Standard Lesson

Play Ball! Encouraging Critical Thinking Through Baseball Questions

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 60-minute sessions
  • Preview
  • |
  • Standards
  • |
  • Resources & Preparation
  • |
  • Instructional Plan
  • |
  • Related Resources
  • |
  • Comments


Batter up! Studies show that using topics from popular culture in the classroom motivates students to read and write. This lesson, which can also be adapted for other topics, encourages students to look critically at trivia questions before writing their own. Students begin by listening to a read-aloud of Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man by David A. Adler and visiting websites containing baseball facts. Using the information they discover, students write questions to include in a Jeopardy game PowerPoint template. Playing the game with classmates enables students to share the facts they have discovered and creates a cooperative atmosphere in the classroom.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • A New Literature Studies (NLS) perspective suggests that motivation increases when topics from popular culture (i.e., sports, video games, or entertainment news) are explored in the classroom.

  • Engaged readers have intrinsic motivation and a compelling purpose to complete a literacy task. The opportunity to research a chosen topic as well as to formulate and pose questions on that topic can provide a substantial purpose.

  • Students naturally belong to various discourse communities, such as groups that enjoy discussing sports or groups that critique films. Membership in one of these communities enables a student to develop language in a social context.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man by David A. Adler (Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997)

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Chart paper and markers

  • LCD projector (optional)




1. Familiarize yourself with the Jeopardy Game format, in which contestants are given answers that they must give the questions for. (You might want to visit the Jeopardy! website for more information.) Create a template you can use to play the game with students. Templates are available at Jeopardy Templates for Teachers. Once you have found one you would like to use, right click on the template link, click "Save Target As," and download it to your computer.

2. Arrange to use a computer with Internet access and a projector during Sessions 1 and 3. If you do not have a projector, you will need to create a Jeopardy Game board (see the end of Session 2). Students will do research online; if you do not have computers with Internet access in your classroom, arrange to conduct Sessions 1 and 2 in your schoolxs computer lab.

3. Obtain and familiarize yourself with Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man by David A. Adler (Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997).

4. Visit the baseball websites listed in the Websites section and decide which ones will work best for your class; you might choose specific pages to share with students. Bookmark these websites on your classroom or lab computers. You might also choose to collect some print resources relating to baseball to have available for student research; the Baseball Booklist contains some suggested titles.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Practice critical thinking skills by looking at what makes a good trivia question and then applying what they have learned to create their own questions

  • Develop research and scanning skills by using resources to locate information about a specific topic

  • Work cooperatively with classmates to create a trivia game that they all can play

Session 1

1. Begin the lesson by activating students' prior knowledge of baseball. Invite them to discuss their experiences on a school or neighborhood team and ask them if they have ever attended a major or minor league baseball game.

2. Read aloud Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man, which summarizes Lou Gehrig's career and provides interesting facts about baseball.

3. Ask the class to list baseball facts they found in Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man. What did they learn as they listened to the story? As students volunteer facts, record their answers on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or computer screen.

4. Tell students that many people enjoy learning baseball facts so that they can form questions to quiz their friends and play trivia games. The ability to form good questions is important in many occupations. Detectives must analyze a scene and carefully phrase their questions to suspects. Newspaper and television reporters ask questions to gather information for a story. When giving a test, teachers strive to pose questions that enable their students to demonstrate knowledge. The ability to ask a good question is sometimes as important as knowing an answer.

5. Give students an opportunity to evaluate questions by playing the Baseball - Quiz for Kids . Talk about the questions in the quiz, asking students what they think about them. Help students understand that the questions in this quiz are memory-based, literal questions - the kind that are good for a trivia game.

6. Next, have students look at Yahooligans! Ask Earl. This site gives students examples of both appropriate and inappropriate questions and has information that students can use to form their own questions. To view the baseball questions and answers, click Sports and Recreation, then click Baseball. Discuss the questions on the site with students. Questions for discussion include:

  • Who is the audience for this question? Could this question be answered only by serious baseball fans or could it be answered by the general public?

  • Does this question have a factual answer or is it open to interpretation?
7. Talk about the different types of questions that appear in the two websites you have explored together. Ask students what they think makes a good trivia question. You are looking for responses such as a good trivia question should have only one correct answer and should not be open to interpretation, it should test general knowledge and not background that only an expert would know, and it should appeal to a wide audience and not be limited to those living in a particular city or region. List students' responses on the board or a sheet of chart paper and leave the chart paper up for students to review during Sessions 2 and 3.

Session 2

1. Ask students if they have ever watched the game show Jeopardy! Go over the way it is played (i.e., players are given an answer and have to come up with a question, there are five categories of questions, and questions range in difficulty from easy to most difficult).

2. Tell students they will be creating a baseball-themed Jeopardy Game to play as a class.

3. Work with students to develop a list of five categories. These can range from technical aspects to hall of famers to history to African Americans or women and baseball. You might use the list you created after the read-aloud in Session 1 to help you.

4. To prepare to play and evaluate the game, divide the class into two teams. During the final session, one team will play the game while the other team moderates and evaluates the questions.

5. Divide each team of students into five subgroups and assign each subgroup one of the categories. Remind them of the guidelines for good questions that you created during Session 1 and explain that you will use those guidelines to assess their answers and questions.

6. Each group should use the Internet and print resources you have assembled to find baseball facts about the topic they have been assigned and write five short answers that will fit in the Jeopardy Game template. Each group should also write the correct questions that go with these answers. You might tell students to write more than five questions and then work as a group to choose the best five.

7. When students are finished, they should use the list of criteria they created during Session 1 to review their questions and make sure they are the best ones before turning them in to you.

Note: Collect the questions so you can assess them and put them into the Jeopardy PowerPoint Template you have created before Session 3. If you don't have a projector available, transfer the categories and questions onto a large sheet of paper with the answers covered up with construction paper.

Session 3

1. Give each team an opportunity to present their game to their classmates. The team that is presenting their game should select one to two students to serve as "hosts" to ask questions; the other team should select three players. The remaining team members should be asked to watch the game and evaluate the effectiveness of the questions as the game is played. As the evaluators watch the game, they should consider the following:

  • Did the questions follow the guidelines on our list?

  • Were the questions too hard or too easy?

  • Did the questions make our classmates think or were they literal, memory-based questions?
2. After each team has had a chance to play the game, invite students to share their reflections on the experience. Ask them to consider the following questions:

  • What did you learn today that will help you conduct future research?

  • Were the questions that you asked appropriate for your audience? Did you learn to adjust your questions to fit the situation?

  • Are trivia questions valuable? Why or why not?

  • Were some websites more helpful than others? How did you decide which websites to use? How did you find additional websites?

  • Was working in groups an enjoyable experience? Why or why not?


  • Help students apply this lesson to other topics and future assignments. Remind them that they have conducted research and written questions, which is a daily activity. We use research when we search for a telephone number, look for sports scores in the newspaper, or scan the weather forecast on the Internet. We ask questions when we meet new people, travel to an unfamiliar city, or attempt to use a new device.

  • Encourage students to take their lists of trivia questions home to quiz their families.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Informally assess students’ comprehension of how to create a good question during the whole-class discussion during Session 1 and by observing while students work during Session 2.

  • Use the Play Ball! Encouraging Critical Thinking Through Baseball Questions Observation Sheet to record students' strengths and needs and assess their performance. You should also assess the questions using the criteria list you created with students during Session 1.

  • Guide students in assessing their performance using the questions included in Session 3.

Add new comment