Blowing Off S.T.E.A.M. in Physical Education: Make Your Own Jump Rope

The year was 1995, my first year teaching physical education in a public school in Washington, DC. I was young and inexperienced yet eager to make a difference in the lives of my students. During my first weeks of school I was informed by the principal that the school had an annual tradition of participating in the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser. This was great news. Not only would we be raising money for a great cause, but my students would have the opportunity to enhance a skill combining fitness and coordination. With this, I set out a goal to help improve my 3rd-5th grade students’ ability to jump rope. I allotted time during each class for them to practice.  I also encouraged them to jump rope at home with their own ropes.

(Click Blowing Off STEAM in PE for an editable copy of the challenge!)

Much to my surprise, I soon realized that more than half my students didn’t have their own jump ropes, and unfortunately, with a limited budget, I didn’t have enough ropes to loan them. Jokingly, I mentioned to one of my 4th grade classes, “I guess you’ll just have to make your own.”

With unexpected delight, the very next day, one student walked into class with a jump rope she had made at home. Amanda proudly pulled from a plastic bag a jump rope completely made of rubber bands. I was so impressed with Amanda’s  “no excuses” mentality.  After Amanda shared her creation with her classmates, a second girl, Bronwyn, said she too made her own jump rope but needed to retrieve it from her classroom.  When she returned, she unveiled her creation made of large paperclips.

I’ll never forget Amanda and Bronwyn for their determination to improve their jump rope skills. They were prime examples of the old adage, where there’s a will there’s a way.

STEAM 2

22 years later, I still remain inspired by Amanda and Bronwyn. I’ve decided to challenge my students in 1st-6th grades to make their own jump ropes by presenting them with a S.T.E.A.M. challenge.

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STOPWATCH – The Great Motivator

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“What is the one piece of equipment you must have as a physical education teacher?” This is a question that frequently comes up on social media or through casual conversation with peers. I love having great music in the gym. Students respond well to an updated playlist on a kicking sound system. Equipment like hula hoops and swim noodles are so versatile, with countless fitness, cooperative, and competitive applications. And of course, there are jump ropes. Jumping rope is like riding a bike, every child should be able to do it.  However, without hesitation, my answer is a stopwatch. I couldn’t imagine teaching PE without my Timex watch.

I remember when my own three children were young, very young. They were 6, 5, and 3 years old when I created a backyard obstacle course for them. The set up was not fancy and rather simple. They’d playfully run through the course, taking their time crawling under, jumping over, climbing through and sprinting across a variety of obstacles before crossing a finish line. Eventually they would grow bored of the sequence of prepositional challenges. That is, until I introduced them to my stopwatch. “How fast can you get through the course? I’ll time you.” Immediately, this simple question changed the level of competition in the Cahill household forever. My kids were obsessed with attempting to set a new personal best, then later with beating each other’s record. To this day, now 14, 13, and 11 years old, my kids still enjoy being timed, whether its crushing a mountain bike course, running the bases, or swimming a lap in the pool. “Can you time me to see how long it takes me to get ready for bed?”

Our students are equally motivated by a stopwatch. At Trinity School, we discuss the importance of the personal best rather than comparing oneself to the other students. (However, we’re not naïve to the natural instinct to see how you stack up to your peers.) “How many times can you and a partner toss and catch a disc successfully in 45 seconds?” “How long can you hold a plank?” “Can you touch the four walls of the gym in less than 10 seconds?” “When I say go, you have 35 seconds to pick up all the equipment, place it in its correct container, then line up quietly.” Often, during my morning running program, students will ask, “Can you time me to see how long it takes me to run a lap?”

Along with the above examples, there are countless other ways to motivate students using a stopwatch throughout each and every day. Below you will find two of my all time favorite uses for a stopwatch.

