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Mat Mayhem: P.E. Game Ideas with Mats

Posted 4 days ago - by Jason Gemberling

Almost all elementary P.E. teachers have gymnastic mats in their storage closets, but do they get used for any activities other than a gymnastics unit? Why not try to get more use out of those mats that you probably had to fight to keep in your budget! And if you don’t have mats currently because of budget deficits, try explaining to your administration that gymnastics mats can be used for a wide variety of activities, therefore making them a great item to purchase in a tight budget!

Here are a couple of activities/games when you can utilize these mats! 

1. Barrel Racing

 

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In the part of the country that I teach, horse riding is popular and with that comes rodeos! At the rodeo one of the events is barrel racing, which is a fast sprint around three barrels in a specific order to get back to the finish line. So why not barrel race with your students?! 

Take three mats and set them upright and in a circle to look like a barrel. Then, space the barrels in the pattern below, or you can do this in any pattern you choose, just make sure the start and finish are in the same spot. Students sprint, or gallop like a horse, in the direction of the arrows. 

Variations:

  • Relay-race style
  • Practice different body movements by having students walk like different animals. I mean really what kid doesn’t like to learn how to walk like a crab?!? 
  • If you have more than 3 mats, make multiple race loops or give them more barrels to round.

2. Battleship

 

Another game you could play is Battleship!  Give each team 3 or 4 mats to set up at their end as screens. Then give each team 10-15 bowling pins, or if you don’t have bowling pins start saving plastic water bottles. The students will set up the pins in rows of 3 or more in the space behind their screens as “battleships.” They can have as many “battleships” as they can create in the space with the number of pins provided. Each team gets an evenly divided number of coated-foam balls to use as the missiles.

On your “go,” students start firing their missiles over the screen of the other team. When one of the teams’ ships is sunk they must yell, “you sank our ship”, and then immediately everyone on the team has to do a designated exercise, such as dive bomber push-ups. When all of a teams’ ships have been sunk the team yells, “we surrender!” This ends the round and all of the ships are reset and you play again. 

3. Gladiators

 

My final suggestion is a throwback to one of my favorite shows as kid, American Gladiators! One of the games they played had contestants trying to score points by running around a designated area and throwing a ball into a cylindrical goal. Now, in the show they were brutally defending these goals, but I do NOT recommend that in your PE classes. 

I set up the goals, which would again be your mats on edge formed in circles, and have teams. Play with rules similar to basketball in that you can defend and steal the ball, but there is NO contact or there is a foul called. This is a NO dribbling game and I encourage the use of at least 10 foam balls. After all of the foam balls are scored in a goal, the game is over. The team that scores the most goals is the winner for that round. Then you get set up and start again.

4. Introductory Basketball Hoops

 

Mats make great basketball hoops for younger elementary classes. The lower height allows students to experience success with shooting a basketball and allows them to practice using the correct shooting form. We all know that young students struggle to shoot at a regulation basketball hoop using correct form, so again stand you mats on edge and curl them into a circle.

Three or four students can use one mat at one time, and if you have enough round objects that are light, then they can all shoot at one time. You can also set up different stations around the gym and have students shoot from different distances to help build their confidence and reinforce shooting with correct form.

 

These are just a couple games that utilize mats in different ways, but there are tons more! As P.E. teachers, if you can be creative, you can create many games utilizing equipment in ways other than its intended use to allow you to maximize what you have! And please when you come up with a new way of using not only gym mats, but any of your equipment, SHARE, SHARE, SHARE those ideas with the rest of the P.E. world!  

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9 Safety Tips for Gymnastics Activities

Posted 1 week ago - by Gopher Community

Gymnastics is an exciting sport to introduce in Physical Education!  As students learn skills from jumping to tumbling, it is important to keep them safe. Brittney Resler, Owatonna Gymnastics Club Executive Director, shares nine tips to follow for a safe and fun gymnastics lesson.

 

Tip 1:  Always keep mats dry and clean

When mats are exposed to liquids, they become a slipping hazard for students. When it is time to clean mats, use a sanitizer without bleach, like Matt-Kleen Disinfectant. Bleach causes mats to fade and lose their color.

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Tip 2: Place mats purposefully around your gym

With a dusty gym floor, mats can slip, which can be harmful to your students. Place them up against the wall for more static movements, or use the Velcro to attach multiple mats together. Another option is to purcahse non-slip drawer liners to place underneath mats.

Tip 3: Only take mats out when they are needed

Even small mats can be a tripping hazard for your class.

Tip 4: Keep activity areas safe with mats

When using panel mats, cover the whole area students are active in. If you don’t have enough mats to cover your entire gym space, make sure the areas students are practicing cartwheels or handstands in are protected with mats.

