I got the email below from Skip today. I know that Robert and maybe others in this group have done work in this area. The first place to go, Skip, is to the Robert Harrell category here – find it here among blog posts from about two years ago. I value this inquiry because it sounds like a great way to work with upper level kids and CI anyway – the potential is enormous. Remember, Skip, it’s not what the CI is about, it’s about the CI itself, and how compelling it is. That one kid sounds like you have the compelling part covered already! Anybody besides Robert who has worked in this area please comment also – we have to help our brother Skip out up there in the great state of Maine!
Hey Ben (all):
I need some help thinking thru something….
I have a very unique situation where 5 students that I have taught for 3 years in a row are taking my spanish 4 class this year.  We know each other very well and they know each other even better.
One of them is an AVID soccer fan/player.   He has asked me for 3 years straight to do  a unit/lesson on soccer (vocabulary, culture, etc.) and I have put it off.
I have put it off because:
1. I am not athletic and I have NO confidence in this area.
2. I know NOTHING about soccer – period.
3. I don’t know how to honor his request and keep faithful to CI.
4. I am afraid that if I honor his request I will have more (field hockey, football, basketball etc.) though I do think I might be able to make an argument for doing just soccer given its cultural significance.
I wonder if you  could put this out on your blog to see if anyone has some ideas on what I might be able to do with this?
Thanks so much… I still have another week before we start and would like to start planning this…
[And Skip, let’s not add to the pressure of starting school by trying to pull all this together too fast. Let’s keep it here on the blog, take what we can find if anything, and slowly built a sports approach together that we can make a blog category and then all of us can have that lesson plan at our fingertips if any of us find ourselves in a similar situation, which, somehow, I think, is a very strong probability.]



9 thoughts on “Soccer”

  1. This topic mentioned by you, Skip and Jen is an important one. There must be studies out there about how small advanced groups of students of about 4 to 8 kids differ from a lower level class of 35. Is there a decrease or an increase of discussion and open communication, of interest? When I have had classes like that, I, like Skip, find it much more difficult. Just mentioning it here. But it is something that any teacher who inherits a small group of advanced kids, even if they are trained with CI, must be aware of. Wouldn’t mind reading some research on this.

  2. I remember reading Robert’s post about following soccer leagues and would love any info/specifics on that too!
    Skip, I had a student this year in level 2 who is completely obsessed with soccer! What I ended up doing was teaching some basic vocab about the sport. I actually used the textbook chapter for this, because a lot of the vocab can be transferred easily to hockey and field hockey. That way, all the kids get to learn about their sports!
    Even before I “officially” started CI-based teaching, I always did PQA, so needed this vocabulary since so many kids play sports and much of their lives revolves around practice, games, how many hours or minutes they practiced/ played, being tired, shooting, scoring, winning, losing, running, kicking, getting injured, etc. I just keep to the very basic terms, which was why the textbook vocab worked ok for this.
    Later in the year I moved to Nathan Black’s homework choices, where each student chose (ideally) comprehensible input for themselves. This was where my soccer student got to immerse himself on his own. He did things like watch games on Spanish ESPN, went to Spanish websites on soccer. He is a Barcelona fan, so he could go to the team website and read about his favorite player Lionel Messi (making sure it was the Castellano version and not Catalan!). I also found a few websites on “entrenamiento” by googling, so that I could steer him to some info on training and drills so he could pick up vocab that way. Even though I wasn’t working at all on output, he started to come to class with a spontaneous observation or comment about a match or player! That was very cool because this kid is quiet, a man of few words! So for him to come in and announce (unsolicited) “Estoy muy cansado” or “Madrid gano” or whatever…that was huge!
    ***disclaimer re: above paragraph: the student, in his weekly reflections, admitted much of the material was “too hard” or “too fast” (obviously watching soccer in Spanish is way too fast except for when they say gooooooooooollllllll!!!) but each week he claimed to be able to follow things a bit better. BUT because he would spend hours watching soccer anyway, he figured he might as well do it in Spanish and “count” it as homework. Just saying this because it wasn’t really CI, but he was nonetheless engaged and I was feeling my way through this.
    Usually in class I’d ask enough basic questions about what matches he saw over the weekend and/or how he played in his indoor league. Indoor leagues are big in our area, so it’s kind of general conversation that the rest of the class can participate in, since it’s kind of like hallway conversation anyway. As long as I showcase the non-sports kids’ activities equally it is a win-win because we’re showing that everyone’s lives and interests matter.
    I don’t think you have to become an expert on sports or necessarily do “units” on each sport, but you can get a base vocabulary through PQA. I have found kids love this. A lot of our PQA is around yesterday’s game and so it gives you a chance to ask about who scored a goal and who played well, etc. This year I had to work in soccer vocab along with a few basic aviation terms for our pilot/rocket scientist! And in French class I had to learn some farming terms! I know that some of these words are not high frequency, but they are in my kids lives, so I had to try to keep things as basic as possible for in-class use and let kids go deeper on their own.

