OLYMPIC WRITING PROMPT: Ingredients for success

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For the Olympic athletes competing in Rio de Janeiro August 5-21, nutrition is a science, and diet is a central focus. But did you know that food was just as important to the first Olympians of Ancient Greece?

On Friday, we’ll take a look at some fascinating culinary statistics from past Olympics—like, did you know that figs were once a staple of a the Greek Olympian’s diet!?—but today, we’re using food as a recipe for student writing success.

Consider these student writing prompts:

1. Describe the most memorable meal you’ve ever had—good or bad. What made it memorable? What was on the menu? Include details such as where the meal was served, who was at the table, etc. Using sensory detail—sight, smell, taste, etc.—can really boost the detail of this descriptive paragraph.

2. Imagine you have been roped into cooking a meal for 100 Olympic athletes. As a class, plan the menu, brainstorming the kinds of foods that would be important to the athletes, taking into consideration nutrition and health. Now, describe your day from going to the Supermarket and shopping for ingredients through to the somewhat daunting clean-up. This would make a great comedic short story! (For lower grades, plan a meal for a family or an Olympic team of about 10.)

3. You are an athlete competing at Rio2016. What sport or event are you competing in? It’s the day before your competition. Design your perfect meal. How would it be different after your event? Imagine you won the GOLD—what would you want for your celebration meal?

4. Research an Olympic nation. Find out the country’s national food and share a recipe. Make an Olympic class recipe book that can be shared with parents. Be sure to include an introduction on the country you chose.

As an additional resource, review this article with students, featuring 27 foods that individual athletes and countries from the 2012 Summer Olympics preferred.

And in this fun video,athletes share what they like to eat before they compete.

For more writing prompts, check out the inspiring resources on the Teachers Media Website, including this video that goes beyond cooking for a neat literacy lesson.

Happy writing! See you Friday when we share some interesting and fun facts about foods from around the world!

~ The Teachers Media Team

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Life outside of the classroom

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At Teachers Media International, we understand how busy teachers can be for most months of the year—and we also recognise that educators have a life outside of the classroom. A life that sometimes gets put on hold until summer break, when the daily demands of school take a few weeks hiatus.

In this series of videos on the Teachers Media International website, we showcase a number of educators with extraordinary talents and hobbies beyond teaching—such as this great profile of a championship go-kart racer, this talented magician, or even this school musical director who has a passion for tortoise conservation.

If you polled your fellow teachers, how many hobbies could you add to this list? Which of them would you consider as a second career after retirement from teaching?

We already know that teachers are superheroes, but when the school year ends and that cape is tucked away for a month or two, how do YOU relax and unwind? Do you enjoy cooking? Are you an international rodeo star? Or maybe you spend your summers penning the next great novel? Whatever your extra-curricular hobby, we hope you share it with us!

Not quite ready to send that superhero cape to the cleaners? Scroll through the stress-relief videos in our Wellbeing at Work series for inspiring tips on how to unwind.

See you Wednesday for the next instalment as we countdown to Rio2016  with our Olympic-inspired blog posts.

~ The Teachers Media Team

CURRENT EVENTS: Mapping out Olympic-inspired teaching moments

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More than 200 member nations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will travel to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics this August. While the athletes will certainly demonstrate a command of their sport, the Olympics often provide an excellent opportunity to showcase a little of each country’s culture and customs, as well.

This week, we take a look at 10 participating countries, focusing “beyond the sport” for a geography lesson that not only pinpoints just how far the athletes will travel this summer, but also provides some edu-taining (and surprising) facts about their home nation.

SUGGESTED ASSIGNMENTS:

  • Have students go to the blog and figure out each country using key words from the clues and the internet.
  • Include a map or post one on the white board or wall and have students label each country based on the clues.
  • Have students work in partners or small groups to come up with clues to other countries. Share with the class.

Okay, ready? Can your students figure out the country based on the three clues provided?

1.

  1. LEGO was invented here!
  2. International survey and studies often rank this country as the happiest place in the world based on standards of health, welfare and education.
  3. This country’s national sport is football. Expect them to be strong contenders at Rio2016.

2.

  1. This Olympic nation is located in the southern Caribbean Sea and is an island in the Lesser Antilles.
  2. On a clear day, you can see Venezuela.
  3. This country is the wreck-diving capital of the Caribbean having the most ship wrecks under the water

3.

  1. This country shares land borders with four countries including France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
  2. The town of Spa in this country is where the word “spa” comes from. People as far back as ancient Roman times used to come to the town to bathe in the famed cold springs for health reasons.
  3. This country has more comic makers per square km than any other country in the world. Famous comic series include: The Adventures of Tin Tin, The Smurfs, and Asterix.

4.

  1. Located in central Africa, the capital of this country is Bujumbara.
  2. Mount HeHa is the highest point in this country.
  3. Although being a landlocked country, its southwestern border is just around Lake Tanganyika.

