“Take me out to the ball game. Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks…" With this baseball unit plan, you and your students can bring the ball game right into the classroom, with social studies and language arts activities to enhance everyone’s understanding of the game.
The objectives for this baseball unit plan are as follows:
- Students will understand the invention and development of baseball throughout its history.
- Students will recognize the contributions of baseball and its players to the society.
- Students will explain the basic rules and equipment of baseball.
There’s a New Game in Town
Provide students with reading passages and questions about the origins of baseball, formatted like state assessment examples. Expand on the theme by including passages about famous baseball events, like the Black Sox scandal, the cancellation of the 1994 World Series or the current steroid-use controversy.
Let students explore reference materials, including offline books and Internet sources, to gather data for an illustrated timeline of the game of baseball.
Divide students into jigsaw groups. Assign one group to research the beginnings of baseball in the United States, another to the Negro League, another to the integration of major league baseball. Regroup the students so that one person from each original group is in the new group. After students share what they gleaned from their research, the new group should produce a visual aid to summarize everything they have learned.
Getting to Know the Players
Combine social studies with language arts baseball activities with some biography exploration. Stock your classroom library with books about major league or minor league baseball players for students to enjoy and to use as reference materials.
Allow students to choose from a list of famous baseball players; try to avoid having more than one student assigned to the same player. Students research their assigned player and create a trading card for him. The card should include the player’s name, team(s) and statistics, along with a statement that explains why he belongs on a “Famous Players" list.
Present pairs of students with the following instructions: It is Hall of Fame time, and the selection committee has chosen you to recommend a player for inclusion in the Hall. You need to research carefully to decide which player you think best deserves this honor. Use what you discover to write a letter of recommendation and to prepare a speech that you will make to the selection committee; make both of them compelling, as your player will be up against some tough competition. You will also need a scale drawing or model of what the museum exhibit for the player should look like.
Read All About It
Choose one of Mike Lupica’s baseball-themed books as a group reading assignment. In addition to the usual vocabulary and comprehension activities, use the books as leads for discussions and journal writing about topics related to the book. For example, you could use The Batboy to initiate a discussion about the use of performance-enhancing drugs, asking students to collect newspaper or magazine articles. Follow the discussion by having students write to the prompt: The use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs is a controversial topic, with some condemning their use as cheating, while others see nothing wrong with them. Write a letter to the Major League Baseball Commissioner, expressing your perspective, including your opinion of the drugs’ use and how you think the league should respond to the situation.
Some other Lupica baseball titles include The Big Field, Heat and Safe at Home.
Who Is Flying in the Infield?
Provide students with copies of the rules of baseball from the past and today. Allow them to work in pairs to create Venn diagrams to compare the early rules of the game to modern rules.
Ask students to create an illustrated handbook for beginning baseball players. The book should include the rules in simple terms, as well as pictures to make them more understandable. The authors should also have a section on the role of each player in the game and another about sign language in baseball.
Dining at the Diamond
Popcorn, peanuts and hot dogs have long been associated with baseball games. Ask student groups to do some research to find out why these foods first became so closely tied to the game. Then, the groups should explore what unusual foods are available at the nation’s ballparks. The groups can show the results in a decorated menu board that includes historic annotations.
Assign groups to specific teams in the American or National Leagues. The groups should create two maps for their team. The first should represent all the cities that have been home to the team throughout its history. The second should map the itinerary and shortest routes for one (or more) of the previous season’s road trips.
Allow students to design the ultimate equipment and/or uniform for a newly formed baseball team. They can display their designs on fashion dolls, paper dolls or a group member. They should include the ultimate bat, the safest batting helmet and the team uniform, including colors, logo, hat, pants, shirt and shoes.
With this baseball unit plan, including language arts baseball activities, spring should “fly" by.
Mike Lupica Official Website, http://www.mikelupicabooks.com/books.html
Baseball Almanac, http://www.baseball-almanac.com/
19th Century Baseball, http://www.19cbaseball.com/
MLB Players, http://www.mlb-players.com/history.php