My Top Two Favorite Stopwatch Challenges

1.  The 150 Lap Challenge (adjust the number of laps based on class size, age level, and lap distance)

Along with a little pep talk on teamwork, this challenge is sure to get your students amped up to run. The goal is for the class, as a team, to complete 150 laps as quickly as possible. It’s even more motivational if you have the capability to connect an iPad timer to a projector so the students can watch the seconds tick by.  However, I promise they’ll be energized if you use your stopwatch like me. I tally their cumulative laps and give updates along the way. “25 laps completed…75 laps completed…150 laps complete…etc.  Once they hit 150 laps, I stop the clock and give them their time.  I’ll log their score for a future 150 lap challenge.  Sometimes, I’ll post each class’ score in the gym. This sets up some friendly class versus class competitions for the future.

2.  Beat the Clock

I religiously use this game to reinforce signals and formations throughout the year. First, I’ll ask the class to perform a certain locomotor skill. On a given signal (music, whistle, etc.) the students stop, look, and listen. I’ll then give the class a task to complete in set amount of time. “You have 10 seconds to form a perfect circle around me.” “You have 12 seconds to quietly line up at the door in boy, girl formation.” “You have 7 seconds to stand in your own personal space.” As the year progresses I give them less time and/or more complicated challenges.  After each challenge I’ll playfully give a score update. The class receives a point if they “beat the clock, and I receive one if they don’t.  You won’t regret this challenge, especially the first several weeks of school.

Bonus Game: Omnikin Beachball Challenge

This is a quick challenge to attempt to keep the ball in the air as long as possible. I always ask the class to shoot for a personal best, but also give them the school record for added motivation.  After three or four initial attempts, the group will sit in a circle to discuss what worked and what didn’t work. This is where they come up with a strategy to hopefully beat their personal record.

You may be thinking about all the fancy timer applications you can find on your devices. One particular favorite is the Tabata Pro timer, which has countless features. I have it and use it frequently. But there’s something real and challenging about a good old-fashioned stopwatch strapped to your wrist, ready to BEEP! It’s always there for you, it never has to be charged, and it is so very easy to use.

After reading this post, how long will it take you to comment on how you challenge your students with a stopwatch in your classes?

Ready, set, GO!


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September’s Back to School Fitness Challenge

Once again this year, I’ll be creating a monthly take-home fitness challenge for my students. The goal is to introduce a variety of exercises and routines that are quick, easy, and fun to perform, yet challenging enough to increase heart rates and help build strength. Ultimately, promoting lifelong fitness and its countless health related benefits will hopefully be a main take away for our students and families.

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For the month of September, students will be challenged with an AMRAP (as many repetitions as possible). I will spend the week prior to the challenge discussing the workout and practicing the four exercises that make up the AMRAP during PE class. This allows me to help them with form before setting them off to do the workout at home. I also encourage the students to teach their parents the workout. Many parents inform me that they too take the monthly challenges!

For an editable copy, click Back to School Challenge.


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P.E. Games – Inspired by Students

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Have you ever observed your students while at recess? I mean really taken the time to walk around and soak in all the different areas of the playground to get a feel for how students are taking advantage of their precious free time.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post called, Recess: Lessons from the Playground, “From a teacher’s perspective, recess duty is an opportunity to watch students grow physically, emotionally, and socially, in an unstructured environment.  It’s a time when we put the plan book away and allow PLAY to provide the lesson.”

Kids are constantly adapting rules, making teams, problem solving, exploring, and creating new games and activities.  In my opinion, students learn valuable skills in this type of unstructured, self-guided environment.

How can I take advantage of this powerful learning tool as a physical education teacher? 

Within my curriculum, I set aside days where students have the opportunity to explore and create.  I’ll set up seven stations, each with its own set of equipment.  I’ll divide the class into small groups, then send each group to one of the stations.  For three minutes per rotation, students work collaboratively to develop an activity using the given equipment.

On many occasions, groups will come up with the obvious ideas for games. For example, if a station has a pile of hoops, students will individually spin the hoop on various body parts.  This is fine, since they are using the hoop, they are moving, and most likely, their wheels are turning, thinking of something else to try.  Other groups may dig deeper into their cognition and build an elaborate hula hoop fortress with an accompanying story, while other students use the hoops as stepping stones to cross a toxic river.

The Magic of Floor Ball

Recently, as one of the exploration stations, I spread out three cones in a row, each connected with jump ropes.  Along the wall I placed a gator skin ball, three foam paddles, and a foam tennis ball.  I figured each group would use the paddles and the foam tennis ball to volley over the net.  To my surprise, the very first group developed what they called Floor Ball in just three minutes.  The rules were so simple.  The object of the game was to strike the ball under the rope, past the opposing player to receive a point.  Brilliant!

