By: Sara Russell, 2016 National High School Physical Education SHAPE America® Teacher of the Year
How do you start your school year off? How do you set the tone for your classes? Physical Education is a great place to challenge students in a variety of ways; teach problem solving skills, cooperation, communication, trust, teamwork and leadership. One way to not only start teaching these skills, but to also build community and get your classes going in the right direction, are to engage your students in team building and cooperative activities. Setting the tone for an inclusive class community, filled with trust and respect can make the upcoming year a great one! Here are some of my favorite activities I use that you might try for a positive start to your year!
For this challenge, 10-12 students stand in a large circle. One person starts with an object and throws to someone not directly next to them. That person does the same to another until everyone in the circle has thrown and caught the object, with the last person to catch throwing to the original leader. Groups must remember the pattern they establish and repeat this pattern as fast as they can! As groups get going the teacher adds in additional objects for the group to “juggle” trying to get as many as they can! An added challenge is to add a specific object that must go in the pattern’s opposite direction while the juggle occurs.
In groups of 10-12, students select two leaders, aka “Sherpas.” All members besides the Sherpas are blindfolded while Sherpas are given directions of a route to lead their group through (through cones, obstacle course, etc.). The Sherpa may only give verbal directions, at no time touching any of their blindfolded members as they complete the designated route. This can be really fun with a challenging course!
Set up a designated area with random objects scattered throughout the area to create “pitfalls.” In pairs, students designate one person as the leader, while their partner becomes blindfolded and has to work their way through the pitfall challenge. Each pair uses a pipe cleaner to create an object they will be trying to retrieve. Blindfolded members start at a baseline of the area while leaders place pipe cleaners somewhere in the pitfall area. Leaders then line up behind the base line and communicate directions to their partners in order to retrieve their pipe cleaner. At no time may leaders leave the baseline as they give directions. Each object in the space is a “pitfall” that if touched by an individual makes them restart the challenge.
The task of this challenge is for a group to move a ball from one spot to a hula hoop across the gym without using their hands/arms. To start, the ball must be on the ground and as the ball is moved everyone must be involved in the process and the ball may never touch the ground. If the ball touches the ground or any individual’s hands/arms at any time the challenge restarts.
Team webs, sold by Sportime, are circles of stretchy tubing material, with ropes extending out from it; each approximately 8 feet in length. The task for a group is to successfully travel around a designated area balancing a ball on a basket using the web. During the challenge team members may only hold the end of the web strings, both the basket and the ball must start on the ground, and at no time may either object be touched by anyone. Teams must first work together to lift the ball onto the basket, and then work together to lift the basket off the ground, balancing the ball. To complete the challenge, the group must successfully walk around the area balancing the ball on the basket. If the ball and/or basket drop, the group must restart.
There are hundreds of team building and cooperative games that can be great resources. Some of my favorites include the books Cowstails and Cobras, Quicksilver, and Silver Bullets; all by Karl Rohnke. Searching online or reading through team building books can help you find the challenges best for your students and your classes!
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