Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I am now in Taiwan, where I teach English at three rural public schools. One of these schools is a junior high school. The 9th graders have indicated they would like to handle texts that are not in the book. This provides me with a great opportunity to teach American history and cultural items.

I decided to create some reading and research activities on basketball and my home state of Kansas. By the way, many more students love basketball more than baseball in this part of the country. This is likely because the villages where I teach on Beigan Island, are too small to afford baseball diamonds and teams.

I am now sharing the format and texts with you other teachers around the globe. Others of you basketball fans may enjoy passing on the tidbits to youth you know, too. Meanwhile, create your own lessons like this for novelty and motivation–share your own childhood and culture with your students!



Kevin: Hey, do you like basketball?

Student: Sure, I love it. I’m a good shooter.

Kevin: So, you and your team must win all of the time, don’t they?

Student: Well, sometime we do, but often we don’t.

Kevin: That is typical. Someone has to lose sometime. Did you know that the inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, lived most of his life in Kansas? In addition, like you, his teams sometimes won but even more often they lost.

Student: No. You can tell me about it while we play a game of HORSE.

Kevin: Ok, but you will probably win.


The following comes from the Kansas History Website:

Dr. James Naismith is known world-wide as the inventor of basketball. He was born in 1861 in Ramsay township, near Almonte, Ontario, Canada. The concept of basketball was born from Naismith’s school days in the area where he played a simple child’s game known as duck-on-a-rock outside his one-room schoolhouse. The game involved attempting to knock a “duck” off the top of a large rock by tossing another rock at it. Naismith went on to attend McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

After serving as McGill’s Athletic Director, James Naismith moved on to the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA in 1891, where the sport of basketball was born. In Springfield, Naismith was faced with the problem of finding a sport that was suitable for play inside during the Massachusetts winter for the students at the School for Christian Workers. Naismith wanted to create a game of skill for the students instead of one that relied solely on strength. He needed a game that could be played indoors in a relatively small space. The first game was played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets used as goals. Naismith joined the University of Kansas faculty in 1898, teaching physical education and being a chaplain.

In addition to the creation of the basketball, James Naismith graduated as a medical doctor, primarily interested in sports physiology and what we would today call sports science and as Presbyterian minister, with a keen interest in philosophy and clean living. Naismith watched his sport, basketball, introduced in many nations by the YMCA movement as early as 1893. Basketball was introduced at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Naismith was flown to Berlin to watch the games. He died in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1939.

Today basketball has grown to become one of the world’s most popular sports.


(1) What do these vocabulary words from the text above mean? Read carefully, some definitions are in the text.

- duck-on-a-rock

- suitable

- relied (rely)

- physical education

- chaplain

-sports physiology

-peach baskets

(2) Where was Naismith born? Which city and state did he live in when he invented basketball? How long did Naismith live in Kansas?

(3) What was probably the most important reason that Naismith developed the game of basketball in 1891? Explain. Hint: It snows a lot in that part of the U.S.A. in winter.

(4) What are some of the careers or professions that Dr. Naismith had in his life? What are some other things he did before he died in 1939?

(5) Do you like basketball or any sport? Why? Explain.


Kevin: Whoa. I am tired. You won again.

Student: Well, you beat me one time, though.

Kevin: At least my university alma mater, the University of Kansas, wins most of the time.

Student: Tell me about it.


Most of the following comes from the NBA (National Basketball Association) Website:

The KU (University of Kansas) men’s basketball team, who have fielded a team every year since 1898, are a perennial national contender currently coached by Bill Self. The team last played an NCAA (National College Athletic Association) National Championship game in 2008 and last won an NCAA Championship in 2008. The basketball program is currently the third most successful program in college basketball history with an overall record of 1,905-781.

Kansas has counted among its coaches Dr. James Naismith (the inventor of basketball and only coach in Kansas history to have a losing record), Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Phog Allen (“the Father of basketball coaching”), Roy Williams of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and former NBA Champion Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown. In addition, legendary University of Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp played for KU’s 1922 and 1923 Helms National Championship teams. Later, Hall of Fame former University of North Carolina Coach Dean Smith played for KU’s 1952 NCAA Championship team. Both Rupp and Smith played under Phog Allen.

The men’s team is also notable for its conference success and players. Kansas now has 51 conference titles, which is a record among all universities. Kansas University basketball has also had very famous players, like Wilt Chamberlain, who my high school math teacher used to teach when he studied in Kansas. After graduating from KU, Wilt Chamberlain became the only NBA player in history to score 100 points in a game. His team won that game 169-147, the highest scoring game in NBA history. Chamberlain is in the basketball hall of fame and played the center position. He is considered by his contemporaries as one of the greatest and most dominant players in the history of the NBA


(1) What do these vocabulary words from the text above mean? Read carefully, some definitions are in the text.

-fielded (field) a team



-has counted (count)




(2) Name at least 5 famous college basketball coaches who played at the University of Kansas in their college days.

(3) Which Kansas basketball coach was also successful as an NBA coach?

(4) Give at least two other examples from the text that the KU basketball team has very successful over the years.

(5) How successful was Wilt Chamberlain in the NBA? Explain by giving three examples.


(a) Look for information on Wilt Chamberlain and find out some reasons he is famous that are not in the text.

(b) Look up information on the University of Kansas. What is its mascot? Where is it located? How many students attend there?

(c) Look up the history of basketball and list two or more interesting things you learned down.



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