Tip 5: Thickness, size, and length are important in choosing the best mat

While planning your lesson, be certain you have the correct mat for each activity! For head-first skills, use a thick mat to protect your students’ heads. Smaller mats can be used for basic jumps. Check out these tumbling mats, all backed by an Unconditional 100% Satisfaction Guarantee!

Tip 6: Tumbling activities require mats and your attention

Don’t include tumbling activities in your lesson without proper mats. It’s important, especially during tumbling activities, that you watch your student.

Tip 7: Only spot skills you are comfortable with

In order to keep students safe, only perform exercises that you are comfortable spotting. If you are not comfortable with a skill, reach out to your local gymnastic’s club to learn proper spotting technique.

Tip 8: Teach students how to land

Sometimes, students understand how to being the skill, but not how to finish. Have your class practice feet-first landings.

Tip 9: Know your district’s safety protocols

Before starting a tumbling unit in your class, seek out your school district’s protocols. If you follow these safety tips, an injury should not occur. If an injury does happen in your class, contact the school nurse immediately.

Tumbling is a very fun and exciting unit that your students will love! If you have any additional safety tips or tumbling activity ideas please share with us in the comments below!

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Gymnastics Activities for Beginners

Posted 1 week ago - by Gopher Community

Gymnastics and tumbling are a great way for students to learn fundamental skills like balancing and rolling, while strengthening their bodies.

Partner V Lean BackIt is great to begin a gymnastics lesson with stretching to warm-up arms, legs, and calf muscles. Next, have students partner stretch to practice balance and gain confidence in beginner stunts such as the Partner Chair Balance, the Partner “V” Lean Back, and the Partner “V” Lean Side.

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  • Partner Chair Balance: Partners face each other and hold hands. Their knees bend and they squat as if sitting in a chair.
  • Partner “V” Lean Back: Partners face each other and hold hands. They lean back until their arms are fully extended.
  • Partner “V” Lean Side: Partners stand side-by-side and hold one of their partner’s hands. They continue to lean until that arm is fully extended.

Having students hold stunt poses with a partner challenges communication and strength.

Balance beanbag on headNext, have students practice balancing on their own. Have them practice balancing on one foot and walking foward and backwards in a straight line.

  • Balancing something, such as a beanbag, on their head can help them keep their chin up, implementing good posture
  • Use jump ropes, floor tape, or chalk to create lines of various shapes
  • Keep tumbling mats folded for safe practice of balancing on an elevated surface
  • Challenge them to balance on various body parts, supporting themselves in more ways than the typical two feet. Hold poses for 10 seconds.

Once they are comfortable walking in a straight line and holding poses, teach your students how to roll across the tumbling mat. The Log Roll, Forward Roll, Straddle Roll, and Cartwheels are fun challenges!

  • Log Roll: Students lie on a mat with their arms straight above their head, rolling on their side, back, side, and continuously moving in this circular motion. They should try rolling in a straight line.
  • Forward Roll: Students balance on the balls of their feet and extend their arms out. Then, their hands move to the mat as they tuck their chin to their chest and tighten their abdominal muscles. Students who struggle tucking their chin can practice holding a beanbag underneath their chin. Students roll forward on their shoulders, by pushing off their feet.
  • Straddle Roll: Start with legs far apart. Bend at the waist, placing hands down on the mat. Their chin should tuck to their chest to protect their head and neck. Roll forward on their shoulders; push off with hands and feet.
  • Cartwheels: Students can begin practicing cartwheels by learning the hand, hand, foot, foot sequence. Next, have them focus on keeping their legs straight up in a “V”. Trying to perform cartwheels in a straight line will help them perfect the skill, strengthen arms, and increase balance.

Once they have mastered balancing, rolling, and tumbling, they can build their endurance by practicing them all in a continuous sequence. Creating sequences offers students the chance to be creative, have fun, and build confidence in their gymnastic skills.

Teaching gymnastics in your P.E. class allows your students to safely learn skills, strengthen muscles, and motivate themselves through new challenges. Share your favorite gymnastics activities for physical education below!

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Maximize Engagement: Sport Ed. & TGfU Hybrid Units

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Adam Metcalf

The best way to learn is to do. The worst way to teach is to talk.” –Paul Halmos

We all know that student-centered, authentic learning experiences are crucial for cultivating the type of learners who will be best prepared for success in the modern world.  The incessant battle for weak attention spans has unearthed how incredibly important it is to design learning experiences that allow for student choice.  At the same time, we must foster the development of social interdependence in a safe, supportive environment where gaining perspective through a shared journey is the objective.  Alas, knowing that something is important and figuring out a practical way to do it is the ongoing challenge of our profession.  Taking risks, giving up control, and stepping outside of our comfort zones as teachers can be daunting.   

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My physical education department has been using a Sport Ed/TGfU hybrid model for nine years in our middle school curriculum (Grades 5-8).  Although it may seem intimidating, the shift away from the traditional sport units and instructional methods to a student-centered approach has been more fulfilling than we could have ever predicted!  In this approach, the teacher acts as the facilitator for learning rather than the traditional “sage on stage.”  We have seen amazing engagement and growth in our students through adapting and combining elements from the Sport Education and Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) instructional models. 

