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Sports-Themed Ideas for Substitute Teachers

Safeco Field Panorama
Philerooski / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

A sports-themed lesson plan is great tool in the bag of ideas for substitute teachers. The wide world of sports offers an enormous resource of topics for projects, papers, presentations and just about any type of classroom assignment in between. One secret to exploiting this robust idea whether you are a substitute teacher for a day or a week is to keep in mind is how it lends itself to taking advantage your audience's ignorance has about certain sports and their familiarity with others. 

  • Obscure Sports Ideas for lessons based on obscure sports are a great way to get students out of their comfort zone when it comes to sports. Substitute teachers in history classes might well consider the value of connecting with student interest in extreme sports by devising a lesson plan that introduces them to sombo. Sombo was developed in Russia during the Stalin era as way for soldiers to improve their hand-to-hand fighting techniques. Another interesting sport that is not well-known is petanque, which is played by rolling metal balls so that they get as close as possible to a small wooden ball called the cochonnet. Gameplay makes this obscure sport a suitable idea for substitute teachers in elementary grades or some higher-level math classes.
  • The Olympics Every other year, the Olympics captures world's imagination and makes it especially fertile for mining for ideas for substitute teachers. But you certainly do not have to limit yourself to coming up with lessons every two years. The Olympics can very successfully be used as a resource for teaching ideas that cover politics, sociology, economics, civil rights and much more.  One idea for long-term substitute teachers would be to assign presentations around some of the highlights of the more memorable Olympiads. Highlights to get you started, but by no means to be limited to include the larger significance of things like Israel making its first appearance at the 1952 Helsinki games, the historical impetus behind each of the events in the decathlon, the first wheelchair-bound athletes competing at the 1948 Olympics in London, the politicization of Olympics through various boycotts and the enormous differences in the treatment of non-amateur athletes over the decades.
  • Sports and Money If you are the type of substitute teacher looking for the right opportunity to really make an impact on students during that incredibly brief time you have with them, you almost cannot find a more enlightening topic than the collision of sports and money. For instance, you can almost be guaranteed of seeing one of those eureka moments when you assign a lesson designed to showcase the difference between the average salary of athletes in major sports like baseball and football in comparison with the salaries of the owners of the teams they play for. Topics related money and sports can range from the issue of college players leaping to the pros before they are ready to how Super Bowl commercials act to confirm the influence of advertising on American society.
  • Steroids The issue of steroid abuse is prime territory for lesson ideas to inspire substitute teachers. A statistics class could conduct research to produce data either confirming or denying that steroid use impacted player performance. Steroid abuse is also perfect for lessons when you sub for classes relate to health issues.
  • The Best Ever (Fill in the Blank) When it comes to ideas for substitute teachers just needing something to fill the time spent in a classroom in which the teacher provided absolutely no material for you, you simply cannot go wrong with a lesson that asks students to name the best ever (fill in the blank.) Any classroom discussion that opens with the question of who was the best quarterback ever or the best pitcher or the best game in Final Four history is almost assured to may that 50 minutes pass by like it was your lunch break.
Now take a moment to ask yourself a question you might want to pass along to your students.  What makes an athlete truly great: championships won or individual statistic accomplishments? Are team sports really about teamwork in light of so many awards for individual achievement?
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