Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Basketball, Jump Ropes, and Fitness!

January has been a super exciting time in the gym, we have a lot going on!

We have started a basketball unit for all grades.  Our younger students are spending time focusing on their dribbling skills, and will have the opportunity to shoot on a variety of baskets.  In our older classes, we add in some defensive skills along with advanced shooting games.

We have many students that play basketball and have advanced skills.  I always encourage those students to help others that don't have as much experience.  This year, I have seen so many students help others, and it has been amazing to watch.

With younger students, we are focusing on trying to control our dribble, small passes to a wall or to a partner, and basic shooting.  Our older students have been participating in some more advanced drills.  At the end of the unit, these students will have the option to play small scrimmages or shooting games at each basket.

With the purchase of new jump ropes this year, I have been using them a lot more during classes, especially in warm-ups.  When I first started teaching in Worcester, we had jump ropes out all of the time!  It's a skill that I still teach every year, but I feel like I don't focus on it as much as I used to, and I am noticing that we have many students that are struggling with a rope.  One of my goals this year is to conduct a jump rope assessment with second grade students.  We have done our preliminary assessments, and will be integrating the ropes into more lesson plans to help improve our skills.

This week, classes will participate in an activity that I call "Fit Deck", where students are pared up around the gymnasium.  I spread out three decks of cards, faced down, around the middle of the gym.  One student runs out to grab a card, and brings it back to their partner.  Based on the suit and value, they will conduct that many of a specific exercise.  Hearts are squats, so if you retrieve a 7 of hearts, both partners conduct 7 squats before they go out to fetch a new card.  After all of the cards are collected, the partners split their total cards collected, and we play a game of Fitness War.  Two students flip their top card, and the winner takes the opponents card.  The winner also politely asks the opponent to do an exercise of their choice (5 reps).

For students in K/1, we will do the cards as well, but I remove all face cards.  Also, they don't have to do a specific exercise for a specific suit.  If they retrieve an 8 of clubs, they pick any exercise/stretch/dance move to do with their partner for 8 reps or 8 seconds.  We will still do the Exercise War game, but I will spend more time explaining, and I think it's awesome for them because we get to integrate a little math and discuss greater than/less than.

This year, I feel like we have done so many different things within our units, that I am a little behind normal schedule.  We will be looking at floor hockey, volleyball, dance, and gymnastics coming up in the next couple of months.  The rest of the winter and early spring looks packed, hopefully the snow storms keep coming on the weekends!!!


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Scooter Handball and Stations

I decided to combine a couple of different games together to create a scooter handball/basketball activity for the older students.  Scooters are awesome, and the students absolutely love using them.  I have had a ton of students approach me to tell me that they could feel the exercise that they were getting in their leg muscles!  In this activity, we have two teams playing against each other, trying to score points.  This is a throwing and catching game, and we use three balls.  The goal is to pass to teammates, to ultimately throw at a target and score.  We have three targets available to each team, a large soccer goal, a small soccer goal, and the main basketball hoop.  We give each goal a point value, but we don't really keep score here.  Providing students with three different goals is great, because we all have different skill levels.  Some students are able to score easily on the one point target, and can challenge themselves to the two and three point targets.  We have other students that stick to the one point target, and are happy to keep trying to score there, and are ultimately successful. I started this game using two balls, but found that adding the third ball really helped the flow of the game.  Sportsmanship has been awesome, and it was really great to see the team work with students passing to each other.  Nobody was concerned with who won or lost, it was just great to see them enjoying the game!

With K-2 students, we have been working on stations.  I occasionally roll out stations when I want to have them practice a variety of skills in one class period.  We have been practicing hula hoops, scooters, scoops, and tricks with scarves.  Students have been really creative in their stations, coming up with a variety of different ideas on how to use their equipment.

I have also tried a warm-up activity that I've used in the past called "follow the leader", which is a great way for students to individually lead the group in a favorite stretch, dance, or exercise.  The entire class spreads out in a large circle, and one student starts in the middle.  The student in the middle demonstrates a move, and everyone else follows along.  On the whistle, the student in the middle high fives a new students with their hand up, switching jobs.  When classes are focused, this goes really well!!

I hope that all families have a fantastic holiday season, take care!!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Pumpkin Smash!!!