  3. Skip: I really love baseball so I went out on the net and downloaded all of the baseball vocabulary. It’s helped me big time to not only say X plays baseball, but I can establish position, etc. I also exploited the March Madness Brackets even though I am not a basketball aficionado – but it was the structures better than, worse, than more points than, favorite team. I know nothing, but a quick listen to sports radio on my commute and a search on the web for the brackets and I was able to create the illusion of being an “informed” fan. It will take less soccer “know how than you think. Go Phillies!!

  4. Hi Skip, I just got back from Europe, got locked out from the site and have been in workshops the past two days, so I haven’t been able to post.
    In my German class we talk about soccer because it is such a big part of German culture. While we also talk about other sports and non-sport interests, I have the class follow the German Soccer League throughout the year. Here are some of the things I do:
    1. Each student adopts a team for the year
    2. Each student researches the team and its city, then makes a poster with the information. (I do this in level 1, so the poster is in English – it’s homework, one of the few homework assignments I give. If I did this in level 3/4 I would have the students do the poster in German.)
    3. The class does “geography of the soccer league”, identifying where each of the teams plays.
    4. The class learns basic terms for parts of the field and positions and identifies stars (not necessarily German) who play certain positions. For example, David Beckham plays “Mittelfeld” (midfield); Cristiano Ronaldo is a “Stürmer” (striker); Oliver Kahn was “Torwart” (goalie).
    5. I introduce how soccer is scored and standings determined.
    6. Each week the class looks at the results from the games, and students write down the information for their team on the form I created. Then we talk about the information. Students learn “won”, “lost”, “tied”, “beat”, “moved up”, “moved down”, “stayed the same”, “scored a goal”, and other pertinent vocabulary. They also learn how to express joy, sorrow, frustration, etc. over their team’s performance. At first in level 1 I do most of the talking, and students respond to indicate comprehension. Later on (I do this project in all levels at the insistence of the students) students taunt each other good naturedly, talk about how well the team played, etc. I’m a Stuttgart fan, so students like to give me a bad time when Stuttgart loses. (I would suggest that you as the teacher adopt a team to give students an opportunity to include you in the rivalry.)
    7. About half way through the season, level 1 students start making predictions about the games. Who will win? How many goals will they score? I give students the opportunity to make a prediction not only about who will win, but what the score will be. At first, they just have to predict the winner (or a tie) correctly; later they have to have the score correct. I give a prize to anyone who predicts correctly. We also talk about the fact that people really do gamble on soccer games in Germany.
    8. I will also copy and put into a PowerPoint a summary of the week’s games or an article about something significant that happened. (Three years ago we read about a game being cancelled because the field was torn up after a Madonna concert. Two years ago a game was shortened because of a tornado. Last year a game was rained out.) We read these as a class, and I ask first for a summary or general statement of what the article is about. We then look a little more closely for information. is a wonderful website that provides me with what I need for the weekly standings and discussion; I don’t know of a website in Spanish that does things quite so nicely. Also, the Goethe Institute did a nice set of materials for their “Atlantic Soccer Bridge” campaign to promote the study of German, and I use that. Again, I don’t know if there are equivalent materials in Spanish. There are numerous soccer films (e.g. in German we have “Das Wunder von Bern” and the series “Die wilden Kerle”) that can be used in class.
    I did a Spanish version of my soccer league table. Contact me privately at harrellrl at aol dot com, and I’ll be glad to send you a copy. I can also send other materials in German so you can see them if you wish. Please don’t do what I see on the moretprs list regularly and simply post here that you want something. I need to be able to hit “reply” to your e-mail, since I won’t copy and past or re-write your address. Thanks!

  5. Thank you SO MUCH. I was so uptight over this because I feel so inadequate in pulling something like this off. I feel better now. Thank you for your help.
    I would have responded sooner but for some reason I was only able to see the responses today….

  6. Let your students see that the teacher is not always the most knowledgeable person in the room. It’s an important life lesson that sometimes the student has more knowledge about certain things than the teacher, yet the student can still learn. You have the language they need, but let them shine by showing what they know about the sport.
    I have a student who is a history geek, so whenever we do something historical – especially dealing with military history – I deliberately ask him questions about it. In the last three years I have seen him develop into a much more self-assured young man with better social skills. Last year when we were doing my medieval unit, numerous students were obviously impressed with what he knew and kept asking him things and marvelling that he could answer their questions so easily. We teach so much more than mere language.

  7. Teach students, not curriculum. Students want soccer, they get soccer. The whole point of an upper level class SHOULD be to teach content, not to teach language. So the content is soccer. There should be plenty of content available in videos and magazines and articles. Just get a few and go with it.
    YOU don’t have to be the soccer expert, there is already a soccer expert in the room. You are just the language person. So get an article about the latest game and that is your content!
    If you go on to another sport, do it the same way. You don’t have to know the sport, or even all of the technical vocabulary. Any time you NEED a technical word, you can look it up. The point is to make the class compelling and this kid has already told you how to do it.
    Skip, you are freaking out because you think you have to be the expert in the room. Wrong. You are there to facilitate good language discussions. 95% of the language is the top 200 words in the language no matter WHAT the topic. So they will get good in Spanish while learning about soccer. In the end they will talk about things like players and their personalities anyway!
    You can do it, Skip. It is not about you, anyway! Go for it, amigo.

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