, and life; it is a messenger of peace)
  • What do the five rings of the Olympic symbol represent? (the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas)
  • What are the five colors of the rings? (blue, yellow, black, green, and red)

ABC order. Provide students with the following list of athletes. All these athletes are on USA Today's U.S. Olympic Roster. Invite students to put the list in alphabetical order by last name. (edit/shorten the list for younger students.)

Nicole BobekFigure skatingAmy PetersonSpeed skating
John BauerCross-country skiingMichelle KwanFigure skating
Ann BattelleFreestyle skiingCasey ColbySki jumping
Tim TetreaultNordic combinedJohn KasperBobsledding
Darrin SteeleBobsleddingMyles BrundidgeCurling
Dan SteeleBobsleddingMichael WeissFigure skating
Todd EldridgeFigure skatingCatherine RaneySpeed skating
Brett HullIce hockeyTara LipinskiFigure skating
Larry DolanLugeCammy MylerLuge
Suzanne KingCross-country skiingMike PeplinskiCurling
David TamburrinoSpeed skatingAndy EricksonBiathlon
Cory CarpenterSpeed skatingSandra WhyteIce Hockey
Jay HakkinenBiathlonMike DionneBobsledding

Art. Share with students the official posters and the official sports posters of the Nagano Games. Print them out and display them in the room for students to see. Then invite students to create their own posters for one of the Winter Olympic sports or for the games in general.

More bar graphs. Students can work in the same pairs as in the previous two activities. Provide each team with a copy of Teaching Master 2. Assign each pair to create a bar graph showing the number of gold, silver, and bronze medals that U.S. athletes won in one of the Winter Olympic Games from 1924 to 1994. Use as a resource the Medals Won By Year from the Winter Games 101 pages of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Web site. Display the graphs side by side in sequence. Post the results for 1998 as soon as the Nagano Games are completed.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1998 Education World