These Four Athletes Are Awesome Role Models for Your Students

Athletes who are great role models

I started writing informational texts about famous athletes in August 2015.  My goal is to create high-interest nonfiction passages for students who normally don’t like to read.  But after researching over 70 athletes, I have realized that young people can learn a lot of important life lessons by reading about these athletes’ lives!  Yes, there are athletes who make bad choices.  But there are so many who set awesome examples for our students!  Here are my main takeaways after a year of reading about famous athletes:

** Lots of them are INCREDIBLE ROLE MODELS FOR YOUR STUDENTS for reasons that have nothing to do with their athletic ability!!

** They are really smart!  The “dumb jock” stereotype needs to be done away with forever!

** Your students need to read how hard they have worked their entire lives.  When they face challenges and criticism, they don’t quit.  They use it as fuel to work harder.

These are four athletes who have really impressed me while I researched them.

Aaron Rodgers  

Life lesson:  Small kids from small schools can achieve big things!

During my 14 years of teaching, I’ve taught several boys who think they can’t play sports because they are short.  But Aaron was small when he started high school.  He attended a small high school that produced few college football players, much less future NFL stars.  Aaron put up incredible numbers playing quarterback in high school, but no big colleges offered him a scholarship.  So Aaron went to tiny Butte Community College, where he continued putting up incredible stats.  Finally, after years of hard work and persistence, he was offered a scholarship to play football at the University of California Berkeley.

Even then, people doubted him.  Aaron says a college professor laughed at him when he said he was going to play in the NFL.  Then when Aaron was drafted into the NFL, he had to wait three years as a backup to Brett Favre before he got to play.  But Aaron never complained.  He took notes on what Brett did every day in practice.  He observed the questions Brett asked in meetings.  Aaron refused to get discouraged.  Now he is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.  Aaron also does a ton of charity work to help raise awareness and money for childhood cancer research.  Once, he surprised a 12-year-old girl whose younger brother had recently died from cancer.  When Aaron heard how much this girl was doing to raise awareness for cancer research, he wanted to help her.  He spent the day  helping her with her project.  Aaron’s heart is as big as his talent.  Click below for passages your students can read about Aaron.

Aaron Rodgers Brett Favre Paired Texts

Simone Biles

Life lesson for your students:  Years of hard work can pay off in “golden” ways!

Simone Biles has dominated gymnastics in a way that has never been done before!  She won four gold medals at the 2016 Olympics.  She dominated the World Championships for two years before that.  But Simone missed out on the 2012 Olympics because she was just barely too young.  That meant training for long hours every day for nearly four years to achieve her dream of competing in the Olympics.  It’s really tough for gymnasts to stay at an elite level for that long, but Simone was up to the challenge!  More importantly, Simone’s coach said she kept an amazing attitude during all these years of training.  This incredible attitude was on display during the 2016 Olympics when Simone made a mistake that cost her a gold medal on the balance beam.  But she cheered like crazy for fellow American Laurie Hernandez as she won silver in that event.  Her attitude and work ethic are just as incredible as her talent.  Click below to see my paired texts about Simone and Shannon Miller.

Simone Biles Shannon Miller Paired Texts

LeBron James

Life lesson for your students:  Sports can provide stability when life gets tough.

LeBron James was raised by his mother.  They didn’t have much money, so they moved a lot.  LeBron thinks he moved six times when he was 4th grade!  Do you have students who are being raised by just one parent?  Or students who move a lot?  They need to read LeBron’s story!  Once he got involved with football, his coaches became father-figures.  They encouraged him to stay in school and get his homework done every night.  One of these coaches taught LeBron how to dribble a basketball.  Before he became a basketball star, LeBron needed stability in his life.  You probably have students who could use sports as a stabilizer in their life, just like LeBron.

Kids also need to realize that the man who is currently king of the NBA was one of the most hated and mocked athletes in the country from 2011-2012 when he went to the Miami Heat.  But he used it as motivation to work hard.  He also does a TON of work promoting education.  He has an awesome program that helps at-risk kids from elementary school all the way through high school graduation.  He gives awesome rewards for kids who have perfect attendance and good grades.   There are many reasons Cleveland should be proud of LeBron.  Click the image to see the passages I wrote about LeBron and Michael Jordan.