The next group must have been intrigued by the first group, as they decided to build on the rules. In doing so, they added the “two touch” rule.  A player could block the ball (one touch) then strike it (second touch) under the net.  They also added a special rule for games of two players versus one.  If playing as a single player, you can strike the ball to the left or the right of the center cone.  Teams of two had to stand side by side and could only strike the ball through their side of the center cone.  What a great way to balance the two player advantage!  Again, genius!

Floor ball continued to evolve throughout the class, with each group devising their own set of unique rules.

Scoop Shoes – another 1st grade creation enjoyed by all our students.

Another exploration station consisted of a three plastic scoops, three yarn balls, a plastic pool, and several hula hoops.  Again, in only three minutes, a group of 1st grade students created Scoop Shoes.  Based on horse shoes, the three students set up their hoops in a triangle.  Each player stood behind their own hoop.  One player at a time would underhand toss the yarn ball with the scoop to the hoop to their right.  Two points are scored when a ball lands inside the hula hoop and one point is scored when the ball stops less than a scoops length away from the hoop.  Beautiful!  Yet another student-created game I can share with the rest of my students!

So next time you are on the playground, walk around and watch the creative, young minds at work.  You’ll be sure to witness the pervasive benefits unstructured play provides for children, and the amazing value it will add to your curriculum.


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8 Group Games Using SCOOPS in PE

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Plastic Scoops.  They sit in our equipment closet year after year waiting patiently for their turn, their shot at a lesson plan titled:  SCOOP SKILLS!  Yet, there they remain with very limited use. Occasionally, I will take them out, blow the dust off of them, and practice some basic throwing and catching challenges.  Soon after, I place them back on the shelf with a little guilt, (think Toy Story) and move on to the next unit.

Recently, I was scrolling through social media and stumbled across a post requesting ideas for scoops.  Many of the teachers commented that they too were searching for scoop lessons, while others shared creative ideas and challenges.  Inspired by this post, I decided to brainstorm, tweak, and implement some group activities using this underutilized manipulative.  Here are a few of the games we’ve enjoyed the last couple of weeks.  I hope you too are able to look beyond the basketballs and hula hoops in your equipment room, pull the scoops off of your shelves, and give them a chance to play!

Scoop Shoes

Scoop Shoes is based on the backyard game horse shoes.  Place two hula hoops at least ten feet apart.  Opposing players stand behind their hoop.  Each player takes turns tossing a yarn ball into the opposing hoop.  I encourage students to use the underhand throwing motion.  If the ball stops inside the hoop, the player is awarded two points. One point is awarded for a ball that stops less than a scoop length away from the hoop. Players use the scoop to measure the distance.  With larger groups, we play games of two versus two.

Sink the Ship/Walk the Plank

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Four ships are set up in each of the four corners of your space with the following equipment: 4 smoke stacks (foam cylinders), cannon (scoops) for each pirate, rowboat (scooter), and a plank (foam beam).  The above picture shows the initial set-up.

The goal of the game is to knock out each of the opposing teams’ smoke stacks in order to sink their ship.  Each ship’s crew must use the scoops to fire cannonballs (foam and yarn balls) at the other ships. Crew members must stay on the ship.  If a crew member falls into the water, he must swim (run) one lap around the perimeter. One crew member is designated to use the row boat.  This player’s only duty is to retrieve cannonballs that are floating in the ocean and return them to their ship. The crew can also use their plank to retrieve cannonballs.  The plank can be dropped into the water anywhere around the ship.  If a pirate catches a cannonball shot by another ship, she can stand up one of her fallen smoke stacks.  As soon as one of the four ships loses all of its smoke stacks, the round is over.  The ship with the most remaining smoke stacks wins the round.  Each crew then rotates clockwise to the next ship, and the next round begins.

