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!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Striking (Floor Hockey/Pillo Polo)

Hockey is one of my favorite sports to teach, play, and watch!  I have always loved the sport, and as a striking unit, I make sure that we cover it each year.  There are many different movement skills and concepts covered in our lesson plans, and the students really enjoy practicing for their mini-games.

Students in grades K-2 have been using our pillo-polo sticks, which have a handle, a shaft, and what looks like a giant q-tip on the bottom for striking.  These sticks are smaller and softer than our hockey sticks, and provide a larger surface space to hit with.  We cover stick safety, proper way to hold the stick, controlling a ball, spatial awareness, pathways, directions, and speeds.  Students practice dribbling and passing with partners along with shooting on goals.  Our kindergarten students spend more time with dribbling, and might not get to shooting, but still have a blast!  We play dribbling games that keep everyone involved and engaged.  Students in first and second grades have the opportunity to shoot on nets, and are introduced to goalie positioning and strategies.  Some classes will have he opportunity to play in mini-games.

Some grade three students will start the unit with hockey sticks, and some with pillo-polo sticks, it all depends on if I feel that they are ready for hockey sticks or not.  If a third grade class starts with pillo-polo sticks, they will ultimately play a large team game at the end of their unit, and will probably have time with the hockey sticks as well.

Fourth and fifth grade students spend time working on stick drills.  We have students practice dribbling weave drills through cones, passing/receiving, and we play shooting games to practice a safe shot.  We then move onto playing a healthy competitive team game where we focus on safety and sportsmanship.  Fourth and fifth grade students will spend a class playing a pillo-polo game at the end of the unit as well.

Everyone is working hard on developing their striking skills, and I am proud of all classes for being safe and respectful throughout our striking unit!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Wrapping up overhand throwing/catching

With a few spots of nice weather, some classes (2-5) had the opportunity to try some frisbee throwing and catching as well as play a couple of small frisbee related games.  Not all classes had this chance, and with the weather turning wet and cold, I have decided to do more of the frisbee that I had planned in the spring.  I extended the amount of time that we have been spending on overhand throwing and catching.  There are so many fun games that we can play to practice this, that the kids really enjoy!

One activity that we play is called "Super Battleship", and it's a blast!  Modeled after the board game Battleship, we create a wall in the middle of the gym.  We stand the gym mats up and extend them from side to side so that when we have two teams, they can't see the other side.  Each team gets 10 bowling pins as their "ships" that they can set up anywhere on their side as long as they are inside the court lines.  Students can play goalie on their pins, and protect them, while throwing over the mats to hit pins on the other side.  To reset a fallen pin, they can shoot at the main basketball hoop on the other side (the one thing they can see!), if they hit the backboard they can reset one pin, a made basket sets all pins back up.  If students make a catch in the air, they can bring the ball with them to the one small opening we have on the far side of the wall to have a shot at the pins or basket without having to throw over the wall.  We had an absolute blast playing Super Battleship this year!

The next sport specific unit that we will introduce is floor hockey.  The main skill that we are working on is striking with an implement.  We have hockey sticks, pillo polo sticks, and noodles that we will use with groups, depending on the grade level.  All grades will practice their skills and have the opportunity to participate in mini activities.  Depending on how the unit is going with each class, some 3-5 students will have the chance to play in full hockey games towards the end of the unit.

I am looking forward to our hockey unit, it is definitely one of my favorites!

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me: daniel_oconnor@wayland.k12.ma.us



Monday, October 23, 2017

"The Conflict Corner"

We talk a lot about the importance of "talking things out" when there is an issue between students in class.  More often than not, a minor disagreement is simply squashed by a game of rock-paper-scissors.  Sometimes we have an issue that is a little more complex, which requires students to take the time to talk things out.  Students have always been encouraged to use their words and communicate how they truly feel.  I feel that these social skills are super important to work on in class, but I also felt like I could be doing more.  

Before the start of the school year, I came across a blog post on a fellow PE teacher blog site, one that I visit often to gather and share ideas.  The title of the post was "The Conflict Corner" and was tagged under classroom management.  The concept is simple, setting up a specific area of the gymnasium where students will go to resolve any conflicts that happen during class.  When a student invites another student to the corner, they must join them, showing good sportsmanship.  Signs are posted at the conflict corner that give students step by step guidance on how to resolve their problem.  Some students won't need this as much, but it is a helpful tool for those that do.
The corner has been created at both schools, and has been used at least a dozen times.  I think that it has really helped students that need assistance in working things out.  It also allows for me to spend more time on helping students with the tasks they are working on.  I am always available for students, and want them to come to me if they have a major issue, but having them figure out solutions to minor problems on their own is incredibly valuable, and this has been a great addition to our PE classes.  

