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Team Building and Other Non-Traditional Activities can Enhance Your Physical Education Program

My goal is to continue to learn more unique, cooperative activities to enhance my physical education curriculum and provide a more inviting social emotional learning environment in my class.

Mark Roucka | @dr_roucka
April 20,  2020

My decision to get into physical education as a career was easy because being active and healthy is very important to me. I spent a few years in the health club industry, but found teaching and coaching to be my passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else for a career; the best reward is seeing one of my students find success.

Twitter has been very helpful in helping me enhance my teaching methods and make my classes more welcoming and enjoyable to all students. Over the last couple of years I have found an outstanding Twitter Professional Learning Network (PLN) of great teachers in Illinois, the United States and many other countries around the world. Having access to great teachers has helped me and my teaching and I am happy to say I know some teachers who are using some of my activities.

In my district, we teach and practice the typical team games (i.e. basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, etc.). However, the longer I’ve been teaching, the more I notice a greater skill disparity amongst my students. There are talented and naturally gifted athletes for whom physical education comes easy to them and they enjoy it, and  it’s the best part of their day. Then there are the “not so athletic” kids… the ones who prefer to stand on the side and hope the ball doesn’t come to them. These are the kids that don’t like physical education class. These are the students I am trying to reach. These are the students I have in mind when lesson planning. My favorite phrase to hear from a student after an activity is, “Wow! That activity was fun!”

Physical Education Game Ideas

One of our more popular activities that we do is Basketball Golf. This is an activity where the students focus on shooting the basketball rather than the competitive aspect of the game. I set different three poly spots at each basket in our gym. Our gym has eight baskets which makes for a 24 hole “course.” The students get a scorecard, a pencil and a basketball and with a group of three to four students, work their way around the gym practicing their shooting.

Flag football can be a difficult activity for most of our students. There are many students that have trouble throwing and catching a football. To address these skill deficits, I have been able to modify my football curriculum so that it will be able to level the playing field for our students. One of my favorite modifications is a game called Eraser Football. The class is split into two teams and every player has a flag belt. Each team starts in the opposite end zone. The offensive team gets a pencil eraser (you can use any small object that the students can hide in their hand). One person from the offensive has the eraser. On the start signal both teams run towards each other. The defensive team triesto pull flags from the offensive team while the offensive tries to avoid having their flags pulled. If the player with the eraser makes it across the opposite goal line, the offensive team scores a point. If the defensive team pulls the player’s flag that has the eraser, then no point is scored. One of the major benefits of this activity is that it allows for every student to be successful.

We’ve been playing a game at our school for years that we simply call Walter Payton. It is basically a game of one offensive player against six defensive players. In one end zone you line up six cones spaced about 20-25 feet apart. Each cone should have approximately 4-6 students (depending on class size) behind it. Thirty yards down from the line of cones there is a single cone with about 4-5 students each with a flag belt. The football is thrown or kicked to the first person in line with a flag belt. When the ball is touched the first person in line at the six cones in the end zone runs toward the student with the football and will try to run into the end zone to score a touchdown. If that person scores a touchdown they go back to the cone in the middle of the field. If the person running with the football has their flag pulled, the person who pulled the flag takes their place.

Team Building

I have had a great deal of success with team building over the years and I have been able to implement a number of unique and fun activities that challenge my students. One of the first things I teach is what I call the five finger contract. I point to each finger on my hand from my pinkie to my thumb and go through the five characteristics that make team building successful. The students must be safe, be committed, be respectful, be positive and have fun.

There are way too many team building activities for me to mention but I will share two of my favorites. My classes and I really enjoy Head, Shoulders, Knees, Cone. Have students stand across from a partner with a cone directly in between them. Students put their hands on their head, shoulders or knees when they are called. If they hear the word “cone”, they need to be the first one to grab it.

One activity that requires no equipment is an activity called “Pulling Carrots.”  The class lies on the floor on their stomach in a circle and locks elbows. One lone student (the “rabbit”) tries to pull a carrot (student) from the bunch on the ground. If a carrot is pulled, that carrot becomes a rabbit and helps pull more carrots.

My goal is to continue to learn more unique, cooperative activities to enhance my physical education curriculum and provide a more inviting social emotional learning environment in my class. I intend to share anything I do in my classes with any teacher who asks me. The sharing of ideas among teachers is critical for our students, and I believe that is the only way we will become better educators.

My name is Mark Roucka and I am a junior high school physical education and health teacher at District 203 in Naperville, IL. This is my 19th year in District 203. I previously taught high school chemistry for seven years at a private school in Lombard, IL and I also spent one year as a junior high school physical education teacher in Downers Grove, IL. I am also the head boys cross country and track coach at my current school, Lincoln Junior High. I have been a cross country and track coach at the high school and junior high levels for 24 years but I have also coached football, basketball and baseball.

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