Sports in language class

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One of the many issues about teaching a foreign language is the diversity of the students that end up taking your class. Equally diverse is the motivation that drives them. Some of your students might be in love with your language, some other might have been forced to take the class by their parents, and some other might be totally indifferent, not hot nor cold, about the target language. In this blog, I choose to address a specific kind of student, the kids that love sports (and don’t like language). How can I reach them? Interest them? And eventually stimulate them in using French, Spanish, German or any other language that I’m teaching? The answer might be in this one syllable word: Sports.

Variety of topics

Sport is a huge umbrella word that could encompass a variety of topics: health and body parts, tradition and culture, extreme sports, hobbies, olympic games, team sports vs individual sports, equipment an facilities, and the list goes on… Fortunately, these topics are complementary, and it’s very easy to start with the general topic of health, to continue on professional sports, to present a famous athlete and to describe the rules of his sport or his diet to perform well in it. No matter what angle you choose to cover, it is important to make it clear from the start: “In this unit, we will talk about health and body part, and your final task will be to write an interview of a well know sport figure.” Then on with the vocabulary of the unit.

Topic 1: Health and body parts

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This unit is perfect for grades 7-8, but it also works well with grades 9-10. I started with…

  1. Body parts vocabulary
  2. Expression of pain or fatigue (My_____ hurts)
  3. Health facilities (Hospital, pharmacy, emergency…)
  4. Healthy living (Eating, sleeping, exercice… + Imperative tense)
  5. Role play (At the doctor’s office)

The final assessment for this topic is the role play where two students (a patient and a doctor) act like they are the doctor’s office for a consultation. For more info on role plays, visit my previous post on the subject.

Topic 2: Interview of an athlete

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Great unit for middle and high school alike, this topic can easily be adapted to the age range that you are teaching. Here is how I would proceed…

  1. Introduce traditional sport vocabulary (football, basketball, ski, cycling…)
  2. Make categories of sport (team/individual, outside/inside, pro/amateur…)
  3. Ask students to choose and present an athlete to the class
  4. Review interrogative form (how to make question in the target language)
  5. Read a real interview of a well known athlete
  6. Ask students to write an interview of their athlete

The final assessment of this topic is the interview with the sport figure, but the oral presentation could also be assessed formally.

Here is a French interview with the diver Hassan Mouti and the snowboarder Sophie Rodriguez, fell free to use it! Interview – Sportifs de l’extrême

Topic 3: Create your own sport

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This topic could work well with any level, from elementary to high school, depending on the level of complexity that you expect from your students. It’s a slightly more creative and silly unit, but it’s great fun! Here is how it goes…

  1. Ask your student to research, compile and present the silliest sports they can find online. It can be a sports that is linked to a local tradition (Scottish Log Throwing) or completely absurd (Chess Boxing…. yes it exist!)
  2. Ask your students to present the rules of that sport or activity
  3. Establish what are the criteria to make a sport
  4. Ask your student to create and present a new sport using the above mentioned criteria.

The final task can be a text or an oral presentation, you can decide based on your curriculum.

Here is a list of ridiculous sports.… But I’m sure there are more out there!

Topic 4: Use a real sport event

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A few years ago, one of my colleagues created a document on the Football World Cup. That is a great idea to include not only sport, but also nationality, sport facilities, audience behaviour and general culture (the host country, for example). The Olympic Games (summer or winter) is also a good opportunity to talk about sports in a different context.

Voilà ! I hope this gives you a few ideas… Talk soon!!!

And keep on Speedflying…

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