George Lucas Educational Foundation
Illustration of a smartphone with sports icons streaming out.
Apps

Apps for Sports Lovers (With Curriculum Connections!)

These apps will fire up students with a deep interest in sports—and meet your educational goals, too.

Discovering the interests of your students is one of the most important tasks of teachers. If you know what students are excited about, it’s much easier to figure out how to turn a lesson into an engaging learning activity. Students who love sports follow stories of favorite athletes, know their teams’ statistics, and can make predictions about future performance. As educators, we can leverage these interests of students by connecting their passions to curriculum goals.

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The apps on this list can be used for more than watching a video clip or getting updates on scores. When you’ve identified the learning objectives for a particular lesson, step back and examine how the interests of your students can be tied to your goals for learning. Connecting content to the real world can help grab and keep students’ attention over the course of a one-day lesson or multiweek unit.

Sports Illustrated Kids Magazine (iOS, Android)

Students can access interactive issues of Sports Illustrated Kids magazine. Each issue contains feature stories, and users can read a free issue when they download the app—it does cost extra to subscribe or to grab individual copies. How can you use this app in the classroom? Digital magazines are perfect for exploring text structure. Students can use this app as a model for their own writing or simply to better understand an author’s choice for organizing information on a page.

NFL (iOS, Android)

The NFL app has been updated for the 2016 season and includes a handful of options for users. Although you may elect to skip certain parts of the app, like video replays or stories, the stats section is full of useful data. How can you use this app in the classroom? The statistics give you lots of options for curriculum connections: You might have students compare the rushing yards of players on two opposing teams or find averages of a player’s performance over several games.

Newsela (iOS)

This current events mobile app is full of articles for students to read on a range of topics from Arts to Science. The Sports section includes comprehensive coverage of important topics in sports news. You’ll find articles on concussions in high school sports and stories on how professional teams use tablets during games. How can you use this app in the classroom? Newsela has leveled text, so readers can toggle between different Lexile levels. This means you can choose a high-interest text and alter the level to use it for individual, small group, or whole group reading instruction.

Nike+ Run Club (iOS, Android)

Apps collect lots of information about the way we live our lives. This includes the Nike+ Run Club app and comparable fitness apps on iOS and Android devices. Although your students may not collect much information themselves, your fitness app can give students plenty of data to work with. How can you use this app in the classroom? I’ve shared on Edutopia how much I love wearables and their potential for storytelling. Fitness data tells a story about a person’s day and is a great way to inspire writers. You might show a graph to students as a writing prompt or ask them to use a data set to create a narrative about a day in the life of a person.

NFL Play 60 (iOS, Android)

This app was created by the American Heart Association and is designed for students to run in place with their device in their hand—running while jumping and turning. How can you use this app in the classroom? NFL Play 60 can be used as a physical fitness tool—the goal is to get kids to be active for 60 minutes a day—or to help students learn about geography. As they run, kids move from one part of the country to another, visiting all 32 cities where football teams are located. You might ask students to each choose one of those cities to research as part of an informational writing assignment to be completed in conjunction with this app.

Choosing apps that connect to student interests can help children of all ages engage with content. Doing so also shows them that you listen to and value their individual passions. If you’ve integrated sports apps or other high-interest material into your classroom, please share your experiences in the comments below.

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