When Mars Attacks

Two teams each set up three swimming pools (UFOs) at different distances and heights. Each UFO has 4 battery cells (foam cylinders) for its energy source to travel through the galaxy.  Each player uses scoops and yarn balls/foam tennis balls as lasers in an attempt to knock down the opposing team’s battery cells.  If a battery cell is knocked over, the student can cross the midline into the other team’s galaxy to retrieve the battery. That battery cell can be placed on one of their ships, making them stronger.  If a student catches a ball throw by an opposing player, he earns the right to retrieve a battery cell from the other team.

One Bounce ULTIMATE

One Bounce Ultimate has similar rules to traditional Ultimate.  The goal of the game is for the offensive team to advance a plastic ball into their end zone by catching and throwing with plastic scoops.  To increase the excitement and level of success, I allow the ball to bounce once.  Therefore, a ball must be caught in the air or on one bounce in order for the offense to maintain possession. If the ball is dropped and bounces more than once, the defensive team gains possession. The defense may not knock the ball out of an offensive player’s scoop. When the offense catches the ball in the end zone, they receive one point.  The defensive team immediately runs the ball to midfield to continue the game.

Quadrant Bucket Ball

Divide the playing area into quadrants. Place a smaller bucket inside a larger bucket in the back corner of each quadrant.  In the video you’ll see that I place a plastic tub inside a larger swimming pool.  Divide your class into four teams. Each team reports to a different quadrant.  The goal of the game is to toss balls (yarn balls, foam tennis balls, small stuffed animals) into ANY of the opposing team’s buckets.  Each team can defend their buckets by blocking balls thrown by the opposing teams. Any ball that lands in a bucket MUST stay in the bucket until the end of the round.  If a player catches a ball thrown from another team, he may deliver it to any one of the opposing team’s bucket. At the end of a round, I stop the music and yell, “STOP and DROP!” On this signal all students must immediately sit without throwing another ball.  Any ball thrown after the signal is added to the bucket of the team who threw the ball.  Balls in the large bucket equal one point while balls in the smaller bucket equal two points. The team with the MOST points in its buckets LOSES the round.

Jai Alai lead up game

My students love this scaled down version of the world’s fastest game, Jai Alai.  Arrange students in groups of three.  Each group finds a section of wall to throw the ball against using their cesta (scoop).  Two of the three players play first while the third player waits and referees.  The player who begins with the ball, throws it against the wall.  The ball must strike the wall above the six feet line on gymnasium wall.  You can use tape to mark this height.  The ball must be caught on the fly or on the first bounce by the opposing player.  If successful, this player immediately throws the ball against the wall.  If a player is unable to catch a serve, he steps off the court to become referee.  The third players now enters the game and play continues.  The first of the three payers to score seven points wins the round. Be sure to click the link above to learn more about Jai Alai.

Catch 3

Catch three is a great game to teach movement without the ball and quick decision making.  Make teams of three to five players.  Smaller teams increase the number of touches per player.  The goal of the game is for each team to make three consecutive catches without dropping the ball (I allow the ball to bounce once).  When a team is able to do this, they receive one point.  The opposing team then receives the ball. Any time a ball bounces more than once or the offensive team is unable to make a catch, it is considered a turnover and the defense immediately gains possession.  The defense may NOT knock the ball out of an offensive player’s scoop.

Hooper Scooper

Divide the class into two teams.  Spread out 8-10 hula hoops on each side.  The goal of the game is to underhand toss beanbags into the opposing team’s hoops.  If a beanbag lands inside a hoop, it can NOT be removed.  The only exception is if a player catches a beanbag that has been tossed by the opposing team.  The player making the catch is rewarded by being able to remove one beanbag from any hoop.  When the teacher calls “BASELINE!”, all students must race to their end line and take a seat. One point is subtracted from a team’s score for every beanbag tossed after the signal.   I sometimes grant a bonus point for the first team seated at their baseline.

Please share some of your favorite ideas for scoops in the comment section!


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April’s “Eat for Hydration” Challenge

With the warmer weather approaching, I’ve been taking some time during class to speak with my students about the benefits of drinking water.  We’ve discussed why water is the best option for hydration, and why some juices, soft drinks, and sports drinks can be more harmful than good if consumed in excess.  I also encouraged my students to identify and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables which are high in water content. Along with assisting in the hydration process, fruits and vegetable also provide us with needed vitamins and minerals.  These discussions inspired me to create April’s “Eat for Hydration” Challenge.  I hope you can use the challenge with your students and families.