While an “event driven” unit can be exciting and memorable, an overcomplicated unit can result in an enormous amount of planning and management; this may lead to teacher burnout and a decrease in student engagement.  We have found that adapting some simple elements from the Sport Ed model and using the themes and structure of the TGfU model can help provide a framework for engaging and repeatable units without teacher burnout.  We have tried many variations and continue to tweak the unit structure, but have found the most success using the basic guidelines below: 

Unit Planning: 

Begin your year establishing expectations, building relationships, cooperative skills, etc.  Then plan and sequence your units according to the TGfU Game Categories:

  • Invasion Games (Soccer, Rugby, Basketball, Ultimate, Floor Hockey, etc.) will be the most prevalent sport category.  Begin with a sport unit that is simple and/or one with which students are familiar.  Skills and strategies will transfer from one sport to the next (i.e., maintaining possession and creating space in soccer will also be applicable in basketball).  Grouping these sports together will create a deeper understanding and an increased familiarity with how to react to and solve the in-game problems and situations.
     
  • Sequencing Net/Wall Games during the winter months work well with the indoor space and equipment available at our school (Volleyball, Badminton, Pickleball, etc.).
     
  • As the weather warms up in the Spring, we prefer to finish the school year with Target (Golf, Archery, Bowling, etc.) and Striking/Fielding Games (Kickball, Softball, Cricket, etc.). 

Each sport unit (within the TGfU category) is typically eight to twelve 45-minute sessions. Our students have daily P.E. so each unit spans approximately 3 weeks. We usually complete 6-8 sport units per school year:

  • 2-4 sessions of preseason practice
  • 3-4 sessions of regular season games (team records count toward tournament seeding)
  • 3-4 sessions of post season tournament (usually double elimination)

Keep It Simple

Limit the number of roles and responsibilities.  In our units, everybody is a player and some people have additional roles. Each team has a coach (who volunteers prior to the start of the unit). Once balanced teams are determined, all members meet to sign the Team Contract/ Fair Play Agreement as well as determine who will take on the additional responsibilities: assistant coach, equipment manager, fitness trainer, publicist.  By structuring simplified Sport Ed units, repeating the model will allow several students the opportunity to experience the various roles.
 

Facilitate Learning 

Rather than giving the students skills and drills, we allow them to come up with their own practice plans.  We encourage them to take the focus of the day and play a modified game that will allow players to develop an understanding within a dynamic, fun setting.  Using the TGfU model structure, we encourage and assist coaches with implementing small-sided games to emphasize the strategies and skills needed to achieve success.  When we are focused on offensive strategies, modifying the number of defenders and/or restricting movement will allow for more meaningful practice on the offensive side.

Example: Preseason Learning Outcome: Maintain possession by creating space using pivots, fakes, and jab steps.

Scoring: Offensive players score a point every time they complete 3 consecutive passes within the prescribed boundary.  Take turns playing offensive and defensive positions where the defensive team is outnumbered (i.e. 2 vs 1, 3 vs 2, 4 vs 2, etc.)

Ask Lots of Questions 

Kids playing volleyballThe authentic nature of this format can heighten the potential for group dynamics to get messy.  It is important for the teacher to make sure that a safe classroom culture is paramount.  Giving up control to the students is undoubtedly difficult, but this is the best way for them to learn.  Your students need to know that you are there to support them and need you to remain firm and consistent with what is expected from every member of the class.  If a practice or game isn’t going or didn’t go well, ask questions of the coaches that will advance a more reflective, open mindset.  Allow students to express themselves in daily class discussions, or in private as needed.  Be willing to make adjustments based on the feedback and needs of the class.

The engagement and enthusiasm fostered through this model is unparalleled.  We have also found that once students have experienced autonomy and authenticity of this type of unit (i.e., peer-lead activities and the use of teams that stay together through a preseason, regular season, and postseason), they overwhelmingly prefer a “Sport Ed” unit to a traditional unit.  I highly recommend giving it a try and seeing for yourself!

For a more extensive look into TGfU and Sport Education hybrid units, check out a recording of my webinar, Maximize Engagement: Sport Ed. & TGfU Hybrid Units.

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Yoga: Strike a Pose in P.E.

Posted 2 weeks ago - by Dr. Lisa Witherspoon

What is a “Downward Dog”, “Child’s Pose”, or “Mountain Pose”? The answer by many would be yoga poses, which is correct. But, what is yoga?

Some would simply define the term "yoga” as stretching. Others would dig a bit deeper and add the mental or spiritual benefit through the physical practice of yoga poses. Regardless, the discipline that originated in ancient India has been around for over 5,000 years and has now become an extremely popular part of a healthy fitness regimen all over the world. In fact, incorporating yoga as part of a quality physical education program is no longer considered a modern practice.