Thank you to Ben Landers at www.thePEspecialist.com for allowing me to use this idea and image!  

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

PE Update: Overhand Throwing

All classes have been working on their overhand throwing through a variety of warm-up activities and larger games.  Here is a recap of what we have been doing with each grade:

Kindergarten: We have just recently introduced throwing to classes.  With kindergarten students only having 30 minutes of physical education, each lesson seems to go incredibly fast!  We spend a lot of time on spatial awareness throughout the year.  We generally spend warm-up time moving, following directions, and working on not crashing while staying on our feet!  

We have discussed the idea of watching our target, arm positioning, and stepping with our opposite foot.  We have also spent time practicing throwing at targets on the gymnasium wall along with introducing mini games that have students getting a lot of chances to throw!

1st Grade:

Students are excited to have 45 minutes in class this year!  We review the spatial awareness concepts that we talked a lot about as kindergarteners, and practice those strategies in warm up activities.  We have also covered the overhand throw and students have been able to participate in fun throwing activities such as "pin guard", "battleship", and "Oscar's Garbage Can".  These are activities that students get a lot of movement in and a ton of practice on their throwing skills.  We have also had students spend time practicing throwing at targets and with partners, so we have talked about catching skills as well.

2nd Grade

As we know, each student is different and each classroom is different!  Second graders have participated in many of the 1st grade activities listed above, but some classes have been challenged to try some more advanced games.  The groups that do an excellent job following directions and try their hardest while being great sports will have opportunities to try games that I generally run with older grades.  In 2nd grade, I start to introduce more fitness based warm-ups using signs and spots for various exercises.  

3rd Grade - 5th Grade:

Students in grades 3-5 were given an overhand throwing assessment, which all classes competed.  We spend more time talking about arm positioning, side orientation, oppositional stepping, trunk rotation, and follow through.  

Many of the third grade classes have been introduced to basic football skills.  We have had the opportunity to throw and catch with partners and in small groups.  Some classes have practiced throwing to partners who are on the run.  All third grade classes will have the chance to play "scooter football" in the gymnasium.  

Our fourth grade classes spend a little more time on football, working on throwing in groups, and throwing and catching on the run.  Defensive concepts are discussed, students in fourth grade will also play scooter football in the gymnasium, and some classes will have the chance to go outside for flag football.

Fifth grade students spend more time on defensive concepts, and will go outside at the end of the unit for a chance to play flag football.  We have many students that either play football at recess or outside of school and are passionate about football, and understand many of the more advanced concepts and rules of the sport.  Unfortunately, we only meet once a week, and like many sports, we I can't cover every little detail!  At the end of our unit I provide students with different options.  Students are not required to play flag football.  For students that are interested in playing a competitive (healthy) game, I have that as an option.  For students that want to learn more about the game, I have a "new to the game" flag football option.  I also create an activity for students using footballs that is completely different from a football game.  

Most classes are at the tail end of our football unit, and it has been a lot of fun!  Our younger students have been having a blast with their throwing games, and will be using a variety of balls, but not footballs quite yet!  

Before I end this update, I wanted to post a quick share.  I have an application on my phone called "Team Shake" that helps create small station groups or even two large teams for classes.  It is an amazing tool to have available for class!  All of the students know about it and understand the process.  Last week, in Mr. O'Donnell's 2nd grade class at Loker, I used it to create partners for a fitness activity.  When I read each pair of students and gave them their assigned spots, the rest of the class gave each student a standing ovation as they went to their spots.  They weren't prompted to do this, it was so organic and awesome.  The smiles on each face as they trotted over to their fitness circle were priceless.  It was five minutes of the day, but it absolutely made my day/week/month. 


Mr. O

Thursday, September 28, 2017



My name is Dan O'Connor, and I am a physical education teacher at both Loker and Happy Hollow elementary schools.  A couple of years ago I switched from a blog to a regular website, and I think I'd like to get back into blogging!  This is a much better way for me to share some of the awesome things that we do in PE at both schools.

We also very fortunate to have Shelly Fraser lead six classes (three at each school).  Shelly is an amazing PE teacher who is also an adaptive PE teacher who services students at each school in the district!

Going into my fourth year in Wayland, I feel great about the direction of the physical education program at the elementary school level.  I am grateful to have Shelly and Danielle LeBaron (Claypit Hill PE Teacher) to collaborate with.  We are often sharing ideas, helping each other create the best lessons that we can.  We also stick to a similar yearly plan, making sure that all students are working on similar skills and concepts.

I will be using this blog to share information about units and lesson plans along with examples of star classrooms and uplifting stories.  There are many amazing things that happen in our gymnasiums and it will be nice having the opportunity to share a few of them with you!

If you have any questions for me throughout the course of the year, please e-mail me anytime:




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 ...