The Olympics: Lesson Plan for Grades 3-12

olympic snow ringsThe Olympics

Subject(s): Social Sciences, History
Grade Level(s): 3-5, 6-8, 9-12


Students will gain a better understanding of the history of the Olympic Games and of how they can be impacted by political and cultural attitudes.


Copy and distribute the printable Resources section below. Have students read the essay for background information and consult any or all of the encyclopedia articles that follow it to learn more about the topic.


Essay: The Olympic Games as we know them are an international sports festival. The Games originated as a way for the ancient Greeks to salute their gods, but the modern Games salute the athletic talents of citizens of all nations.

The Olympic Games occur every four years and consist of both summer and winter events. The Summer Games are scheduled for 2008, 2012, 2016, and so on, while the Winter Games will take place in 2010, 2014, 2018, and so on. Standard events in the Summer Games include basketball, boxing, gymnastics, soccer, swimming, track and field, and many other sports. Winter Game highlights include ice hockey, figure skating, skiing, and bobsledding. Nowadays, extensive television coverage of the Olympic Games brings them to millions of viewers all over the world. As a world event with political undertones, the Olympics have had their share of controversy. Nazi Germany, for example, hosted the Games in 1936 and used the event to propagandize its cause of Aryan racial superiority. A black American track star, Jesse Owens, helped thwart those intentions by winning four gold medals and being mobbed by the public wherever he went in Germany. In 1972 in Munich, 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, casting a pall over great performances by a number of athletes. The Games have been boycotted and disrupted in other ways as well, but they are most memorable when they do what they set out to do: celebrate the athletes of all nations through fair competition among the best from around the world.

World Book Online Encyclopedia articles:

Olympic Games

World book for kids articles:

Olympic Games


boycott A concerted action to isolate economically or socially an individual, group, or nation to express disapproval or to coerce change.
gold medal The award won by the best individual or team in an Olympic competition. A silver medal is awarded to the second best, and a bronze medal to the third.
propaganda The systematic attempt to manipulate the attitudes, beliefs, and actions of people through the use of words, gestures, slogans, flags, and uniforms. Ideas, facts, or allegations are spread to further a cause or to damage an opposing cause.


Read the World Book Online Encyclopedia or World Book for Kids article on the Olympic Games. Pay particular attention to the names of the sports played at the Summer and Winter Games. Choose a sport you’re not very familiar with. Research that sport, using a variety of resources. If possible, learn how to play the game yourself. Write a summary of your findings about the sport: how it is played, how many people play it, where it is most common, and so on.

For Discussion

If you have ever watched the Olympics on television, what is the greatest or most exciting event or moment you can recall having seen?


Go further by researching one of the following topics:

  • The history of the ancient Greek Olympic Games, including the nature of the competition and the reasons behind the cessation of the games
  • How athletes are chosen to perform in the Olympics and the amount of preparation an individual or team goes through to compete.
  • The U.S. Olympic Committee: structure, function, controversy
  • Great Olympians and what made them great

    See Hot Topic – Sports – Olympics page for additional resources for going further.


Write a statement explaining the purpose of the Olympic Games.

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