EXTRA CREDIT: Check out this article on the Teachers Media International website to see how and English school in this country is developing a culture of readers.

5.

  1. This country is home to 200 volcanoes.
  2. Sumo wrestling is this country’s national sport—but baseball is also very popular.
  3. This country is crazy about vending machines. Here you can conveniently buy anything from Pringles to Smart Cars!

6.

  1. One of the founders of Skype is from this country
  2. This country is home to the 2016 World Wife Carrying Championship competition.
  3. A country famous for Nokia, it has no public pay phones.

7.

  1. This country has won the Eurovision Song Contest a record seven times.
  2. At the Olympics, boxing is this country’s most successful sport.
  3. The Shamrock is the national symbol of this country.

EXTRA CREDIT: Research the national symbol for some of the countries participating in the Olympics and have students draw them to make a colourful collage.

8.

  1. This country is the second largest in the world, behind Russia.
  2. The baseball glove was invented in this country in 1883.
  3. Can you believe that people drink maple syrup from trees in this country? Crazy, eh?

EXTRA CREDIT: What are some of the most famous inventions from your country? Brainstorm with students—there are bound to be some surprises!

9.

  1. This nation is located across nine time zones.
  2. The world’s first satellite, named Sputnik, was launched by this country.
  3. In 1980, the Summer Olympics were hosted in this country.

10.

  1. This country is located in North Africa.
  2. In terms of total area, this country is the 11th largest in the world.
  3. Over 90% of this country is covered by the Sahara Desert.

EXTRA CREDIT: Rank the 10 countries featured in this post from largest to smallest based on total land area.

How did YOU do? Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you next week for more Olympic-inspired activities.

~ The Teachers Media Team

ANSWERS:  1. Denmark  2. Estonia  3. Belgium  4. Burundi  5. Japan  6. Finland  7. Ireland  8. Canada  9. Russian Federation  10. Aruba

OLYMPIC WRITING PROMPT: Reclaiming the fading art of handwriting

 

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Digital technology makes a lot of things simpler, but it’s also caused some cherished forms of communication—such as handwriting—to become almost obsolete. After Grade 1, the focus on handwriting gives way to more modern technologies like keyboarding.

While the debate on the importance of handwriting continues in most parts of the world, new evidence shows a strong correlation between handwriting and broader educational development. For example, studies show that children learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, and although typing is faster, the very act of handwriting forces students to focus on what’s important, making it easier to retain information. (Maria Konnikova, What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades, New York Times, June, 2016)

Not to mention the fact that handwritten letters, for instance, are more personal, giving students the ability to convey some of their personality with each cursive letter.

As more than 200 members of the International Olympic Committee gear up for travel to Rio de Janeiro this summer, the 2016 Summer Olympics provides an excellent opportunity for teachers to combine geography and language arts with a writing prompt that not only takes a look at the countries competing in the Games, but also attempts to reclaim the fading art of handwriting—if only for a couple of days.

Review this comprehensive list of competing countries and task students with learning more about each nation focusing on culture, climate, population, and any interesting facts and statistics about the country. Then, have students handwrite a letter to a fictional (or real, if you can swing it) pen pal. The letter should demonstrate that the student has some knowledge of the country, while providing comparisons and contrasts about his/her own country.

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Students in France embrace handwriting. 

For students in France, this assignment won’t be difficult. There, handwriting is woven into the fabric of student learning. That’s because the French believe that giving children the ability to write will free their minds to perform creatively throughout their lives.

See how this theory is explored in this fascinating Teachers Media International video.

For those who want to keep up with technology, check out Microsoft’s “Skype in the Classroom” program to connect with a class from around the world—a great end of year activity.

How else could you combine language arts, geography, and the Olympics for a fun—and relevant—cross curricular activity?

See you Friday for another inspired activity that focuses on the nations that are set to compete on the global stage in the 2016 Rio Games.

~ The Teachers Media Team

Teacher Tip: Sharing top resources

 

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Last week, we put out the call to educators around the world, asking them to share their favourite parent, teacher, and student resources for use over the summer holidays. We’ve already had some wonderful responses!

As we collate these great resources to eventually publish on the Teachers Media International website, we’ll also share some of them here on the blog—and we’ve even asked our Director of Education, Betty Morris, to weigh in on a few of them.

Perhaps the best resource for both parents and students, as noted by one of the teacher responses, is to simply enjoy the summer as a family. Try using this time to create activities like cooking, or playing cards and table games. Planning a trip can also create memorable time together.

For a more structured approach, take a look at Google Play. While many of the apps are for younger students, most of them are free, and deal with a variety of subjects and thinking skills. Check out Quizlet, UNO, and ABC Kids, for example. The games can be played individually or as a group.

