Enriching Participation in P.E. with Progressions & Equipment

Though fitness is a primary focus of my middle school physical education program, I also teach a lot of skill development through sports-based (team and dual) activities. A foundation of my program includes a large selection of versatile equipment. I wish I would have known earlier in my career how to identify and purchase the right PE equipment to adapt and use in a variety of ways to meet the needs of my students; in other words, how PE equipment could be used in multiple areas and not just for its original purpose. Below I provide some insight.

Students hitting balls off tee

The equipment selection I inherited was very traditional even though my student’s ability levels were extremely diverse. Through ongoing experimentation, including many trips to the local “dollar” store, tracking the superstore sales racks, and gathering ideas at conferences and via social media, I have compiled a large variety. Having diverse options, choices, or levels of equipment helps keep activities interesting, provides differentiation, and challenges students in a fun way.

Activity and PE Equipment Examples:

Softball Progressions

Large oversize cones can be used as batting tees! They’re also incredibly versatile all year round. Sizes range from 6″ to 36″ high.
  • When teaching softball, my progression starts with large cones (Oversized Cones) as batting tees and a safety bat and ball (Rainbow® UltraGrip™ Foam Baseball Bats). What’s nice about the tall cones is their versatility; they can be used throughout the year for stations, goal posts, agility course markers, and a million other things! Students hit off the tall cone for batting practice warm-ups and in small-sided game play before playing the larger game. I also use hoops (an equipment staple for most) as an on-deck batting circle and larger bases in modified games that sometimes allow multiple people on a base or can be used as the pitcher’s circle.
  • A specific small-sided game example is “Cricket-style softball,” where students hit off the cone and run back and forth between two cones to score points while the defense fields the ball and makes a specific number of throws before running in to touch the home plate cone to stop the play.
  • Another idea to include once you work into the larger softball game format is to allow “Freebies to first base.” The batter becomes a live runner at first, even if they get out. This allows the batter to do more than just go back to the end of the line after getting out and challenges the defense with runners on base. If first base was already occupied during the out, you can bump up the runners to the next base. The possibilities are endless and having progressions keep things engaging and fun within the spirit of the game. Liven up the action even more with a giant bat, beach balls and giant bases with the BIGHitter game from Gopher.

BigHitter Game Pack

The BIGHitter is the perfect activity to introduce students to softball!

Target Disc Games

  • In target games, one of my go-to choices is the Elite Hoop Disc Target Set. It provides a variety of target heights and works for multiple activities including Disc Golf and Disc Lacrosse, as well as modified Handball goals or small-sided Speedball hoops. The targets also work for general throwing games, yard game targets, and for “Creation Stations” where students design the activities. Students think they are very “Harry Potter-like” and ask if they are playing Quidditch!

Find Versatile Equipment to Stretch Your Budget

As you can see, a few pieces of select equipment (tall cones, targets, and hoops) have become critical in enhancing several activities in my curriculum. The versatility of equipment also helps stretch my budget. I enjoy perusing through PE equipment catalogs for new ideas and more efficient choices.

Questions to Consider Before Purchasing:

Finally, there are a few questions I use to prioritize my purchases. When planning lessons and progressions, I now think about…

  • How can I change the size, speed, color, and feel of the object, goal, or target?
  • How can I modify the game so everyone will be successful and be able to choose their level of challenge while maintaining the spirit of the game?

This thought process is not just for my special needs students with physical limitations, it’s for all students. I’ve seen a greater return on student participation levels and overall enjoyment of trying a new activity.

I look forward to sharing more ideas on adaptations and progressions in upcoming blogs. Thanks for reading!

Considerations for progressions:

  • Provide various levels of challenge in the activity while still maintaining the spirit of the game.
  • Vary the speed of game (fast, slow), and intensity level of defense (hot, cold). Provide scoring variations.
  • Vary the size of space and teams (small, large). Develop small-sided progressions: 1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3 and so on.
  • Versatility: Equipment may be used in several situations.
  • Have choices in overall size (small, big), height (short, tall), color, feel, or size of objects and types of goals or targets.

Continue the conversation: There are many creative equipment hacks that help teachers utilize equipment in a variety of ways. What are your favorites?

Jessica is a Physical Education Teacher, NBCT in Moscow, Idaho. She is the 2012 National NASPE Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year, a National Board certified Physical Education Specialist, and served on the SHAPE Idaho board for over 7 years as President, Conference Manager and District Representative. She has and continues to travel the country providing professional development workshops and keynotes on a variety of topics.

Jessica is a Physical Education Teacher, NBCT in Moscow, Idaho. She is the 2012 National NASPE Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year, a National Board certified Physical Education Specialist, and served on the SHAPE Idaho board for over 7 years as President, Conference Manager and District Representative. She has and continues to travel the country providing professional development workshops and keynotes on a variety of topics.

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