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Yoga enriches a physical education curriculum in many ways. 

  • First, yoga is relevant to all ages, skill levels, and diverse cultures
  • In addition, the discipline is developmentally appropriate and can easily translate from a school environment to a home environment
  • Furthermore, the practice of yoga builds basic physical fitness (muscle strength, bone strength, balance, flexibility, etc.) and mental wellness 

With all of the known benefits of yoga, why wouldn’t all physical education teachers currently be incorporating yoga in their curriculum? One defined answer: Yoga is not always easy to teach. Many teachers feel unable to discuss and demonstrate the many poses. The good news is that with our society being immersed in apps, teachers no longer have to feel uncomfortable adding the beneficial practice into lesson plans.

Below is a list of yoga apps that can assist teachers with learning more about yoga and/or providing visual demonstrations for students to follow. Keep in mind, this is a short list and does not include all of the apps available for teachers to consider.

App Name

Quick Details

Cost

 

YogaKids

 

Close to 40 poses for children to learn and follow.

$2.99

C-Fit Yoga

Series of four 10-minutes videos for children to follow.

$2.99

I Am Love

Aimed for ages 4-8. Visual examples of a variety of poses.

$3.99

Super Stretch Yoga

Includes storytelling, animation, and video examples.

Free

GoNoodle

Easy-to-follow videos in the yoga channel

Free

I Am Sun, I Am Moon

Provides a kids’ yoga journey and
a story of the tale of
yoga’s birth.

$4.99

Yoga Studio

65 ready-made yoga and meditation classes on video. Library of over 280 poses with instructions.

$1.99 +

Simply Yoga

Description of over 30 poses and 3
preset routines. Upgrades available
to advance.

Free

5-Minute Yoga

Great for students to follow for an instant activity or bell work.

Free

Daily Yoga

Describes a variety of poses and visual examples of how to perform the poses.

Free

* Prices as of 06/17

Although this list is, as mentioned above, just a few of the many yoga apps available, it is a great way to start searching and learning more about how these apps may be able to help incorporate yoga in the classroom. If there is still uncertainty, it is best to start with a free app and use the app personally to get a better feeling of how to incorporate yoga in the curriculum. Instead of planning an entire lesson around the yoga app, it can be used as an instant activity or a station as part of a fitness lesson until the students demonstrate success and a positive reaction to the content. Regardless, there is a yoga app available for any device, and the content provided can be extremely valuable for a teacher when incorporating yoga in the classroom.  

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Teaching Non-Traditional Sports in P.E.

Posted 3 weeks ago - by Carolyn Temertzoglou

Over the past decade in teacher education, I have evolved my practice to support student teachers to teach Health and Physical Education globally in various school contexts. Whether it be the demographics of a school community, the economic disparities of the surrounding communities, or various educational policies and practices that are supported at the school or board level, a question that remains to transcend any school context is this…

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“What conditions are necessary for young people to thrive in Physical Education?”

The first class in my teacher education program, I ask my student teachers to reflect on their personal experiences in HPE – good or bad. I ask them to create a human value line in the gymnasium according to whether they had a positive, mediocre, or negative experience in PE; all conditions that impact the degree in which one thrives in PE. From there, I ask my student teachers to “fold the line”, partnering up with a peer and share their differing perspectives and experiences in PE.

“My PE experience from grades 1-12 in Canadian schools can be described using two words “sporty” and “disengaging”. Students were expected to model the exact same steps as their HPE teacher without being encouraged to inquire and examine through different lens to understand why certain skills, rules and tactics work in certain situations.”

“With sports like volleyball, it often resulted in a very short rally with the students who were really good at the sport became quickly bored and the students who were not (like me) became further disengaged with the idea that ‘I can’t do it’”

This exercise allows student teachers to deconstruct their attitudes towards PE and to think about the “so what” – how will these attitudes inform their understanding about teaching PE?

The Ontario 2015 Health and Physical Education curriculum states “To be effective, instruction must be based on the belief that all students can be successful [thrive] and that learning in health and physical education is important and valuable for all students.”

Scott Kretchmar (2006) identified five criteria for meaningful experiences in physical education to help guide how learning activities might be planned to foster meaningful experiences for all students in physical education. Each component is important of itself but are related and can influence one another. The five criteria include:

  • Social interaction
  • Fun
  • Challenge “just right”
  • Delight
  • Motor Competence
  • Personal Relevant Learning (recently added by the LAMPE Learning About Meaningful Experiences in Physical Education project team)

Consider implementing into your PE program non-traditional North American sports such as Tchoukball, Omnikin, Speedball, and Danish Longball. These novel-type games can foster meaningful experiences in PE as they:

  1. Provide new experiences for students while equalizing the playing field for all levels of ability
  2. Provide opportunities for positive social interaction to develop interpersonal skills easily translated into other aspects of their lives
  3. Develop movement competence with an appropriate level of challenge and promote fun, joyful movement experiences.

