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Angels in the Classroom Are a Hit With Elementary School Pupils


Believe in the power of the Rally Monkey. Even more impressive than getting the Anaheim Angels this far, it can keep a roomful of squirming third-graders intent on learning.

Watching over pupils at Panorama Elementary in Santa Ana as they profile players or compose poems about halos and home runs is a plush version of the baseball team's good-luck charm along with a souvenir stand's worth of pennants, jerseys and posters.

Teacher Ginger Silverman and several other Orange County teachers are using the success of the Angels to teach their lessons, saying it makes learning easier and more relevant when required topics like complete sentences, geography and division involve something fun.

"I'm not just teaching rah rah Angels," said Silverman, who has long used baseball as a teaching tool in her 11 years with the Orange Unified School District. "I'm teaching them things they need to know anyway, but in a way that makes them look forward to learning."

Students such as Anthony Delaney, who usually scorn journal writing and poetry, are happily spinning tales--in complete sentences using compound words like bullpen and home run--of the Angels' march through the playoffs.

Anthony said he looks forward to writing about subjects like the Angels' winning their division or responding to such sentence prompts as: "The bat hit the ball, and the ball hit a bird ...."

"It's way more fun, and it's easier because I can write better sentences because I already know what the words mean," said Anthony, who giggled as he relayed his last journal entry, in which the bird died and landed in third baseman Troy Glaus' hand.

This week, children drew baseball stadiums with chalk and pastels, inspired by an 1875 painting of baseball players practicing. Silverman plans to post them alongside the students' player profiles and five-line poems about the Angels.

At Calvary Chapel Anaheim, second-grade teacher Joy Barber is using the Angels' success to teach lessons about sportsmanship, teamwork and goal-setting. And in Laguna Niguel, baseball has been integrated into nearly all of fifth-grade teacher Nona Reimer's lessons at John Malcolm Elementary.

Reimer's students learned the state capitals and how to round numbers as they plotted a cross-country baseball stadium pilgrimage, compared poetry using stanzas of "Casey at the Bat," and made oral presentations on players' lives.

"It gives more meaning to learning about those things when I can relate them to something they're interested in already," the teacher said. "Otherwise, it's just rote memorization."

Reimer scoffs at those who think teachers are straying too far from state-defined standards.

"To me it's important that kids don't learn the standards just to be able to bubble in accurately on a standardized test," Reimer said. "They have to be able to hook the standards into real-life situations and know how the standards relate to the world that they live in."

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