Betty also recommends BBC Skillwise, which offers games and short lessons for improving grammar and mathematics. Mainly aimed at older students, the short videos featured on the site demonstrate maths in real-life situations/jobs.

Of course, we’re just getting started collecting resources, and we continue to value your input. If you’re willing to tell share your go-to resources for summer learning, please complete the two short questions that can be found at this link.

Your answer could be featured on our blog!

~ The Teachers Media Team

OLYMPIC MATHS: Just for the sport of it

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With 42 sporting events featured at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer, it’s sometimes hard to pick which should be on your must-see watch list. For students’ sake, a good start might be those that have some fun (and relevant) mathematical implications.

Like archery, for instance. From Robin Hood to Katniss Everdeen, archery has always been a staple in literature and film—but since the Paris Olympics back in 1900, spectators around the world have witnessed this skill and heroism in real life.

Math is used to calculate the distance between the target and the athlete—which for Olympians is 70m, or about 230 ft. Can you replicate this distance in your school yard to demonstrate the skill required to hit the target? Create a “bullseye” and have students toss beanbags (or something similar) from various distances. What other factors—aside from good aim—affect whether or not students hit the target? Use the information to make graphs.

Or how about basketball, a game of dribbling, dunks, and three-pointers? Did you know that the tallest basketball player to have participated in the Olympic Games is China’s Yao Ming, at 2.29m (or about 7.5 ft)? What is the total height of all the basketball players on your country’s Olympic basketball team? If one floor / story of a building is 3m (10 ft), how many stories high would the total basketball team be?  Consider also playing this basketball-inspired game using addition and subtraction to solve equations.

For a slightly different basketball lesson, see this Teachers Media International video featuring Double Olympic Gold Medallist Dame Kelly Holmes teaching a PE class.

And if you “love” tennis (see what we did there?), then you may already know that American sisters Venus and Serena Williams are the only professional tennis players to have won four medals each—and all of them are gold. If each sister wins a gold medal per Olympic, and all medals are won at consecutive Olympics, how many years did it take to collect all 8 medals? By the way, when a player doesn’t score any points their score is called “love”—but it has nothing to do with romance. The names comes from the egg-like shape of a zero—”loef” in French.

Thanks to the Euros which kicked off in France on June 10, football is top of mind—and the frenzy will carry on into August where 16 countries for the men and 12 for the women will battle for Olympic gold. Did you know that more than half of the world’s hand-stitched footballs are made in Sailkat, Pakistan? Check out this Teachers Media video!

Of course, we’ve only touched on a handful of the sports that will be featured in the 2016 Summer Olympics, which means there are dozens of math-inspired questions you could be using in the classroom right now! Why not have students research one of the sports and come up with their own math puzzlers their classmates must answer? Share some of your favourites in the comments!

Have a great weekend!

~ The Teachers Media Team

OLYMPIC WRITING PROMPT: Getting the scoop on the athletes

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More than 10,000 athletes will compete in 28 sports at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro from August 5 to 21. With over 300 medals up for grabs, the competition will be fierce—a true demonstration of commitment, perseverance, and hard work.

So, who are these amazing athletes who will share their blood, sweat and tears on the global stage this summer? The answer provides a unique opportunity to teach kids not only about the men and women competing for gold, but also some important English Language Arts skills such as writing and interviewing.

Take a look at this list of athletes—neatly separated into countries —and have students select an athlete they would like to learn more about. Students can choose an athlete from any country and in any sport. Now consider the following assignment ideas:

Q&A with an athlete

Have students research their athlete of choice, looking for facts such as how the athlete got started in sport, his/her journey to the Olympics, and other random information that might be interesting.

Now, ask students to work in pairs or small groups to conduct interviews, as though they are a reporter for a local newspaper. Make sure to go through the importance of asking good interview questions with the class. Some examples may include:

  1. How many years have you been training for your sport?
  2. Who are your heroes? Why?
  3. What is the best advice you were ever given?
  4. Is this your first Olympic event?
  5. What is your greatest accomplishment so far?

Note: Students may want to exchange interview questions ahead of time in order to be better prepared.

When finished, ask students to reverse roles, so that each have a chance to interview, and be interviewed. Using the information gained from these interviews, have students write a short article or descriptive paragraph about the athlete.

Bonus: Encourage students to “dress” for the part or bring props if relevant.

All about…the athlete

For older students, encourage more in-depth research, which they will then use to write a biography on one of the athletes competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Ambitious students who want to really “get into character” might try their hand at writing an autobiography—writing as though they are the actual athlete. Be sure to use as many interesting facts as possible!

What other ways could research on the athletes competing in the Olympics be used as a writing prompt? Share your ideas in the comments!

See you this Friday as we explore another Olympic-inspired lesson.