Tchoukball: A game with a social conscience

Tchoukball, was invented by Dr. Hermann Brandt in 1968 with a focus on team work, fair play and respect as fundamental components of the game. With no interception and physical contact, students of all abilities, gender, and size can play together regardless of skill differences. Brant, believed “the objective of human physical activities is not to make champions but to make a contribution to building a harmonious society”.

Check out this video clip for a very informative overview of Tchoukball using the TGFU approach.

Omnikin: A game with a focus on cooperation

Kin-Ball is a team sport created by a physical education professor, Mario Demers, from Quebec in 1986 and is now played world-wide. What makes it unique is the very large size of the ball and the matches are played with three teams at once instead of the traditional 1 vs 1 in team games. View a rather humorous, yet informative, overview of Kin-Ball.

Speedball: A game with a focus on student self-efficacy

Speedball is a fast-paced game that combines many aspects of other sports. It is a hybrid game of soccer, basketball, and European handball. Students can decide whether they want to strike and receive the ball with their feet or their hands! Play the ball on the ground – play soccer. Play the ball in the air – play European handball. Students can choose the challenge that is just right for them to enjoy and have success in the game. Check out this version of Speedball by CIRA (Canadian Intramural Recreation Association).

Danish Longball: A novel game that promotes decision making as a player and a team player

A bat and ball game founded in Denmark, Danish Longball is a hybrid game of baseball, kickball, cricket, and rounders, with lots of action and little static play. The game involves individual and team responsibilities when introducing students to the realm of striking and fielding games. Learn more about Danish Longball.

I suggest you give these games a try, especially at the beginning of the school year to establish a respectful learning environment, build community, and to lay a foundation for meaningful experiences in PE!

“When movement is experienced as joy, it adorns our lives, makes our days go better, and gives us something to look forward to.  When movement is joyful and meaningful, it may even inspire us to do things we never thought possible” (Kretchmar, 2008).

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Introductory Volleyball Activities for Elementary P.E.

Posted 1 month ago - by Terri Pitts

Volleyball can be a hard unit to teach at the elementary level.  These games and activities have been successful with my students and have become some of their favorite activities. 

Big Ball Volleyball

Focus on skills like teamwork, catching, and throwing with this fun game! Place students into groups of four (2nd-5th grades) or groups of eight (Kindergarten-1st grade). Each group has a small parachute or a bed sheet. Groups must work together in order to get an Omnikin ball, lightweight oversized ball, or a beach ball over the net only using the parachute. The ball cannot touch the ground or it is a point for the other team. Groups must use teamwork to catch the ball and get the ball over the net.

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Get everything you need to play Big Ball Volleyball with this Team Launch Volleyball Set!

 

Volleyball Serving

Even though this activity is an easy setup, students enjoy it so much because they enjoy the challenge. I challenge the class to make a certain amount in the hoops, and I keep score.

There is a volleyball net set up in the gym to encourage the students to serve the volleyball high and over. Place students in lines along the baseline of the volleyball court. For younger students, you’ll want to start your lines within the volleyball court. Students serve the volleyball and try to make it into a hula-hoop on that is directly across from them on the other side of the net. On the count of three, the first person in each line servea. Students should serve quickly, but keep the students who waiting in line moving by doing various fitness or locomotor activities until it is their turn. Depending on their age or grade level, they can pass a ball to themselves in place or practice their serving form.

 

Newcomb

This game has been around since the early 1900’s and is great for 3rd-5th grade. Instead of bumping and setting, the students are learning rotation and focusing on three players playing or touching the ball after they receive a serve.

Two teams (12 players total) on the court at a time. Play begins with the student in the serving position serving the ball over the net to the other team. Students then catch and throw the ball back and forth over the net until it drops. Three players may play the ball before throwing it over the net. If it is more than three players or if the receiving team misses, the serving team scores a point. The serving team then rotates and the next play begins with a different server.  If the serving team does not get the ball over, it loses the serve and the opposing team scores a point. The next play begins with the opponents as the serving team. Each time a team wins a point, they rotate so a different player serves for the next play. This allows everybody to get a turn serving in the limited time. The first team scoring 11 points or the team with the most points after a set time limit wins the game.

 

Passing Challenge

Split players up into groups of five to eight and challenge each group of players to see how many times they can pass the volleyball to other players in the circle without letting it hit the ground.  Beach volleyballs, oversized volleyballs, or balloons can be substituted for a regular volleyball depending on the age and skill level of the players.  Older players can also do the same challenge but instead of passing they will set the volleyball to other players.

A variation of the passing challenge is to pair players up and see how many passes they can complete back and forth without the ball touching the ground. 

