CM . . . .
Volume V Number 9 . . . . January 1, 1999
Students are more likely to learn if they are interested in what they are learning about and they see a relationship between what is being taught and their world. For many, the "real world" is one in which sports is a major influence. It makes sense then, to use this world to teach the concepts of the curriculum.Ninety activities, relating sports to language arts, math, social studies, science, health and art, are presented in blackline master format in this coilbound book. The activities are designed to motivate reluctant learners from a variety of backgrounds, to encourage student discussion and cooperation both in small and large group settings, and to foster independent learning. What the author assumes is that an interest in sports is common to almost all kids.
There are a great many activities from which to choose, but none of them is grade-specific, nor are any concepts covered in depth. Therefore, teachers looking to supplement their math unit on averages, for example, will be able to find only a single worksheet devoted to this topic and might, in fact, have to adapt it to suit the ability level of their class. And, though Swan claims in his "Introduction" that he has considered the variety of students' backgrounds, including socio-economic, he includes several activities which require students to have access to a television or daily newspaper or actually to participate in organized sports outside of school.
Though the activities are basically fun and educational, there still needs to be direct teaching of specific strategies before using some of the worksheets while other tasks are just "busy work." Swan uses real athletes' and teams' statistics to teach and/or reinforce math concepts. The danger in this approach, however, is that the book becomes outdated quickly.
Relating tasks to the real world is not always successful. One problem-solving question asks, "How many footballs, if laid end to end, would be needed to go around the boundary of a football field?" Why would anyone want to bother to figure this one out? In his zeal to come to the kids' world, Swan sometimes sacrifices correct grammar, asking poorly constructed questions, such as, "Who in the group can bring what?"
The book is divided into three parts - Language Arts, Math and Across the Curriculum - and each activity has a catchy title. There are few illustrations to break the monotony of the worksheets although the math section has graphs, maps and grids. Four appendices offer more teacher ideas and the answers to the questions in the math section. In fact, the entire book could have been a collection of teacher ideas rather than a workbook.
Swan, a 20-year veteran of the teaching profession in Australia, has spent only one year in a Canadian school; therefore, his activities do not always reflect curriculum outcomes in this country. Teachers will likely not duplicate every worksheet but rather will select a few activities to supplement their language arts or math programs. Those teachers who are creative will no doubt already have a wealth of similar activities in their filing cabinets.
Recommended with reservations.
Gail Hamilton is the teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School, East St. Paul, Manitoba.
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