Click April’s Eat for Hydration Challenge for an editable copy of this challenge and the “Eat for Hydration” calendar.

Hydration is the process of replacing water in the body. You do this by drinking water throughout each day. The amount of water you need depends on your age, size, how active you are, and the temperature outside. For example, if you play soccer on a warm summer day, your body will need even more water to replace the water you lose from sweating.

Benefits of drinking water

Recommended Daily Amount of Water

Age Range Total Water (Cup/Day)
4-8 years 5 cups
9-13 years 7-8 cups
14-18 years 8-11 cups

Source:  Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

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You can also “Eat Your Hydration.” Many of the fruits and vegetables we eat daily contain over 85% water! This means we can eat to help our bodies stay hydrated. Fruits and vegetables also have the bonus of providing our bodies with essential vitamins and minerals. Check out this list of healthy snacks made up of more than 85% water, and read on for the challenge.

Fruit/Vegetable % Water by Weight
Apple 85%
Bell Pepper 92%
Blueberries 85%
Cabbage 93%
Cantaloupe 90%
Carrots 87%
Cauliflower 92%
Celery 96%
Cucumber 96%
Mixed Greens 94%
Orange/Grapefruit 87%
Pear 87%
Pineapple 87%
Radishes 95%
Raspberries 87%
Raw Broccoli 91%
Spinach 91%
Star Fruit 91%
Strawberries 92%
Tomato 95%
Watermelon 92%
Zucchini 95%

The “Eat for Hydration” Challenge

  1. Refer to the recommended daily amount of water table above.
  2. Drink the recommended number of cups of water for your age each day.
  3. Eat at least one serving of vegetables and at least one serving of fruit from the list of fruits and vegetable consisting of more than 85% water. This will help you stay hydrated while also providing you with needed vitamins and minerals. Please note that kids need about 6-7  total servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  4. Log your total cups of water and hydrating fruits and vegetables consumed daily on your “Eat for Hydration” calendar.
  5. Turn in your calendar at the end of the month to receive your award certificate and toe token.

HYDRATION CHALLENGE


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If You Build IT, They Will RUN!

The above clip from my favorite movie all time, Field of Dreams, still gives me chills every time I see it.  “If you build it, he will come,” is a famous quote from the 1989 classic.  Watch the movie if you’re intrigued.

If You Build It, They Will Run!

I was recently reflecting on my job as a physical education teacher.  Specifically I thought about what it takes to get students motivated for exercise and movement. About three years ago, my school was fortunate enough to build a beautiful track around our playground. Parents, teachers, and students flocked to the track every chance they had to walk, run, and race around the 1/7 mile oval.  Building on this enthusiasm, we opened the track to students, teachers and parents before school for a morning movement program called Every Lap Counts.  Three years later the program is as strong as every with hundreds of students participating.

Riding the wave of excitement we decided to start an afternoon running club called Fast and Fit.  Each school year Fast and Fit has a separate fall and spring season.  To date each season has averaged about 110 students.

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Fast and Fit

If You Build It They Will Run! 

What exactly is “it?”  Initially, the track was deservedly receiving all the glory, all the credit for our highly successful movement programs.  Then I began to realize that even before the track was a thought, we had a program called the Trinity Track Club each spring.  Trinity Track Club, which still exists, meets three consecutive Friday’s after school.  The club’s goal is to train our student’s for a local run called the Peachtree Junior while educating them on pace, hydration, and preparation.  Again, each year we’d average about 100 runners. There was no track, but a challenging and fun team atmosphere that kids crave.

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Trinity Fun Run/Walk

I soon realized that “it” was not just the track.  “It” refers to opportunity and programming.  If we, the educators and coaches, provide quality programs and opportunities for our students, then they will be drawn to participate.  The same goes for our physical education programs.  If we design challenging fitness opportunities and implement our curriculum with fun, dynamic drills and games then our students will be motivated.  It just takes effort, creativity, and trial and error on our part.  If you build it, they will run!   If we provide opportunity and quality, well-thought out programs, then our students will be motivated to participate.  If WE build it, they will run!