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3 Tactical Soccer Games for PE [Video]

Posted 1 month ago - by Gopher Community

Before starting a soccer unit, I find it beneficial for students to self-assess and think about whether they are a beginner, expert, or somewhere in between. This helps them make real-time decisions during the game based on their level of comfort.

I always start with more students on offense to increase scoring and skill practice. Once the students show me mastery of these skills, I make the teams even. I also focus on progressing from warm-ups to conditioning activities, and end each game with one or two focus skills. The focus skills of the games below are passing and possession.


Color Call Out

 

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The goal of a good warm-up is to get students ready for game play. Focus on a specific skill or activity such as passing, shooting, or keeping your head up.

Set-Up:

Teams begin by passing the ball with short passes. Start with stationary passing, and then progress to moving while passing. When either goalkeeper calls your team color, the player on the ball takes two touches and tries to score on that goalie. The keeper then throws the ball out to another team member in the same group and the passing continues. Teachers can use other skills to progress to, such as volleying to a partner, headers, or throw-ins.

Stop every few minutes to stretch dynamically, making sure all muscle groups are stretched.
 

Attackers vs. Defenders

 

Disguising conditioning during small-sided games keeps the game fast paced and keeps students actively engaged both physically and mentally.

Set-Up: I recommend setting this activity up in a small-sided games format with multiple fields and teams.

  • 1 large goal at end of field
  • 2 small goals on the sidelines, 1 on each side (use cones or pop-up goals)

The offense will stay in the shape of two forwards up front and five midfielders behind them. Encourage them to “play big” instead of grouping together to make more of a challenge for the defense.

The attacking group tries to score on the big goal, while the goalkeeper and defenders try to win the ball and score by shooting into the two smaller goals down the sidelines. Adding these sideline goals helps eliminate defenders simply clearing the ball into the middle and encourages them to start their attack down the sideline. This also helps the defensive team to stay compact and communicate to help defined as a unit.

Play for about five to six minutes and then switch up defensive and offensive players, so each student gets the opportunity to play both positions.

 

Soccer Match-Up

 

This is a possession game where each player picks a partner on the other team. Players are only allowed to defend the person they are matched-up with. I start with a simple scoring system where four consecutive passes earns a team one point. You can adjust the number of passes to increase or decrease difficulty. The goal is to encourage students to dribble the ball and create passing opportunities to their teammates.

This game meets SHAPE America National Physical Education Standards 1 and 2.

Standard 1 - The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.

Standard 2 - The physically literate individual applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.

 

Game and activity ideas provided by Michael Cummings.

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Five Passes: One Game, Endless Possibilities [Video]

Posted 1 month ago - by Aaron Beighle

Although the origin is unknown, the game “Five Passes” has been in the Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children textbook and lesson plans since 1972. In other words, it’s an “oldie but a goodie”. One beauty of this game is that it offers a plethora of variations to integrate many skills, concepts, and sports. Further, it allows for various curriculum and instructional models. As a qualifier, as with most things in life, Five Passes is not inherently good or bad. It has to be taught using effective teaching practices. Thus, simply using the information presented below alone for an entire lesson without the use of progression, skill instruction, questioning, scaffolding, differentiation, and/or an instructional model is not advocated. If you want to learn more about these, I encourage you to look into them as this blog does not allow space to delve into them in detail.

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The basic purpose of the game is for a team (preferably small-sided) to get five passes in a row to score a point. Typically, the game is played with a 5” dia coated-foam ball with throwing, passing, and catching as the primary manipulative skills used to achieve five passes. Using this as the foundation is where the fun starts. The remainder of this blog will outline various modifications to rules, scoring, and equipment that allow one game to turn into infinite possibilities for learning experiences.

 

Rules

Typically when taught, the first “challenge” is simply for the offensive team to get five passes in a row without the ball being knocked away or dropped. The defense works to prevent five passes. From there rules and tactics can be added one or two at a time. Adding them all at once is not advised as this takes extended time for instruction, and students are not able to absorb and apply all of the rules/tactics. Additional basic rules are provided below. Keep in mind, depending on the variation, other rules may be necessary.

  • The player with the ball can hold the ball for only three seconds.
  • The player with the ball can take only three steps.
  • The player with the ball can dribble three times.
  • The defense has to be arm’s length away from the player with the ball. The ball can be contacted/caught only by the defense while it’s in the air.
  • No pass backs for 4 vs 4 or greater.
  • At least three team members must catch one of the five passes if greater than 4 vs 4.
  • If the ball goes to the ground, that last team to possess the ball must give the ball to the other team. This prevents diving and scrums on the floor for the ball.
     

