Muscle mini lesson

This year in PE we are focusing on a different muscle every month.  Since I don’t want to spend any movement time having my students sit and listen, I talk about our muscle as we do our stretches.  Here is an example of a mini lesson I did this week focusing on the calf muscle.

Introduction:  We are starting a new month today so that means we have a new muscle to learn.  What was our muscle last month? (quadricep)  Where is the quadricep? This month we are going to learn about the calf.  When I stand on tip toes you will be able to see my calf muscle.  Stand in front of the group flat footed, and then go to tip toe.  Did you see the calf muscle engage?

Activity:  Everyone stand up right where you are and try standing on your tip toes.  Do you feel you muscle engaging.  Can you see the outline of your calf muscle.

Activity:  Teach a stretch for the calf muscle:  Take a big step back.  Make sure both toes point forward with your body.  Push your back heel to the ground.  Bend your back knee a little if you need to to feel the stretch.  I walk around and correct form.  Talk about the need to keep toes pointing forward to actually stretch the right muscle since this is a common mistake in form I see with my students.

Activity:  Ask for suggestions of motions that use the calf muscle and do some of them such as running or jumping rope.

As the month goes on, we will repeat our calf stretch every class period and emphasize movement activities that engage the calf muscle.

My students are loving this.  They were actually the ones who reminded me that it was a new month and asked what our new muscle would be!

Visual aids for PE

I am working this year to add some science into my PE classes so I decided to focus on learning the names of major muscle groups.  I made this fun bulletin board to add interest and add a fun visual image to my gym.  As you can see, we are going to focus on a muscle group each month.  As the school year moves along, I will add more labels to my HULK visual.  This popular character not only catches the attention of my young students, but his bulk makes the muscle groups easy to see.  I also showed my students a realistic photo of the muscular system inside a human body as I taught a mini lesson on muscles.  When we do our warm-up session, I focus on some stretches and activities that use the quadricep and talk as we stretch.  It has been a fun way to introduce some vocabulary.
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organizing teams

I teach over 800 students every week, 30 minute classes, about 30 students per class.  I need efficient ways to divide my students into different size groups for different activities.  Sometimes I want like abilities together  and sometimes I like to mix skill levels.  Here are a couple ideas I use to divide classes up into teams:

1.  Play music and have the students just walk or dance around the room.  When the music stops they stand toe to toe with # (designate size of group by holding up number of fingers) of people.  I sometimes add restrictions such as wearing the same color, #boys#girls, etc.  Sometimes I repeat 2 or 3 times, telling them each time that they can’t have someone in their group who was in it the last round (good way to mix up friends)

2.  For outside, as the class arrives I give them a fitness task to complete.  As each child finishes I hand them a jersey to put on.  I have all my colors out and pre-counted so that as I hand them a jersey, I can mix up who is wearing what color.  Since my most athletic kids tend to finish the fitness task first, I can give each one a new color and have them evenly distributed.  Same idea with my slow students.  I end up with teams evenly divided and marked.  I sometimes have them do an activity with a partner wearing a different color jersey to keep them guessing!

These are my favorite and easiest team divisors.  How do you divide classes?

basketball skills game

We have started a basketball unit in 5th and 6th grades.  I wanted a fun way for them to work on the skills before we jumped into games.  I have my classes previously divided up into 4 groups (see this post).  I made four sets of game cards.  Each card had a skill to work on, a points value, and how I wanted the group to work on it (either individually, partners, or as a team).  Each of my teams has a basketball captain and a team captain.  I chose basketball captains who had previous basketball experience.  The basketball captain would select a card, read it and demonstrate the skill.  The team then followed the directions on the card to practice the skill.  The team captain recorded the points earned from completing the card.

Some examples of cards:

Partners:  practice chest passes with a partner for 2 minutes. (the captains had timers so they could time the group)

Team:  score 20 points as a team, use correct shooting form, each person on the team must complete at least one basket

Individual:  dribble a basketball waist high to the music trailer and back

I also included cards that were fitness based like running around the field, doing wall push-ups with a basketball in your hands, curl-ups, etc.

The activity was very successful.  The teams all worked hard and the students responded well to learning from each other.  I circled the groups and gave help as needed.  My principal even walked by one day and commented on how productive and organized the class was.  She asked me later to explain the system to her.  I was also impressed with how the students interacted with each other.  I teach a boy who is deaf and handicapped.  His team captains worked together to make sure he stayed involved and was part of the group.  It was impressive!