LeBron James Michael Jordan Paired Texts

Carlos Correa

Life lesson for your students:  Set goals and work like crazy to achieve them!

Of all the athletes I’ve written about, I’ve been most impressed with Carlos.  One of MLB’s brightest young stars grew up in Puerto Rico.  His dad worked construction jobs and made Carlos help him starting when he was eight years old.  Carlos learned what it meant to work hard.  So when he decided he wanted to become a pro baseball player, he worked as hard as he could to improve every day.  He also worked hard to learn English.  He saw many MLB players who needed a translator when they were interviewed.  So when Carlos was in third grade, he asked his parents to send him to a school where he could learn English.  He wanted to be able to speak for himself when he became an MLB player one day!  Carlos was an awesome student who graduated with the best grades in his high school class.  He scored a 1560 on the SAT!

He also has a huge desire to help others.  He started helping homeless people in Houston just a few weeks after joining the Astros in 2015.  He says God has blessed him with an incredible talent, so he has a responsibility to give back to his community.  Carlos is an incredible person for your students to learn about!  Your students will learn a ton about hard work if they read these paired texts about Carlos and Cal Ripken Jr.!

Carlos Correa Paired Texts

 

 

Your Students Need to Read About Steph Curry’s Childhood

Steph Curry is doing things that no other basketball player has ever done.  More importantly, Steph is an excellent role model for young people to look up to.  Lots of kids wear his #30 jersey, which is great that they look up to an outstanding person.  But whenever I see a kid wearing a Steph Curry jersey, I want to ask, “Did you know Steph worked so hard on his shooting in middle school that he sometimes cried?!”  Or, “Do you realize Steph’s mother made him miss games if he forgot to do his chores?!”  Also, “Isn’t cool that a player as talented as Steph always asked his coaches how he could improve?!”  I have a feeling that these kids’ parents would not approve of a creepy stranger running up to their kid and asking these random questions.  So instead, I’ll write about three of the many life lessons your students can learn by reading about Steph’s life.

Lessons from Steph Curry's life

Success requires an insane amount of work.

Steph’s father, Dell, was an excellent NBA player.  When Steph was in middle school, Dell noticed his son’s shot was too easy to block.  So he spent an entire summer teaching Steph new shooting techniques.  And Dell didn’t teach him in a cozy NBA gym — Dell took Steph to the goal he shot at growing up.  When Dell was a kid, his dad nailed a goal to a telephone pole in their yard.  Dell’s father used a thick, steel rim.  So you had to shoot the ball perfectly through the hoop to score — there were no forgiving bounces with that rim!  And if you missed, you had to run far to retrieve the ball.  Steph said, “It was make it or chase it out there.”

So Steph spent hours that summer relearning how to shoot.  His grandmother remembers seeing Steph take lots of shots with tears in his eyes.  It had to be an incredibly frustrating experience for Steph, who was already a good shooter. Imagine running after the ball every time your shot isn’t perfect.  Imagine how tired he must have been!  There must have been times when Steph doubted himself.  There were probably a few times when Steph wanted to quit, especially since that was such an unfair goal to shoot on.  But Steph always dragged himself to the goal every day to learn from his father.

What a powerful story to tell your students!  Next time a kid feels like giving up, remind them that even Steph Curry felt so discouraged about his shooting skills in middle school that he cried.  But no matter what, he didn’t give up.

I also think this story shows the importance of challenging yourself.  I love that he spent an entire summer shooting on a goal that required a perfect shot to score.  Steph said making shots during games was much easier after spending so much time shooting at his dad’s old goal.

Steph realized no one owed him anything

Steph’s father was a really good NBA player for 16 years.  Steph was alive for most of his father’s NBA career.  Steph got to attend lots of NBA games.  He got to play basketball on fancy NBA practice courts.  He met lots of famous players.  It would have been easy for Steph to think that he was better than everyone else. But Steph realized that if he wanted to become an NBA player like his dad, he was going to have to put in a tremendous amount of work.  He did not want to be automatically handed a spot on a basketball team just because of who his dad was.  Steph always listened to his dad’s advice, but he wanted to earn success, not just be handed it.

Steph also worked hard in school.  He tried his best to do what his parents and teachers told him to do.  When he didn’t do his chores at home, Steph’s mom made him miss basketball games as punishment.  Steph always loved basketball while he was growing up, but he realized that getting a good education was just as important.  I love that even though Steph’s dad was famous, he remained humble, respectful, and hard-working.