Game Progression

  • The first time teaching this game it is advantageous to do so in scattered formation. That is, one team is not going in one direction or the other. This allows students to get the hang of the concepts and strategy without confounding the process with directions.
  • Once the rules have been added and students are grasping the concepts, then directions can be added. This can be accomplished with a rule such as “if the blue team catches their fifth pass in the coned off area on the north side of the gym, they get two points. Red team, your coned off area is on the south side.”
  • One final step for a basic game designed to lead-up to a game such as Team Handball is to add a scoring mechanism. For instance, after the fifth pass, if a team can throw the ball into their goal, they receive two points. The variations discussed below have countless modifications that may require unique progressions.
     

Variations

The obvious variations for the basic Five Passes game are for any invasion game such as basketball, soccer, hockey, tchoukball, and ultimate. The most prominent change will be the equipment used, the skills needed, and scoring. However, the foundational information provided above remains.

 

Slam Ball

 

This version is a derivation of a version created by students at the STEAM Academy in Lexington, KY, and involves several levels of play (three will be described here). In addition to Five Passes, elements of volleyball and Saucer Slam are added. It was created as part of a “Game Tester” unit in which students created innovative, inexpensive, and inclusive games.

  • This version is played 2 v 2 and final pass must be hit (slammed) into the goal. The goal can be a cone, a cone with a ball on top, a clothes basket, Saucer Slam goal etc.
  • Next, four teams of 3 play on four small courts in a grid like space. One player from each team guards their goal in their grid. Teams can score on any of the other three goals and 2 to 3 balls are used.
  • Finally, to add an element of volleying in the game, the fifth pass must be set to a teammate who then spikes into the goal. This version may require a larger goal.

 

Speed Football

 

This adaptation was created by 3rd grade students of mine while teaching at the Episcopal School of Dallas. The small twist on the kick-off added an element of excitement and energy for them. This change also prevented the “losers walk” and game stoppage of a traditional kick off.

  • The game is played with a Fun Gripper Football rather than a traditional ball.
  • No steps are allowed and no dribbling. Older students may be able to dribble the football with their feet or hands but the elementary students could not.
  • Once a team scores, the person who catches the pass immediately throws the ball to the other end of the field. This serves as the kick-off and the ball has to go beyond the center line.
  • The team who catches the kick-off is immediately on offense. The only rule I added is a team could not score more than two touchdowns in a row.

 

Speed-A-Way

 

This game is another oldie but goodie created by Marjorie Larsen in the 50’s. It combines soccer, football, team handball, and many other skills. It is included here because teachers can build on Five Passes to teach this game. Below are some additional rules.

  • Players wear flags. If a player in possession of the ball has his/her flag pulled, the ball changes possession.
  • The ball can be advanced either by dribbling with hands, running (no more than three steps before a hand dribble), or dribbling with the feet.
  • If the ball is on the ground and in play, it cannot be picked up with the hands. It has to be transferred from the feet to the hands. Players can do this by lifting it to themselves, or a teammate can lift it to another teammate. Advanced students may be able to pass with their foot, ala a soccer pass, to a teammate down field.
  • Running the ball into the endzone is worth one point. Throwing to a teammate in the endzone is two points. Kicking to a teammate in the endzone is worth three points.
  • As with most games, rules, such as how many players must touch the ball, how many touchdowns a player can have, etc. should be added as needed to avoid one or two players dominating a game.

I will force myself to stop here. I am sure most of you kept thinking, “or you could do this” to each of the ideas presented above. And there are so many more variations that could be taught, all building on the foundational concept taught with Five Passes. I encourage you to try some of these or variations or your own ideas. Change things up. It might work or it might not. That’s okay. Ask students how to improve the game. Have them add rules or suggest equipment changes. Empower students to make the game their own. tHRIVE!

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How to Hit a Home Run Teaching Softball

Posted 1 month ago - by Jessica Shawley

THIS OR THAT? Which game will students get the most out of?

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As a former collegiate softball athlete and head high school coach you would think teaching the game is one of my favorite times of year. Well, to be honest, it wasn’t when I first started teaching but it definitely is now! It all started to really come together when I approached it from a small-sided games perspective and helped students focus on skill building and enjoyment of the game. Small-sided game play is one of the most game-changing best practices in physical education I have implemented to help students feel successful and build their skills. The visuals here are from my Small-Sided Games webinar  from the Gopher Solutions Webinar Series. Visit my website for the slides if you want to dive into this topic a bit further.

Softball is a great lifetime/recreational physical activity that students can enjoy outside of school. Issues arise when teaching this sport though with ill-informed lesson design and poor implementation of activities. Here are 5 keys to hitting a home run the next time you teach softball.

1. Use a progression of small-sided games.

The image below from my Gopher small-sided games webinar provides an example of game progressions from simple to more complex. In any of the activities, the success is in the smaller field and focusing on one or two key aspects of the game as a challenge so that students can get better. It allows you to layer in the rules and progress to the larger game context near the end of the unit. I am able to walk around and help students more. The students also get in a lot more repetitions.

