If possible, show the video series "Baseball" by Ken Burns produced by PBS. This will allow students to witness the history of baseball from its conception in the US until its present status.
Note: General Motors has created an excellent teaching unit to coincide with the PBS series. It was once available online at: PBS Baseball Lessons, but it seems to be no longer available. I have a copy of the teaching unit and it is fantastic. Perhaps writing to PBS might help those interested in attaining the unit.
You might also write to:
Dr. Dorman Kinsley, Editor-in-Chief
Lifetime Learning Systems, Inc.
79 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT 06430
The teaching unit might be available through this organization as it was written for General Motors by Learning Systems.
PBS grants all teachers one-year education off-air record rights for Baseball. See also the special offer from PBS video.
Read one of the children's books suggested in the Bibliography Section as a class and use as a springboard for integrating the various subject areas. Although Teammates is a picture book, it is still suitable for older students. It is a beautiful book and a wonderful introduction to the racial prejudices Jackie experienced.
Bibliography for Children
Many of the books above may be purchased at: Amazon Books
- Teammates by Peter Golenbock
Gulliver Books, 1990
- Thank You Jackie Robinson by Barbara Cohen
- A fatherless white boy, who shares with an old black man an enthusiasm for the Brooklyn Dodgers and first baseman, Jackie Robinson, takes a ball autographed by Jackie to his elderly friend's deathbed.
- A Picture Book of Jackie Robinson by David A. Adler
- Shadow Ball: A History of the Negro Leagues by Ken Burns, Robert Walker and Geoffrey C. Ward
- Recommended for older students and a reference for teachers
- Leagues Apart: The Men and Times of the Negro Baseball Leagues (Morrow Junior Books) by Lawrence S. Ritter
- In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
Harper & Row, 1984
- Jackie Robinson's Little League Baseball Book by Jac R. Robinson (Jackie)
- The Old Ball Game by Mark Alvarez
World of Baseball Series, 1990
- Only the Ball Was White by Robert Peterson
- Total Baseball by John Thorn and Pete Palmer
Official Major League Baseball Encyclopedia
Visit Negro League Home Page for a great art activity. Joe Martini's third graders at Park School in Mill Valley, CA designed baseball cards for famous Negro League players, including those inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame; their artwork is displayed at the site-absolutely delightful!
Integrating Language Arts
- Have students define baseball terms that have become common expressions, first by finding their synonyms, then by using them in original sentences. Some expressions include:
- "batting a thousand"
- "caught off base"
- "close call"
- "heavy hitter"
- "keep your eye on the ball"
- "out of his league"
- "I feel like a rookie"
- "cover all the bases"
- "go to bat for"
- "on the ball"
- "struck out"
- "threw me a curve"
- "two strikes against him"
- "way off base"
- "home field advantage"
- Have students come up wiith their own original expressions using words found in baseball's lexicon.
- Challenge students to work in groups to create an illustrated alphabetical baseball dictionary featuring baseball terms that are now part of our language. For each entry, students should include the baseball word or phrase, what it means in the game, what it has come to mean in our everyday language, and, if possible, the origin of the word itself. Each entry should be accompanied by an illustration.
- Investigate the sign language used in baseball, both the signals exchanged between catcher and pitcher and the more complex signs the coaches and managers use to direct action on the field. In small groups, have students demonstrate this language in class, then challenge the class to develop a sign language of their own.
- Have students create rebus picture riddles using the names of baseball players past and present. Some easy names include:
Satchel Paige, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, and Cool Papa Bell.
Visit the Cosley Field Web Site which includes facts and figures that may be used in developing mathematical problem solving. The information will also be helpful to students wishing to create a model of the field or a diagram to scale.
Cosley Fields was the home of the Cincinnati Reds; setting for a portion of the picture book, Teammates.