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!