~ Teachers Media Team

CURRENT EVENTS: Using the Brexit debate to increase student democratic engagement

Should the UK stay or should they go?

That’s the question the British people will answer at a National Referendum on June 23, when they vote to decide whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union.

While the Brexit vote will likely come down to two fundamental issues—weighing the economic risks of leaving versus concerns over an unstoppable flow of immigrants’ impact on the infrastructure of the UK—this excellent Bloomberg Quicktakes video (suitable for students) explains what’s at stake, in under two minutes.

Heady stuff for Britain of course, but also an excellent opportunity to use current events as a vessel for talking to students about citizenship, debate, and democracy.

In this Teachers Media International video titled CITIZENSHIP: Engaging with Democracy, a teacher explores the idea of campaigning to see how engaged students might be if the political issues on debate impacted them in a more meaningful way.

Given the upcoming U.S. presidential election, this, and other videos on the Teachers Media International website, will be excellent primers for what will likely be a hot topic in the United States—with worldwide implications—this November.

Voter apathy of young people is a global concern. What other resources would you recommend to increase student democratic engagement?

~ The Teachers Media Team

OLYMPIC MATHEMATICS: It takes a village (An Olympic village!)

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Some say it takes a village to raise a child—but at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, building the village for the athletes takes…well, a village.

Already billed as the largest in Olympic history, the athletes’ home-away-from-home in Brazil will rival a five-star hotel. Boasting 31 new buildings, each up to 17 floors high, the village will host 10,000 athletes, plus their delegation of coaches, doctors and psychologists, bringing the total number of residents to about 18,000.

So, what does it take to give these athletes the comforts of home? In addition to a large recreation area brimming with video games, musical instruments and more, the village will host a state-of-the-art gym and a beauty salon. Not to mention approximately:

  • 80,000 chairs
  • 70,000 tables
  • 29,000 mattresses
  • 60,000 clothes hangers
  • 6,000 TV sets
  • 10,000 smartphones

Impressive, right?

But what happens after the Olympics are over? According to the developers, the village will be turned into a private condominium complex, with more than 3,600 apartments.

Using these mind-boggling statistics, consider working through these mathematical problems with your class:

  1. Assuming that each athlete is allocated an equal amount of hangers, how many “hanging” clothes items should each athlete pack?
  2. If there are 31 buildings, each having 17 floors, and a total of 3,604 apartments, approximately how many apartments are on each floor in each building,?
  3. If there are 80,000 chairs and 70,000 tables, what is the ratio of chairs to tables? Why do you think there are so many tables?
  4. There are 207 nations competing in the Olympics, including the Refugee Olympic athletes. If there are approximately 10,000 athletes competing, about how many athletes is that per country?

Design it!

As an athlete, you get to design your living space in the village.  A two-bedroom apartment will have a table with two chairs, television, two desks with two chairs, two beds, and two dressers for clothes.

Using the grid templates, design your living space to maximize space.  Add other items that you may have brought with you from home.

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Teachers:  You can design your living space using grid paper or an online grid chart.  Have students design their own shapes.

What other number questions can you come up with? How else could you use statistical information about the Olympics for cross-curricular activities? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Have a great weekend!

~ The Teachers Media Team

OLYMPIC WRITING PROMPT: A picture is worth 1000 words

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As far back as ancient Egypt, hieroglyphs were drawn onto rocks, told stories, and used to convey important messages. They required no interpreter, but rather provided a universal language through which people could communicate.

Given the international and universal nature of the Olympics, it makes sense then that pictograms have become an important symbol of the games, providing a familiar image for each participating sport.

But did you know that these pictograms are never exactly the same for each Olympic games?

Not only have some of the sports changed—sadly, there are no more chariot races, for instance—but the pictograms have become another way for the host country to showcase local talent or important parts of the country’s culture. The silhouettes for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, for example, were made of boomerangs. For Rio 2016, the designers floated each symbol in a pebble-shaped background to signify “action” and “movement.”

Using the symbols from any of the past games—including those first six sports featured in Ancient Greece—consider these creative writing ideas:

  1. Have students draw a pictogram to represent their Olympic “sport.” It doesn’t have to be an official event—a world record holder in reading, perhaps? Now, prepare a description for the symbol that explains the decisions or factors that went into creating it.
  2. Have students research the changes in the pictograms or symbols for one sport over a number of Olympics. Write an analysis of the changes (style, colour, size, background, etc) and any cultural influences.
  3. Emoticons are a type of pictogram, too! Have students write a text message using only a series of emoticons. How important is it to choose the right symbols?

For more on hieroglyphics, have a look at this Teachers Media International video, ANCIENT WORLDS, where students take a field trip to the museum. While you’re on the site, register for our platform service to gain access to thousands of video resources, articles, learning packs, and much more.

What other ways can you use pictograms in the classroom? Share in the comments!

~ Teachers Media Team