Use your talents to make the world a better place

Steph is one of the best shooters in basketball history.  He made 402 three-pointers during the 2015-2016 season.  The next closest player had 276.  Steph has always been a good shooter.  When he was in college at Davidson, he started donating money to Nothing But Nets, which is a program that delivers bed nets to areas of Africa that have problems with malaria.  Steph was sad when he read that a child in Africa dies from malaria every 60 seconds.  He stepped up his giving when he got to the NBA, agreeing to donate enough money for three bed nets for every three-pointer he makes.

So, who will students most likely listen to:  Me telling them why it’s important to work hard, or these stories about Steph Curry persevering?  I’ve written a set of paired texts about Steph and Kobe Bryant that have more stories like these.  I was very impressed with Steph and Kobe as I researched them.  In addition to teaching reading skills with these paired texts, you can teach important life lessons as well!

Steph Curry Kobe Bryant Paired Texts

 

Teaching Growth Mindset With Wonder

Wonder is my favorite book to read with fifth graders! Students’ reactions during key moments are priceless. They pound their desks with frustration about Julian. They cheer when August wins an award at the end. Since students get so hooked on this book, my primary focus is to use the events in Wonder to teach important growth mindset principles. I teach many reading standards while we read this book, but I feel like those are secondary to the valuable life lessons kids can learn from the characters and events in Wonder.

Teaching Growth Mindset Using Wonder

1. Life is full of bad days, but I can get through them.

I’ve taught many students who get discouraged when tough things happen at school. I hate when students get a couple of assignments returned with low grades then immediately stop working. I feel bad for kids who get teased and feel like they will never make friends. When these things happen, I remind students about August. He wanted to quit school several times during the story. August felt horrible when he overheard mean things said by his best friend, Jack. August’s classmates would not touch him because they said he had “the plague.” August experienced so many challenging days, but he bravely marched to school every day and tried his best. Slowly (important word there), August’s classmates realized he had a great sense of humor. They saw the amazing way he handled the hurtful things people did to him. By the end of the book, August earned the respect of his classmates and teachers. He won an incredible award. He had several good friends. For the first time in his life, he didn’t think about his appearance. It took an entire school year to reap these rewards, so it’s a good thing August continued going to Beecher Prep, even on days he didn’t feel like it.

2. I will have arguments with my friends. But I will work hard to resolve these differences. Friendships with good people are worth it.

I love the story of Via and Miranda. Many of my students clap when Via invites Miranda over to her house after the play. I know students have arguments with their friends. I also know that I am probably the last person they would talk to about these arguments. So I periodically remind students about Via and Miranda. These two drift apart once ninth grade starts without ever having a big fight. Via feels awkward around her old friend because Miranda looks different and talks about different things. Miranda feels awkward around Via because she feels like Via is judging her. The girls never discuss these things and as a result, they spend most of the school year avoiding each other. During the school play, Miranda makes a huge sacrifice for Via and her family. After the play, Via realizes what Miranda has done and invites her over. Both girls realize how much they have missed each other. So I remind students that good friends are worth fighting for. Don’t allow unresolved issues to allow you to drift apart from a good friend.

3. I will think about the way I treat others.

Even the most reserved students show anger at the way Julian treats August. They can’t believe that Julian says rude things to August the very first time they meet. Kids can’t believe Julian would treat such a kind, funny boy like August so terribly. All kids realize that August’s appearance is no reason for Julian to say such horrible things to him. I remind students of their realization throughout the book. Eventually, I make the kids accept the harsh fact that they have probably treated someone badly at some point in their life. I ask them to reflect on that memory, and on Julian’s actions toward August. As fifth graders prepare for middle school, I remind them not to join a crowd of people who are teasing someone who is different. I remind them of their outrage over Julian as to why.

If you haven’t read Wonder with your students, I hope you will find a way to work it into your lesson plans. I know it’s challenging teaching novels because there are not always a lot of materials to use. So I hope these ideas have given you a few things to work with. There are MANY more events in Wonder that teach your students growth mindset. I’ve put together over 100 pages of activities that will help your kids connect with the incredible characters in Wonder.

Wonder Novel Study Unit