Tips for Teaching Juggling in Physical Education

One of my first education classes in college was Learning, Instruction, and Evaluation. The lab for that class was designed to teach future educators how to use all the equipment that a school might have in their faculty lab. I’m dating myself a little, but here are some of the items we learned to use:

  • Opaque Projectors
  • Mimeograph Machine
  • Filmstrip Projector

If you are not from my era, Google those items and have a few laughs. What did come from this class was an extra credit assignment by the professor. For 100 extra points, if you knew how to juggle you could teach a fellow student to juggle, or if you didn’t know how to juggle you could demonstrate the skill by the end of the semester. Desperately needing those 100 points, that started me down my juggling path.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a juggler as “one skilled in keeping several objects in motion in the air at the same time by alternately tossing and catching them.” It is a skill that seems to amaze my students when I initially demonstrate for them, but I find every year that they are extremely motivated to learn how to do it.

Introduce with Scarves

I begin each juggling unit with the introduction of juggling scarves. Each student begins with one scarf and with the goal of building the primary skill of tossing an object and grabbing if before it touches the ground. We then build on that skill and proceed to 2 scarves. The students use the phrase “Criss Cross Apple Sauce” when throwing and catching 2 scarves to help them remember the pattern. Next, we move on to 3 scarves and work on a figure eight path starting with the hand that has 2 scarves and making X’s across our chest. In the cascade, the object is always thrown from a position near the body’s midline using the figure eight path. The main reason to use scarves is because they float slowly through the air, which allows you more time to think about the next throw.

The big difference between juggling scarves and other objects, such as balls, is that with juggling scarves, you aren’t really throwing them into the air, but it helps students understand the basic cascade pattern.

Moving up to Cubes

Juggling Cubes offer a great way for students to develop proficiency with this skill. Juggle Cubes are easy to handle because of their defined shape, and they won’t roll away when dropped. This equipment is ideal for skill progression and allows students to transition from scarves to cubes before moving on to more advanced options such as balls or rings.

Creating a Juggling Circuit

After teaching the skills necessary for juggling, it’s time to put on a Circus Show. With the release of the movie The Greatest Showman, we have a great soundtrack to use for the students during the performance.

I set up a circuit around the gym with the following equipment:

  • Juggling Scarves            
  • Juggle Cubes/Balls
  • Flower Sticks
  • Diabolo
  • Rings

It’s then time for the students to shine and show off their hard work. Allowing the students to create and perform their own routines promotes a growth mindset and supports project-based learning because the students are interpreting the content and applying creative thinking to develop their own outcome.

Who knew that my need for those additional 100 points in my college class would provide me with the desire to teach the joy of juggling to my students?

Chris has been a Physical Educator for 22 years in Texas. He has been recognized as a district finalist for Teacher of the Year and formerly served as the Early Childhood Chair Elect for the Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (TAHPERD). Chris has presented at state and national conferences and spent two years writing curriculum, creating and delivering professional development, and supporting physical education teachers as a Health and Physical Education Specialist in a large urban district. Now an elementary Physical Education teacher in Garland ISD, Chris strives to promote a healthy and physically active lifestyle in both his personal and professional life.

Chris has been a Physical Educator for 22 years in Texas. He has been recognized as a district finalist for Teacher of the Year and formerly served as the Early Childhood Chair Elect for the Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (TAHPERD). Chris has presented at state and national conferences and spent two years writing curriculum, creating and delivering professional development, and supporting physical education teachers as a Health and Physical Education Specialist in a large urban district. Now an elementary Physical Education teacher in Garland ISD, Chris strives to promote a healthy and physically active lifestyle in both his personal and professional life.

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