We did this activity for two weeks (each class has 30 minutes per week).  Then we began small 3 on 3 games.  All the students were ready to play and had some understanding and comfort with the game so they could all be involved.  Ideally, I would have stayed with the skills activity for another 2 weeks.  However, time constraints permit me from staying on one unit for too long.

Team captains

I divide my 5th and 6th grade classes into 4 teams or squads (about 8 students per team).  I assign each team a captain.  I have found this to be helpful in so many ways.  I live in a very active sports-oriented community.  By 5th grade many of my students have been playing organized sports for years and are very skilled.  Some of these highly skilled students can be a behavior problem for me.  They can be cocky, intimidating to others, like to show-off or goof off, etc.  This is not always the case, but it is a common management problem I have faced.  Giving some of these kids an important job makes a world of difference.  I spend a bit of time at the first of the year talking about the importance of teamwork and what I will see a good team doing.  I talk about how important the captain is and how much extra work I give them and how I need their help.  The following week, I divided up my groups and announce the captains.  It literally changes how these kids act and work in class.  They become wonderful leaders!  The job focuses them on helping other students and helping their team succeed.

Some of the things I have my captains do:

Teach skills:  I will demonstrate a new skill and then have each team shadow their captain a certain number of times to practice.  Or, have the captain work with their team to practice something we are learning.

Score keep:  If we are playing a game, I give the captain a notebook and have him/her keep score.

Timers:  For an activity that requires a timer, I will give my captain a timer and have him/her be in charge of keeping time for their team.

Clean-up:  I leave a note in their notebooks about what their teams’ clean-up job is.  They pass the info onto their team and lead the clean-up.

Assigning others:  If it seems as if the captain is doing too much, I just ask him/her to give the job to someone else.  “choose someone on your team who has been working hard and have them be in charge of the timer”

I rotate captains about every 2 months so that many get a chance during the year to have the job.  My students will work hard for the honor of being the captain.  I don’t always just choose skilled students, but look for those that can lead and are good team players.

Other class jobs are warm-up leaders, and skill-specific captains.

My students have really responded to this system.  I love to see the leadership emerge!

1st Day games

Today was the first day of school.  One of the things I like to work on with my students as we begin PE class is finding partners quickly.  I also like to mix movement in with learning the rules.  This game helped give us some movement today, practice staying in our own space, and practice finding a partner quickly.

Begin by having your class spread out onto your gym space.  I talk to them about staying in their own “bubble” and not interfering with anyone else.   Play music and have them walk around staying in their space.  When the music stops, they freeze toe-to-toe with the closest person.  Shake hands with that person while saying “my name is ______ and I like to _________”.  The partner then responds with their name and something they like to do.  Start the music again and repeat.  As partners are found, I teach them to come to the middle if they do not have a partner.  As they arrive in the middle, partners can easily be found.  I also work with them on inviting someone in to their partnership if there is an odd number and someone left out.

Some things I watch for and comment on as we play:

How are they moving?  Some of my students will walk like they are in the hallway with arms folded, slow walk.  This is PE!  You move your arms in here!  By the end they are really moving and laughing.

Are they partnering with only girls-to-girls and boys-to-boys?  You can mix things up by requiring students to find a partner with the same color shirt, same height, etc.

Are the following the established guidelines?  If I have told them to walk, they must walk and not run.

Are they staying in their own space?  Running into walls or onto the stage steps is not acceptable.  Arm in arm with another person is not acceptable.

It is a great time to establish some boundaries while having fun and mixing with their new classmates.

Once they learn how to find a partner quickly, dividing them throughout the year becomes easier.  Next week we will practice in a similar fashion, but vary the number in the group.

Scoops and Balls

We have some fun new equipment at our school this year:  plastic scoops and wiffle balls.  I used the equipment in two separate lessons with my youngest classes.

Lesson 1:

Each person has a scoop and their own ball.  I start by having them roll the ball on the floor and try and scoop it up without using their hands.  I demonstrate that they need to scoop the opposite direction from where the ball is rolling.  That way it rolls into their scoop.  Next we toss the ball out of our scoop, let it bounce once or twice on the floor and then catch.  For those that get comfortable with that, I show them how to toss, spin around, and then catch off the 2nd or 3rd bounce.  Finally, we move into tossing and catching without a bounce.  We start with low tosses (head high), then move to medium (high as you can reach), and then high tosses.  This lesson works best indoors on a gym floor.