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“Jumping Through March” Fitness Challenge

 

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The Jumping Through March fitness challenge is all about jumping and building core strength. This daily exercise routine consists of two parts.

Click March Fitness Challenge for an editable copy of “Jumping through March!”

 Part One – JUMPING

  • Choose either to complete jumping jacks or jump rope. Both exercises are an awesome way to increase your heart rate. If you are just learning to jump rope, you can begin each workout with jump rope, and then finish with jumping jacks. Combining the exercises is perfectly fine.
  • Choose Level 1 or Level 2. Each level consistently increases in repetitions each day. Notice that level 2 is more challenging than 1. You may switch levels at any point based on your level of fitness. Remember, if you find that you’re barely breaking a sweat, increase the repetitions at your own rate each day.
  • Complete the number of repetitions on the calendar each day. For example, on March 1, you will complete 25 jumping jacks/rope turns for level 1 or 75 jumping jacks/rope turns for level 2. If you miss a day, simply pick up where you left off.

Part Two – PLANK CHALLENGE

  • Hold a plank pose for as long as you can each day. You can choose either a traditional low plank or a high plank.
  • Try to increase your maximum time each day. Throughout the month your core strength will increase as long as you put in the work and push yourself!
  • Log your time. Each day you complete the plank challenge, be sure to add your time to the calendar so you can track your progress.

Click March Fitness Challenge for an editable document of the fitness challenge!

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Turn in your calendar to your PE coach at the end of the month to earn an award certificate and a fitness charm! Good luck!

 


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Simple Coffee Can Games for PE

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I began my teaching career in the Washington, DC public school system back in 1995.  I worked at a small elementary school with an even smaller budget for supplies and equipment. Each year I was allotted $200.00 to purchase and replace equipment including recess balls.  Countless teachers are annually faced with a similar financial dilemma.  They are challenged to delve into their creative minds in search of resources to ensure that students reap the benefits of a quality educational experience.

 Only after a brief amount of time as a physical education teacher, I discovered one such practical, inexpensive resource.  COFFEE CANS!  Despite going from aluminum to plastic, and the assortment of shapes and sizes throughout the years, two things remain constant, durability and functionality.  My classes would use them as stepping stones in cooperative games, create coffee can stilts to use as a locomotor station, and as drums for rhythm stick routines.  Using coffee cans also allowed me the opportunity to reinforce and encourage the reduce, reuse, recycle concept.  

To this day, despite working at an amazing school with ample resources, I still incorporate coffee can games into my curriculum.  Here are few of my all-time favorites:

The Percolator/ Partner Percolator

Percolator is an opportunity for students to work individually and with a partner on hand-eye coordination.  As shown in the video, the object is to repeatedly strike the ball ( Lite Flight Softballs) in the air using the bottom of the coffee can.  Once the students masters the basics, they can advance to more challenging tasks at their own pace.  Such challenges include:

  • Striking with different parts of the can
  • Consecutive strikes challenge
  • Striking then catching the ball
  • Tossing the ball up from inside the can (serving) before striking.
  • Partner striking

Just when I think I’ve seen every possible percolator challenge, a students will surprise me with something new.

Strikeball Junior

Strikeball junior can be played cooperatively and competitively.

Cooperatively: The object of the game is for partners to pass a ball back and forth using the bottom of the coffee can.  For each successful catch, they receive a point.  I usually with have a series of one-minute challenges. “How many catches can you and your partner make in one minute?”  Another way to play strikeball cooperatively is to challenge partners to count the number of consecutive catches they can make.

Competitively: The object of the competitive version of strikeball junior is for serving player to throw a ball off the bottom of the can so the opposing player in unable to catch it.  The serving player can throw the ball off the can from any distance.  The ball must hit the bottom of the can cleanly.  If the server throws the ball off side or edge of the can or completely misses the can, a point is award to the opposing player.  If the ball is cleanly served, the opposing player must catch the ball. If the ball is caught, that player returns the ball by throwing it off the bottom of the can. Play continues until the ball eventually hits the ground.  Points are NOT awarded for catches.  The player receiving the point earn the right to serve.  First player to seven wins the game.