Every October, I play a game called Pumpkin Smash.  When I first started teaching in Worcester, I learned the game from a co-worker.  The game has evolved a little, and I have made changes, but it's a tradition and it's one of my favorite games that we play.

This is a throwing game, with pumpkins as targets.  I used to tape three actual pumpkins to scooters for students to throw at.  This year, I decided to take a giant ball and tape it orange.  I placed a silicone cup on top, and taped that green.  We have two teams in this game, throwing from each side of the gymnasium.  The pumpkin is placed in the middle circle, and the object of the game is to smash the pumpkin across the other teams side.  At Happy Hollow, we use pre-existing lines for our boundary, and at Loker, I taped down lines for boundaries.  Students stand outside of the box to throw, but can get balls from anywhere in the gym.  I traditionally play this game with students in grades 3-5, but some 2nd grade classes will have the chance to play as well.  For kindergarten and first grade students, I am working to create a game where we use the pumpkin as well, because they think it's really cool.  Check out some of the action from this week!

Monday, October 22, 2018


We took a little break from our normal units in order to have classes participate in the PACER, which stands for:


We discuss what this means, and spend some time going over aerobic capacity.  I stress the importance of this being a laid back run, where we do the best that we can.  We also spend time talking about how we are all different, and that this is not a run where someone wins.  We also go over how important it is to cool our bodies down when we are done. 

Fifth grade students write their scores down, and create a goal for themselves when we run it again in the spring time.  They are encouraged to come up with realistic goals that they believe they can reach. 

Third and Fourth grade students will also run again in the spring, but we don’t chart our scores.  Students are encouraged to create personal goals for themselves.

First and second grade students also participate in the PACER, but they run from sideline to sideline in a modified version.  Also, we decided to do something different this year, and have them participate in a partner run.  Students paired off and would take turns doing two laps at a time.  We did not worry about missing lines, just encouraged them to go as long as they could, cooling down at the end.  I usually stop the group at a certain number, whereas the third-fifth grade students run until the last person is done.  I think that the first and second grade students really enjoyed the partner run.  This gives students a little bit of an idea on how the PACER works, and they are pumped to run the long way when they get into the third grade. 

Coming up, we will be participating in some fall themed activities.  I have a couple of brand new games that we will be playing, that I am really excited to try!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Pathways and Overhand Throwing

Many of our kindergarten and first grade students had the opportunity to participate in pathway stations, where we practices traveling in straight lines, zig-zags, and curved patterns.  We also discussed levels, traveling low and high.  We had six stations set up, and students took turns practicing their movements.  Each stations lasted about three minutes, and we rotated so that every student got to participate in all stations.  Towards the end of our session, some classes had the opportunity to pick their favorite station to go to, and some classes participated in a timed group obstacle course!

Students in grades 4 and 5 were presented with a pass/catch challenge this week.  We have been working a lot on our overhand throwing, and this was an opportunity to practice our skills.  PE Central, a popular physical education resource website, created this challenge:


The students did a really awesome job in attempting this challenge!

After our challenge, we played a game of battleship, which is very popular.  We use gymnastics mats as "ships" and each team gets eight pins to set up around their ship.  Each team has one "scuba diver" that can travel across the gymnasium, collecting balls.  The goal of the game is for teams to try and "sink" other ships by knocking their pins down.  Once a team has all eight pins knocked down, they are "sinking" and must work together to decide what other ship they are going to attach onto.  I love this game because students get a ton of opportunities to practice their throw, and play defense on their pins.  Students also have to work together to communicate jobs, who is scuba diving, guarding, and throwing.  It's a blast to see them join ships,  often times we have three ships teaming up to try and take out the one last ship!  We play music, and have a blast playing this one.  The video below has no music, but it's only because I was using my iPad to film the action.

Up Next: PACER Run

Monday, September 24, 2018

Team Building Challenge!

"Teamwork Makes The Dream Work"
During the first few P.E. classes I like to plan activities that allow me to get to know the students that I haven’t had before.  I also like to plan team-building games so that we can discuss the importance of teamwork.  I tell each class that they are a team, and to have a fun and exciting year of P.E. we all need to work together.  It is fun to hear students talk about the teams that they watch and root for, and how important teamwork is in accomplishing their goals.  

