When Girls Ruled Baseball
When our country was fighting in World War II, many baseball players became soldiers. Who was left to play ball? Girls.
Students will gain context and background information from the images that accompany this drama about a time when women took on critical new roles in society.
Social studies: American history, World War II
Text features, text evidence, plot, inference, key detail, making connections
This article and lesson support the following standards:
Common Core anchor standards: R.1, R.3, R.5, R.7, W.2, SL.1, SL.2, L.4, L.6
TEKS: 3.2, 3.3, 3.7, 3.20, 3.29, 3.30
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Set a Purpose for Reading
• Call on a volunteer to read aloud the Think and Read box on page 21.
• Have a student read aloud the subhead on page 20. Ask students whether anyone is familiar with this period in history, when girls had their own baseball league during World War II.
Introduce Vocabulary (10 minutes)
• While the story does not include vocabulary words in the text itself, there is a vocabulary activity online that previews challenging words and allows students to list the words that are unfamiliar to them. Project or distribute the activity to preview the words. These words are also featured in our Vocabulary Slideshow.
• Challenging words: professional, charging, battlefields, armed forces
Bridging Decoding and Comprehension
• Storyworks Jr. plays provide a perfect opportunity for students to build fluency. Model expression by reading Scene 1 for the class. Point out that in Jennie’s first line, she’s imitating a sports announcer, and read those lines accordingly.
• Refer to the many exclamation points throughout the play. Ask why they are used and what they tell you about how to say lines.
Reading and Unpacking the Text
• First read: Read the play as a class.
• Second read: Project or distribute the close-reading questions. Discuss them as a class, rereading lines or scenes as necessary.
• Separate students into groups to discuss the critical-thinking question. Then have groups share their answers with the class.
Close-Reading Questions (20 minutes)
• In Scene 1, we learn that in the 1940s, female athletes were not always taken seriously. How does Georgia’s brother back up this point? (text evidence) Georgia’s brother Frankie takes his glove from Georgia and says, “Girls don’t play in the dirt.”
• In Scene 4, what idea does Mr. Larkin suggest to Georgia? (plot; inference) Mr. Larkin suggests that Georgia try out for the new girls’ baseball league.
• In Scene 5, Georgia’s mother describes how women have been helping the country during the war. Which photo supports her statements? What does it show? (text features; text evidence) The photo labeled “A Can-Do Spirit” on page 23 supports what Georgia’s mother says about the role women played during the war. The photo shows women working in a factory that built planes and other equipment that helped the U.S. win the war.
• In Scene 6, how do you know that it was difficult to get a spot on one of the girls’ teams? (key detail) Narrator 1 says that more than 250 women tried out for just 60 spots.
• In Scene 7, how does Joe DiMaggio’s message to Georgia connect to the beginning of the play? (making connections) Joe DiMaggio tells Georgia to “keep playing in the dirt.” This refers to the first scene of the play, when Frankie told Georgia that girls don’t play in the dirt.
Critical-Thinking Question (7 minutes)
• Look at all of the photos of the female baseball players. What is the biggest difference between them and the men who played baseball? Which photo best illustrates this? What does this difference tell you about how the men who started the league felt about women playing baseball? (text features; inference) The biggest difference was their uniforms. The players in the girls’ league had to wear skirts, unlike the men, who wore pants. In the photo on page 24, we learn from the caption that women had to wear makeup too. The difference tells you that the men who started the league thought people would want to watch only women who looked and acted “ladylike.”
Exploring Text Features (15 minutes)
• Have students complete our activity on text features. They will then be prepared to write a response to the Think and Write question on p. 25.
Women of WWII
Assistant editor Anna Starecheski has a personal connection to the women of World War II—check out this blog post for the story and some discussion questions to raise with your students!
Not-so-fun fact that makes for a good discussion point: Women who worked in factory jobs traditionally held by men (who were then serving in WWII) were paid, on average, half of what men received to do the same work.
More on Rosie the Riveter
Our play includes an image of the famous Rosie the Riveter. Whether students know who she was or not (and P.S.—she was more of a symbol than a real woman), this History.com video gives a fast-paced, info-packed overview.
Many of you may be familiar with the movie “A League of Their Own,” about the women’s baseball league. Your students may not be. Here’s an action-packed scene that speaks to how well and how hard the women played. (Be sure to mention that the catcher and hitter in the scene are sisters on rival teams!)
More on Joe DiMaggio
Watch this short video biography of Joe DiMaggio for a layer of deeper meaning!
The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, has a wonderful exhibit on women in baseball. “Diamond Dreams,” a 5-minute video, walks your students through the collection—including the players’ uniforms!