Russia 2018: World Cup classroom connections

IMG_4353World Cup fever has hit! Over the last couple of weeks, we have been considering ways to integrate it into our class learning in order to take advantage of the interest and excitement among our students. Through learning about different countries, cultures and traditions, we can also develop international mindedness. One of my students asked a fantastic question: how can we use football to bring people together? That question alone is worth pondering as a class and we will continually refer to it over the course of the tournament.

Below, I have shared the ways that we have integrated the World Cup into our teaching. I hope that the ideas are useful to you. Please add more in the comments section.

How can we use football to bring people together? Click To Tweet

Class competition

Most of our students are captivated by the World Cup, but not all of them. My colleague suggested a class sweepstake, just for fun (no money involved, obviously). Each student chose a team at random to follow and support throughout the tournament. The winner and runner-up will receive a small prize. This has been a fantastic way to get everyone involved, including the non-football fans. The discussions and friendly banter have built class community (just like a sweepstake does with staff). For a simple template, click here. One student designed this tournament poster at home for us to use in class:


Geographical knowledge

From the competition draw, some students were assigned countries that they had never even heard of. They spent a bit of time researching some key facts about their country and presented them on a collaborative Google Slides deck. The shared deck is an informative celebration of internationalism, including key information for each country such as location, population, famous landmarks, the flag, etc. We didn’t spend much time on this surface-level content, but it was worth it to provide some context.

World Cup blog

We have recently started a new, free-genre writing unit. Students are free to choose their genre while I conference with them one-on-one or target particular groups. Many students naturally started writing about the World Cup, particularly what happened during the warm-up games. Match reports is not a genre that they are particularly familiar with, so their first attempts were quite poor. To be honest, I wasn’t totally sure what to suggest. The following lesson, I got that group together and we used real examples to identify the content, structure and language features. This is what we have come up with so far:


Their enthusiasm prompted an idea. As a group, they made a collaborative Google Site as a platform for their match reports. As a team, they are committed to sharing the responsibility and keeping their audience up to date. At the time of writing, three match reports have been added, but many more will be added throughout next week. Click here to see their progress to date. Your feedback and suggestions would be very much appreciated. Google Sites does not have a commenting function, but we will share the reports on Twitter. Reply to our class account @vsahkg_Y4. It’s worth mentioning that most of these have been written optionally after school. It’s fantastic to see them so enthusiastic about writing!

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Area and perimeter

To add to the geographical knowledge and also consolidate our learning about area and perimeter, students used a collaborative map (using Google My Maps) to locate their country and draw around its outline. My Maps displays the area and perimeter of completed polygons. They used these statistics to compare the countries and revise these two concepts. This task also provided some context for larger numbers. Additional information and media can also be added to marked locations using My Maps.

Fractions, decimals and percentages

We used the flags to revise the connection between fractions, decimals and percentages. At first, students had a choice between a one hundred grid or a two hundred grid. We explained that the latter would make the calculations more complicated but they were free to choose the level of challenge that suited them. After recreating the flag on their grid, they calculated what each colour represented as a fraction, decimal and percentage of the whole. Some of the flags include very intricate details, so we later created a one thousand grid using Google Sheets (on the left in the below image) to allow for these smaller details, while also offering another level of challenge. In particular, this task was worth it to revise the concept and process of simplifying fractions. Click here to view the templates. Feel free to make your own copies.


Lewis Newman adapted this idea for his younger learners. They used the flags to identify quarters, thirds and halves. Football offers many real-life examples of basic fractions that we can also draw on: half-way line, the final third, second half, quarter-finals, etc.

Reflective and rotational symmetry

To revise the concept of symmetry, we continued to explore the World Cup flags. To take it a step further, we also introduced the concept of rotational symmetry. The students worked in mixed-ability pairs to sort the flags into a Carroll diagram based on their lines of symmetry and order or rotational symmetry. Because the flags are all rectangular (or so I thought), they realised that the maximum number was two for both criteria.

As an extension, some students explored how the results would be different with square flags. They had to design a whole new Carroll diagram. Thanks to my student, I later realised that the Switzerland flag is square anyway! This would have been an interesting discussion point in the original task even without the extension.

World Cup data handling

We used the FIFA World Cup statistics page to explore the history of the tournament. By this point, even the non-football fans have hopes and expectations for particular teams. They used the data to support/justify their tournament predictions. Oddly, none of them are predicting an England victory…

Some students chose to represent their World Cup group from the class competition. In the example above, this student chose England in the draw. She presented the data for England along with the rest of Group G. She used different colours to show how many World Cup matches each team has won, drawn and lost (there are no statistics for Panama because this is their first World Cup outing).

This group chose to create pictographs to show which teams have won the World Cup and how many times.

I worked with some students to introduce scatter graphs and the concept of correlation. The students came up with their own theories about which statistics would correlate. We also discussed the idea of anomalies. The graph above shows the connection (or lack thereof) between the number of red cards a team has received historically and the number of games lost. Initially, their theories started with “the better the…” so we had to find a quantifiable way to define “better”. We used rankings and other comparable statistics.

I hope that this list of World Cup ideas has sparked your interest and prompted some more ideas. I’d love to hear your suggestions. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. If you use any of these ideas in your class, let me know how you get on. To conclude, I’ll once again share my student’s fantastic question. Consider it over the next few weeks. How can we use football to bring people together?

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  1. Great ideas Adam! We are teaching data handling right now so this would be a great link to try. I’m generally clueless about anything football related so it’ll be great to let go of the control and let the children lead the lessons – something teachers should do more of towards the end of year! I can see why this post is so popular. My class back in Manchester would have LOVED these activities!

    1. Hi Katie,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I totally agree that students can lead this. They’ll be more than happy to! I’m not a football fan either (I just get excited about the international tournaments). My students were thrilled to explain the finer details to me and their classmates.

      The linked website has loads of statistics for you to explore, but many other books/sites will have more. Some children will have World Cup fact cards, sticker albums, official annuals, etc. These are also great for data collection. Let me know how you and your students get on.



  2. Thank you for this bright light of idea you have just shined on us. I will definitely be trying it out! The pictograph has me drooling………….lol

    1. Hi,

      You’re welcome, as always. Thanks for the feedback. I’m also drooling (with less than two hours to go before England kick-off). It’s about time we added another trophy to England in that pictograph! Best of luck to you and the Nigerian team. I’ll be cheering for you… unless you play England.



      1. Well I hope we do not play England, because then, I won’t be smiling back at you….lol
        Will definitely be looking out for the England team here too. Break a leg!

    1. Hi ebd35,

      I’m always happy to share. Thanks for the comment. Go ahead and try the match reports. Your students can use my students’ blog as a starting point. We’d love to hear their feedback. I tried to share a copy of the Google Site for others to use, but this is not yet possible with Google Sites (I didn’t realise that).

      Let me know how you get on.



  3. Lots of great ideas here, Adam. I’m sure your students will not only enjoy the activities but learn a lot from it too.

    1. Hi Norah,

      Thanks for your comment. I hope so! Engagement levels appear to be higher than ever now that the tournament has actually kicked off. They’re so into it! The class competition is well underway…



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