"Cross the Ocean" is an activity that I sometimes run, last year I ran the activity in the middle of the year.  There were a few classes that were having a hard time working together in certain activities, so I rolled this game out between units.  I decided to have all 2nd-5th grade students participate in this activity at the beginning of the year.  The rules and challenge level varies between grades, I adjust based on the grade level.

The students are presented with a scenario: The are on an island with a volcano erupting behind them.  They need to evacuate, and cross dangerous ocean water (the basketball court).  They can only use special stones (circle spots) to stand on in order to move to safety.  The stones can only be picked up, placed down, and handed off.  The stones can't be slid or thrown, and any student that contacts the floor without being on a stone will have the whole team restart.

We talk a lot about the importance of positive communication, sharing of ideas, keeping all teammates involved, and problem solving.  I also present this as an activity where we want all teams to succeed, there is no win for being the fastest to complete the task.  We had some absolutely amazing collaboration between classmates, and we had a couple of situations where teams broke down and had a difficult time.  We were able to reflect on these experiences, and hopefully learned a lot from the activity.

There were two over the top awesome examples of teamwork that I observed this year.  Mr. O'Donnell's grade 2 students made me so proud during their activity.  The first team that completed their task, took their circles, and ran onto the gym floor to help other teams cross the finish line.  I never see this!  This group did not care about being first, and also cared about other teams.  For second grade students, this blew me away!

The other thing that I saw this year was how many students went outside of their comfort zone to help the team.  For the older grades, when things got really difficult, they shared stones, went on rescue missions, and even piggy backed!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Welcome Back!!

I am incredibly excited for the new school year!  This first week has been awesome, students have been pumped to get back into the gymnasium, even with the super hot temperatures.

I love checking in with students on what types of adventures they went on over the summer.  I also enjoy talking with them about what they are looking forward to this school year.

One of my favorite parts of the new school year is welcoming in the kindergarten students.  It must be pretty overwhelming to have class in the gymnasium on your first day of school!  All kindergarten students that I had today did an amazing job.  My last class of the day was Mrs. Cherwinski's kindergarten crew.  It was their first day in kindergarten, and after an incredibly long and hot day, they had to deal with listening to me in the gym before dismissal.  It was my favorite class of the day! We had a blast, they were so incredibly engaged, and excited to be there.

For our 1st-5th students, we have been doing a variety of activities to help review rules.  I do a little more talking than usual during our first meeting, but we still get plenty of movement in.

One new strategy that I have implemented this year is the use of small sticker spots in the gym for home bases.  Each student (grades 1-5) will have an assigned number spot in the gym where they will go to immediately as they enter the gym.  This helps with teaching appropriate spacing and effective warmups.

After our initial meeting, classes will be presented with some team building challenges, to help highlight the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship.  Once we have the opportunity to finally meet with the Monday classes, we will try to get every class on the same page, and start updating units.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wrapping up volleyball, what's next?

For a couple of weeks in class, we take the time to participate in activities using the volleyball nets.  At both Loker and Happy Hollow, I set up two nets, going from baseline to baseline.  While this cuts down on court size, having two games open provides the students with so many more opportunities to practice and play.

Every single grade, from K-5, is introduced to the volleyball "set" and "bump"... how this is introduced and what we practice is incredibly different from grade to grade.  

Prior to practicing volleyball skills, we also play a game called "messy backyard", where students practice their overhand throwing skills, tossing over the net.  I generally run this with students in grades K/1, and for some 2nd grade classes.

Students in grades 3-5 participate in a variety of stations and drills that focus on the volleyball bump, set, and serve.  We also play a game of "newcomb", which is a catching and throwing game.  This game is great for helping teach spacing and communication between teammates.  A few groups attempted to participate in a full volleyball game, combining all of their moves, and we had some great volleys!

Prior to vacation, we have been reviewing our overhand throwing technique, and students are participating in overhand throwing activities.  Students in grades 3-5 will be participating in a game called "angleball" in the gymnasium.  This is a great team game that has students passing a small ball down the court with the goal of throwing it at a larger ball that rests on a poll.  We play this game with two smaller balls, maximizing participation.  We have already had some great contests this week, with students showing great sportsmanship!  There might be a class or two of second grade students that has the opportunity to play as well.  The majority of K-2 groups will be participation in parachute activities before we break.

