Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. During the month of February, I focus my instruction on helping students understand the importance of a healthy heart and learning about the actions they can take now to live a heart healthy life.
And what better way to work on developing a healthy heart than to focus on jump rope skills? Jumping rope is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, burn calories, decrease injury, and improve coordination! I teach at a school with 3-year-olds and people always ask what you can teach 3-year-olds about jumping rope. The most important thing is to teach them the pre-rope jumping skills. I use segmented ropes for my jump rope beginners and start with the basics- creating shapes, such as the letters in their names, and patterns.
Next, we move on to the prelude to rope-jumping: learning to move over a rope that is placed on the ground. Generally, the rope is placed in a circle or a straight line, and the students engage with the rope based on teacher cues.
Jump Rope Activities (Warm-Up)
- Stand outside the circle
- Movement around the circle (walk, skip, slide)
- Stand on, in front, behind, beside
- Hop in and out
- Straight Line
- Stand behind, in front, besides, straddle
- Walk on rope forward/backward
- Hop slowly down the line, fast back
- Criss cross feet while jumping
Jump Rope Technique for Pre-K – 2nd:
Finally, my jump rope beginners ready to learn how to hold the rope for jumping. It brings me such joy to see their faces the day we have our first attempt at holding the rope—and it can be quite entertaining. If you haven’t had the pleasure of teaching Pre-K, it’s an adventure to say the least! Here are the cues I use to help them learn this necessary skill:
- Circle the rope
- Eyeballs to belly button
- Drop hands
This skill sometimes takes many days for the students to master; but once they get it, the look on their faces is priceless.
Turning the rope is a difficult skill for young children, and we practice regularly. At this age we start with just the basic turn. I use the following cues: drop hands, big smile (jump rope open), and turn and catch with your feet. We then add the following skills: turn, catch, then step over. This might be all that the younger students are developmentally ready for, but it provides them with the foundation they need when you teach jump rope the following year.
Jump Rope Technique for 3rd – 6th grade:
For my 3rd through 6th grade students, I switch to speed ropes to promote more speed and encourage control.
I introduce 3 new skills a day and allow the students to experiment with those skills. I used to demonstrate all the skills myself, but after 23 years in the gym my skills aren’t the same, so I rely on animated GIFs or students. A sampling of some of the skills for the older students includes:
- Basic Jump
- Skier, Bell, Straddle
- Heel/Heel, Heel/Toe, Toe/Toe
- Swing Kick, Rocker, Can-Can
There are so many skills that will test their abilities. Use music to allow them opportunities to create movement sequences.
My jump rope unit is always in February, so I can tie in the importance of a healthy heart. This year, I had a parent share with me her family story. Her husband collapsed at their home. He was rushed to the hospital where they did all they could, but they could not keep his heart beating. When the autopsy came back, it was determined that his cause of death was heart disease. They had no idea that he even had a heart issue. She shared that the lessons her son has learned about heart health during this unit have helped her not only talk about what caused his father’s death, but also opened the doors to conversations about how they can make better choices and take care of their own hearts. She shared that I had provided her with “another avenue to instill a healthy lifestyle in our not-so-healthy world.”
There may be kids who never find success with jump rope skills, but we can always impact the knowledge they need to improve their heart health.
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