The Race to 2 – Sportsmanship Game

One of my favorite “coffee can” games is the Race to 2 (Race to 3 for older students).  Before the students arrive I set up the cans throughout the gym, each with two hollow plastic balls.  When students enter the gym, they immediately pair up and go to a coffee can.  The object of the game is to be the first to bounce a ball into the can three times.  Once a match is over, each player MUST shake hands and say, “good game.”  Each player then finds a new player to challenge.  I use this activity as a way to reinforce SPORTSMANSHIP with my students.  It also happens to be an all-time favorite among students.

Espresso (End Zone)

End Zone keeps students moving while enhancing teamwork, hand-eye coordination, and strategic thinking.  Each set of partners has one coffee can and on ball.  The goal is to successfully pass the ball across the gym.  Beginning on the end line, one partner has the ball and the other has the coffee can.  The partner with the coffee can runs out in the direction of the the opposite end line or end zone.  This partner needs to choose a distance that’s not too far for the throwing partner.  The throwing partner then tosses the ball while the partner holding the coffee can attempts to catch it.  For younger students, I allow a one bounce rule. The partners switch roles at the point of each successful catch.  If the ball is dropped, then the ball goes back to the spot of the last successful catch.  When partners catch a ball in the end zone, they receive one point, then sprint back to the beginning to try again.

Coffee Can Points Challenge -Level 1

Coffee Can Points Challenge -Level 2

Using either cones, poly spots, or the lines in your gym, mark off four catching zones.  The size of each zone is determined by the age and/or ability of your students.  Each zone has a point value.  Zone one equals 2 points, zone 2 equals 4 points, zone 3 equals 6 points, and zone 4 equals 8 points.  With a partner, students line up behind the throwing line, which is the edge of zone one.  One the signal, one partner runs out to one of the zones with a coffee can.  The other partner tosses a ball from the throwing line.  If the partner with the coffee can catches the ball, they are awarded points based on the zone where the ball is caught. If the ball is caught on one bounce, partners receive half the point value per zone.  So instead of receiving 6 points for zone 4, partners will earn 3 points.   No points are awarded if the ball is dropped.  After each throw, partners switch roles.

I always play multiple rounds.  Between rounds each set of partners has an opportunity to discuss strategy.  Specifically, what worked and what didn’t work, and how they can adjust their strategy for subsequent rounds.

Coffee Can Hot Spots

I like to play this game during my underhand tossing unit.  Students are partnered up around the outside perimeter.  The goal of the game is to collect as many dome cones as possible.  One partner sprints out to a cone while holding the coffee can.  Partner two tosses a ball out to partner one.  If partner one catches the ball inside the coffee can, he picks up the cone and returns it to partner two.  Then each partner switches roles.  With my younger groups, I allow the ball to bounce.  I often play this as a whole group cooperative challenge.  How long will it take the class to clear all the cones?

Freedom to Explore and Create Coffee Can Games

Throughout the school year, I’ll set up a variety of stations for my students.  One station will usually consist of placing various pieces of equipment to challenge the students to create a new game.  Student never cease to amaze me in what they discover!


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10 Turbo-Charged Basketball Activities

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Basketball Tabata

This Tabata-style workout will increase heart rates while strengthening core muscles.  Students will exercise for 20 seconds, then rest for 10.  My students will complete multiple rounds depending on age and ability.

Recommended age: 3rd-12th Grades

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Basketball Tabata in Action

Dynamic Dribbling Lines

Dribbling lines are nothing new to many PE teachers.  After all, they’re an awesome tool for improving ball control while changing speed and direction, using both hands.  Here are three more ideas to add to your line dribbling arsenal.

Recommended ages: 1st-12th Grades

Basketball Stations

Basketball stations can be a great culminating activity for your basketball unit.  They also give you an opportunity to assess your students.  Below are a list of station we recently presented to our classes.  The eight stations focused on passing, shooting, dribbling and fitness with a dash of competition!