I hope everyone has a great vacation, and I look forward to being able to get outside as the weather gets warmer!  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Curling In The Gym!!

I have always loved the Olympics, it's an opportunity to watch incredible athletes from all over the world compete in events that we don't always get the chance to see.  I think that the Winter Olympics are especially interesting as they happen during school days!  I have always been interested in the sport of curling, very much like shuffleboard, but on ice!  All classes have had the opportunity to "curl" in the gym.  I created curling stones along with making scoring sections of the gymnasium.  Many classes in grades 3-5 had the opportunity to participate in mini-tournaments.  Students in kindergarten used bean bags, and students in 1st and 2nd voted on what they wanted to try.  The vast majority of students voted to try the stones!

The curling stones that we have are frisbees filled with a pound of sand, cardboard tops, with a milk jug handle, duct taped to represent a team color.  Older students were taught the proper way to score, and we had some tournaments.  The younger students were taught the general concepts... but all groups were introduced to the "stones", "house", "button", and "hog line"!!

For the majority of classes, we had a live stream of the olympics on the gymnasium wall.  I am really happy with how everything went, everyone was really engaged!  Over vacation, the USA Men's Curling Team won gold, it was really cool to see!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Gymnastics & The Winter Olympics!!

I am occasionally asked by friends with kids or parents of students, "what do you recommend for a sport or activity at an early age?"  My answer is the same every time... gymnastics!!  (swimming as well, but we don't have that opportunity at school)

Gymnastics helps increase coordination, improve flexibility, and aids in strength development.  I wish that I was exposed to gymnastics at a young age!  Even though we only meet once a week, I believe that it's important to introduce basic gymnastics skills to all grades.  

We have some incredibly talented gymnasts at Loker and Happy Hollow.  I allow our trained gymnasts the opportunity to serve as coaches during our gymnastics lessons.  This has worked very well, the gymnasts have really enjoyed helping small groups of friends.  We introduce a variety of jumps, rolls, and balances.  Gymnasts with advanced training are able to showcase their special skills as well.  Older grades have the opportunity to create routines to show their classmates.  We also provide students with the opportunity to climb the rope (or swing), use the vaulting trapezoid, and monkey bars (HH).  

Another thing that I am really excited for is the Winter Olympics!  This is my first Winter Olympics while teaching in Wayland.  Next week, I will be live streaming the games onto the Happy Hollow projection screen and the Loker gym wall.  We will be participating in a variety of games related to the winter olympics, to celebrate!  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Basketball and Dance!!

Coming back from winter vacation, students in grades 2-5 have started a basketball unit.  Our kindergarten and first graders have been dancing in the gym!

In basketball classes, we have spent time practicing our dribbling, passing (chest/bounce), and shooting.  Students in grades 2/3 and 4/5 practice the same skills, but many of their activities will be different based on their level.  Fortunately, we have the ability to adjust the height of our hoops, and have a variety of different sized balls available for different skill levels.

One of their favorite shooting games to play is something I call "Spot Shot Basketball".  Students are placed in teams at one end of the gymnasium, with the first student in line starting behind a cone.  On the opposite end of the gym, we have three different sized hoops (small, medium, large).  On that side of the gym, we place down 20+ different circles.  Students take turns dribbling to a circle, taking a shot, and dribbling back to their team.  If they make a basket, they take a bean bag from the sideline, which helps them keep track of points.  At the end of the game, when they make a basket, they take the circle that they shot from.  While we do make this a competition, it's friendly competition, and we cheer for each team as they report their point total.

We are also very fortunate to have projectors available at both Loker and Happy Hollow.  At Happy Hollow, we project onto a screen, and at Loker I just use the gym wall.  I have a selection of videos that I have downloaded from youtube and GoNoodle which have students dancing along to various moves.  Some videos are from the game Just Dance, and they really love those!  We also have videos that have us following directions while moving along to the music.  This also gives us a chance to discuss spatial awareness as we move our bodies around others.  At the end of dance, students will have the opportunity to create their own little dances and have their peers dance along with them!

Basketball, Jump Ropes, and Fitness!

January has been a super exciting time in the gym, we have a lot going on! We have started a basketball unit for all grades.  Our younger ...