Lesson 2:

This lesson moves the students into using the scoops and balls with a partner.  I start by having them all choose a scoop.  Then I have them find a partner that has a different color scoop (good way to mix them up!).  You can then move the students through a sequence of activities.  Vary your sequence depending on time, ability, and interest.

1. roll the ball to your partner — scoop it up without using hands

2.  low toss the ball to your partner; if you catch it take a baby step farther away and try again

3.  repeat #2 with higher tosses

4.  stand back to back with your partner, each take a giant step away from each other, the partner without the ball turns and faces their partner’s back, the partner with the ball tosses the ball over head for their partner to catch

5.  try jogging slowly and tossing the ball back and forth

I did this lesson outside on the grass.  My students especially like #4.  Fun for a spring day!

beach-volley game

In 5th and 6th grade we have been working on the volleyball skills of bump and set.  At the end of each class period we played this game with a beach ball to practice the skills in a fun way.

Divide gym space into 4 squares.  I did this using poly-spots.  Class is divided into 4 equal teams (about 8 students per team) and each team positions themselves in one of the squares.  I serve a beach ball into the playing area.  Teams try and keep the ball from hitting the ground in their square using sets and bumps.  We also practice a couple of volleyball rules:  no double hits and no carrying the ball.  Anytime the ball hits the ground the team in that square gets a point (least points wins) and the ball returns to the side to be served in.  By serving the ball in myself I can vary the area the ball begins in to maximize keeping all students involved.  My students have gotten quite good at keeping the ball in the air and loved playing this game.  We played it for just five minutes at the end of each class.  It is quick to set up and clean up as well as lots of fun.

*notes
I also tried it with multiple balls in the air — doesn’t work as good, too confusing

Could potentially try it using a real volleyball

Beginning Toss and Catch Lesson

I taught some beginning tossing and catching skills to my kindergarten classes this week.  The sequence went smooth and the students had a great time.  I began by placing poly spots around the floor and had them all sit on a spot.  I then demonstrated tossing a bean bag with one hand and catching it with two hands.  I had previously taught them levels for tossing:  low is eye level, medium is as high as you can reach, high is towards the ceiling.  For this activity, I told them to toss at a medium level.  I stressed for them to stay standing on their spot to encourage them to make careful and straight tosses up.  After a few minutes of practice, I showed them how to toss, clap hands once, and then catch.  They loved trying that one.  Next I collected bean bags from every other person and demonstrated tossing underhand to a partner.  The cues I taught were: swinging arm straight back, stepping onto opposite leg, ending with throwing hand pointing at partner.  More practice time.

For an ending activity we put the bean bags and poly-spots away and played a game called “Clean Your Room”.  I have also heard it called “Snowball Fight”.  Divide playing space in half.  Dump soft yarn or foam balls equally on both halves of the room.  I tell the students they are brothers and sisters and the gym is their bedroom that they share.  They all want their half of the room to be clean.  Class is divided in half and assigned a half of the gym to “clean”.  I start some fun music and they try and throw all the balls out of their half of the room.  When the music stops, they freeze and see who has the cleanest room.  It is crazy and fun!  We just played for a couple of minutes, but it was a happy and active way to end the lesson.  All classes asked to play it again next week.  *tip:  I have a rule that they can only touch one ball at a time

The lesson took about 25 minutes.  With a 5 minute warm-up it was perfect for a 30 minute class period.

Scarf Juggling

My first and second graders really loved playing with scarves this week.  They are a colorful and fun manipulative to try.  I first passed them out and we played “freeze dance” while holding the scarf.  They loved dancing around with a scarf in hand.  We then did some beginning juggling:

1.  Hold the scarf by the corner.  Toss across your body and catch with the opposite hand.

2.  Stand across from a partner.  Both toss scarves at the same time and catch your partner’s scarf.

3.  Give each student a second scarf.  Scarves are tossed across the body, making an ‘x’.  Follow this pattern:  toss, toss, catch, catch.  I have them repeat with me “toss, toss, catch, catch”.  (they tend to want to toss, catch, toss, catch).

4.  Play fun music while students practice.  They love it!