  • Game #1 - 2 vs. 2 Hit for Points: The focus is for students to hit for points and for the defense to field the ball cleanly.

    • Basic rules – Offense: Track your points. Whichever cone you hit it past, you get those points. Hit twice and then rotate offense/defense. Defense: Track your points. Field it cleanly to get points. 1 point for a grounder. 3 points for a fly ball.
       
  • Game #2 - Back & Forth for Points: Everyone is against each other for points. The runner/batter gets 1-point for each touch of a cone. They run “cricket” style back and forth after hitting off the tee (large cone). Defenders field the ball and then make a throw to each person on defense. The last person to catch a throw runs it to the big cone to stop the play.
     
  • Game #3 – Hit & Run Through First: Focus on grounders and running through first base. Defense fields ball and throw to first for a point. The batter must hit a grounder for a point and then complete the run through first base. Rotate hitters.
     
  • Game #4 – Around the Bases for Points: The batter hits and then runs around the bases (scoring 1 point for each base touched) and keeps running until the defense has fielded the ball and thrown it to each person before running it home to stop the runner. Some students may get in two rounds around the bases (8 points)! This focuses on all aspects of the game.
     
  • Games #5 – 4 vs. 4 Softball: Put it all together and play on a smaller field. You can also see Figure 2 for a 7-person softball game with a rotation explanation.

 

 

Figure 1. Small-sided softball setup examples.

 

 

  

Figure 2.  Rotation for 7-person Softball

C=Catcher, B=Batter, P=Pitcher,
I=Infield, O=Outfield


2. Have a plan for indoor lessons when the weather doesn’t cooperate

The spring brings a mix of rain and sun. This year has been historically rainy, testing my ability to bring traditionally outdoor activities inside for longer periods of time. I appreciate how this challenge brings out the extra creativity in me. Here are a few favorite games and adaptions for indoor play, which can obviously still be used outside as well.

  • Play backyard baseball/wiffle ball (No peg outs, please. No one likes to get hit with a ball). Foam balls/wiffle balls and foam bats are essential for success here. Having a “double field” game such as Gopher’s DiamondDash would fit well here for indoor play.
  • Under “Activity Session Documents” on my small-sided game info webpage, there are a few more modified softball games you can use for indoors. Gopher has a great video demonstration of this concept in their Team Home Run Derby Set. I’d recommend this for anyone getting started with small-sided games in softball.
  • Use innovative indoor equipment and/or rules:
    • My students love the Big Hitter Game when inside because of the BIG bat!
    • “Wombat” uses a softball/kickball format where you pitch a light rubber ball underhand and it must bounce first before the batter hits the ball with a large bat. We use the bouncy SoffPlay Balls to add an element of bounce inside so we can play off the walls. For my older students, we combined this wombat game with the ramp from the ACTION! RampedUp game and the BigHitter Bat mentioned above to hit a SoffPlay ball!
    • Allow two runners on base. Use a large base system or a large cone as a base works well. Students learn by getting experience and having more than one runner on when indoors can add an element of complexity to situations.
    • “Freebies to first” is something novel to try out in certain contexts. Though the out is recorded for the defense (you can play 3 to 5 outs), the runner is safe at first so they can experience base running. This gives the defense some more action as well.

Simple field setup for small-sided games.

Hit off 3 pitches and/or hit off the cone as a tee.

 

3. Have an organized framework.

I now use Rainbow color-coded equipment for six teams throughout the unit and this has made a huge impact upon the flow of the lesson. Each team has a bucket of equipment they are responsible for. This makes setup and clean up super easy! I find the students take care of “their color” and there is no mistaking whose equipment it is. See images below.

 

Rainbow® Color-coded Equipment Team Buckets.

Yellow bag with lefty-throw gloves & extra gloves.

Teams of 4: 4 Gloves, 1 Foam Bat & Ball, 3 Softballs, 4 mini-cones, 1 large cone as a tee.

 

4. Use a sport education model when possible.

I like using a modified sport education model that emphasizes team roles so all students have a responsibility and a role to fulfill to help the lessons run more smoothly and give students the opportunity to learn responsibility and to be on a team. With small teams, this makes it easy. Here is a sample team form with the information.

 

5. Emphasize teamwork and teach empathy.

This is a highly skilled team sport that involves a lot of different rules and positions. For quite a few students, this is their first introduction to the game, making it a challenge to design a quality experience for all skill levels. Again, I focus on skill development and layer in progressions, emphasizing fun and personal challenge.  I remind students to have empathy for others as everyone comes in with different levels of experience in any activity we learn and that we are here to help make each other better so that when we want to play it outside of school there are others willing to play with us because they had a positive experience learning it in physical education. I think it is important to remind students that we are here to have an enjoyable experience, to improve our skills personally (and not at the cost of others), and to learn lifelong activities. So, let’s have fun and get better together!

 

I hope these tips help you hit a home run the next time you teach softball!

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