Recommended ages: 3rd-12th Grades (with modifications)

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Basketball Stations in Action

4-Corner Passing Challenge

4-Corner Passing is one of my favorite drills.  Set up a square of cones.  One defender stands in the center of the square.  The other three players are on offense.  The goal of the offense is to pass the ball around the square without the defender stealing it.  A pass can only be made to an adjacent corner.  Therefore a diagonal pass is NOT allowed.  The offense needs to move quickly by sliding from corner to corner.

Recommended ages: 4th-12th Grades

Dribble Pass Exchange – Level 1

The Dribble Pass Exchange can be modified to fit various ages.  Set up a square of cones.  The size of the square is determined by ability.  Two students stand in diagonal corners.  On the signal, students continuously pass the ball to each other.  Following each pass, each student trades places.  The student who passes the ball sprints to the opposite corner while the student who receives the pass dribbles to the opposite corner.  To differentiate for advanced players, I will have the student without the ball stop in the center of the square in a defensive stance (she will NOT try to steal the ball).  The player dribbling to the opposite corner must do a crossover, spin dribble, or dribble through the legs in order to get around the defender.

Recommended ages: 1st-6th Grades

Dribble Pass Exchange – Level 2

Level 2 has the same set up.  Once each student passes or receives the ball, they each move clockwise to the next corner.  Upon hearing a whistle, students change direction, moving counterclockwise.  Encourage students to use both dominant and non dominant hands.

Recommended ages: 1st-6th Grades

Rainbow Light Basketball

A huge thank you to my colleague, Coach Jedd Austin (@jeddaustin) for this exciting game. Rainbow Light Basketball is derived from the game Red Light, Green Light.  However, this game has countless colors and lights, each determining a specific movement.  It challenges students to think quickly while associating the color of the light to the appropriate movement.  The game includes multiple colors and other lights including Disco Light, Rock and Roll Light, Sunlight, and Super Light.  You can create your own lights and movements.  Be sure to check out some of ours in the link below.

Recommended ages: 1st-5th Grades

Constant Dribble Challenge

One of my goals during the basketball unit is to keep a ball in the hands of my students at all times.  Constant Dribbling Challenge is one of my games that does just that.  Set up a square of cones.  One student dribbles in the center of the square (crossover) while another student dribbles around the square two times, once clockwise using the left hand and a second time counterclockwise using the right hand.  Then each student switches. Sometimes I’ll have a student perform an exercise in the center of the square instead of doing the crossover dribble.  This option may work better if you have a limited number of balls.

Recommended ages: 1st- 3rd Grades

1,2,3 GO!

This is a simple shooting game based on the larger group game called Knockout.  We play this with either partners or in groups of three.  Each person in the group has a ball and stands side by side. At the same time, they each say, “1,2,3, Go!”!  At this point, they each shoot their ball and try to be the first to score a basket.  The first to score, receives a point and gets to choose the next shooting spot.

Recommended ages: 3rd-12th Grades

Poly Spot Relay

In relay fashion, arrange the class in groups of no more than three.  Set up as many poly spots (or anything else, i.e.:  cones, stuffed creatures, etc.)  as possible on the opposite side of the playing area.  The first student in each line dribbles across the playing area and picks up one spot without stopping the dribble (I allow younger students to stop dribbling).  Students then return to the starting line, drop off their spot, and tag the next player.  Play until all spots are picked up.  With my younger classes I play this cooperatively.  I time the whole group to see how long it takes to clear the spots.  We play a second round to see if we can beat the first recorded time.

Recommended ages: 1st-6th Grades

Pivot, Pass, Catch Relay

There are different variations of this relay.  I like to have small groups of no more than four students.  Each player lines up at an equal distance from his teammates.  The first student in line pivots and passes to the next person in line.  When the ball gets to the last students in line, that student dribbles the ball to the front of the line.  Teammates move back one spot so the student dribbling to the front can take over the first position.  Teams score a point each time the last person in line receives the ball.  The relays continues for two minutes.

Recommended ages: 1st-12th Grades

When I have larger teams, players waiting for a pass must perform an exercise such as squats or jumping jacks.


Thank you Paul Ward for the photographs.

Thank you Jedd Austin, Laura English, and Brian Balocki, my colleagues, for sharing ideas for this post.


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