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Excerpts

Let’s Make a Connection

This is an excerpt from Teaching Children Gymnastics, Third Edition by Peter Werner.


Let’s Make a Connection

Objectives

As a result of participating in this learning experience, children will improve their ability to

  • balance in a variety of upright and inverted positions, move smoothly into a roll, and end in a balance (standard 1);
  • move smoothly from one balance to another in a variety of ways (standard 1);
  • explain that a combination of maintaining a round body shape and momentum can help a person to roll and return to feet (standard 2);
  • detect, analyze, and correct errors in personal movement patterns (standard 2);
  • accept responsibility for selecting movement choices that are suitable and safe for each person’s ability (standard 5); and
  • design unique gymnastics sequences (standard 6).

Suggested Grade Range

Intermediate (4 to 5)

Organization

Mats are scattered throughout the learning environment.

Equipment Needed

One mat per student or per two students is needed. One flip camera per four students is optional.

Description

“If you were told you could get a new bicycle or skateboard, you would probably select what you thought was the best or coolest of all the choices. What would you look for to help you make this decision? OK, some of you said what looks the best and others mentioned what would help you to ride the best. Today we are going to pretend that Olympic judges are here to view your best performance. From previous work in our gymnastics lessons, you have a lot of balances, rolls, and steplike actions that you can now perform. Today you will select a variety of these actions that you do best and put them together in a unique gymnastics sequence. We are going to learn how to make connections between parts of sequences to help them look the very best we can. Our focus words today are transition and flow.”

“We will warm up by traveling in general space (I). You may choose how you will travel. I expect to see a variety of locomotor skills, pathways, levels, and speed. Some of you may choose to vary the force of your travel. However, when I hit the drum one time, you must change at least one of your travel choices and continue your travel without stopping (E). Your change must be so smooth that the judges hardly notice when you made the transition. [After two or three turns, stop and refine if it appears they are not planning the next move.] As you are traveling, you should be planning your next move and the way to transition into it (R).”

“Now, have a seat on a mat and we will work on performing balances and using body rotations to make smooth transitions out of these balances. Start by performing an inverted balance of your choice. You will need to hold the balance showing good tight muscles, extensions, and stability for five seconds (I).

“Go into and out of the same balance, slowly returning your feet to the place you started. Repeat the same balance, but this time as you come out of your balance, carefully twist at your hips, turning your body so that your feet come down in a different place (E). Continue to practice this same transition or try twisting another direction, but slow the speed of your move by tightening your muscles, showing that you are in control of your body both into and out of your balance (R). Repeat the same inverted balance, but this time use the twist to transition into a new balance (E). Plan your base of support for your second balance. Do not forget to maintain control of your movements. Reduce tension only in the muscles that are required to aid you in twisting, turning, or changing into the shape needed for the new balance (R). Continue to practice until this combination of inverted balance, transition, balance looks like a polished performance (A).

“Next we are going to try a different way to use twisting movements to lead to new balances. Start by balancing on two feet and one hand with your trunk facing the floor. Hold your head up and extend the free arm (E). From this balance, stretch the free body part slowly toward the ceiling and then away from the rest of your body. Twist your trunk and follow the free arm until you end in another balance where your base of support changes and you are now facing the ceiling (e.g., bridge, V-sit) (E). Using the same two balances you just performed, we will try using a roll as the transitional move. Assume the first balance, hold it for five seconds, and then tuck your free arm under your body using a forward shoulder roll to transition into the second balance (E). Remember to control both your muscle tension and the speed of your movement to make a smooth transition (R). On your own, come up with two other balances and a way you can use a different roll to transition between the two (E).

“Finally, create a sequence that includes three of your favorite balances, one of which must be inverted. They may be balances we used today or another day. Use a combination of twisting, turning, and rolling to make smooth transitions from one balance to the next. Do not forget to maintain control of your movements. Reduce tension only in the muscles that aid you in twisting, turning, rolling, or changing into the shape needed for the new balance. Your sequence should be a beginning balance, twisting or turning transitional move, second balance, rolling transitional move, ending balance. Practice the sequence so that it will meet the high expectations of our Olympic judges (A). [Allow half of the class to perform their sequence while the other half pretends to be the judges. They should look for controlled, smooth transitions. Then change roles.]

“Now we are going to practice a transitional move called touch and pop that can be used between other rotational moves or between balances. First, we will practice a forward roll from a standing position and return to a standing position (I). Remember that you must maintain a round body shape and increase your rolling speed to have enough momentum to allow you to return to a standing position. [Practice a few minutes.] You are looking good, but remember to keep that chin on your chest to help with the round shape and push extra hard with your hands to increase your rolling speed (R). Great, now we can add a touch and pop (E). After the roll, as your feet touch the mat, without stopping, you will want to pop off of the balls of your feet, jump into the air extending your arms toward the ceiling, and then land on both feet keeping your arms above your head momentarily in a good gymnastics ending pose. [Practice.] Good use of tight muscles on the pop-up! I noticed you remembered to bend your knees for a good landing. Repeat the forward roll, touch, and pop to your feet, and this time during the pop, execute a quarter turn before you land. Follow the landing with a cartwheel or another roll. Be sure to stay balanced as you pop and land up so you can go right into your next action. Go! Now, add a final touch and pop after the last move, ending in the gymnastics ending pose (E). Here’s how this sequence should be:

  • From a standing position execute a forward roll.
  • Do a touch and pop with a quarter turn.
  • Go right into a cartwheel or another roll.
  • Follow that with a touch and pop.
  • Freeze in a gymnastics ending pose.

“There should be no stops until the end; just touch and go. Great work! I challenge you to try any combination of rolls or steplike actions and jump turns (quarter, half, three-quarter, or full) (A). Be safe and stay within your ability. Maintain control of your muscle tension, speed, and balance to be successful. Be sure to end each sequence you create with a touch, pop, and freeze.

“For your final project today you will create a gymnastics routine that combines both sequences with great transitional moves and flow. You want to wow the judges. Start with your first balance sequence and then add one of the sequences that you just practiced. The difficult part will be finding that transitional move that will connect the last balance of your first sequence with the first roll of your second sequence (A). If you need help, I will be glad to assist you with ideas for this part. Practice it at least three times and then your assessment team of four will videotape each other using a flip camera (A). Be sure to use the same-number camera that your group always uses. Tomorrow you will watch your video and you and your peers will determine what you need to do to improve the transition and flow of your routine. Great work today! I know this judge is impressed!” [If video equipment is not available, use a live peer assessment.]

Ideas for Assessment

  • Develop a checklist so that peers can assess the critical transition moves.
  • Observe for students controlling both muscle tension and the speed of their movement to make smooth transitions.
  • Ask students to share their plan sequence and to explain why a particular movement or balance was best.

How Can I Change This?

  • Provide specific sequences as opposed to having students create their own.
  • Provide an option of a forward roll or a forward shoulder roll.
  • Use live peer assessment as opposed to videotaped assessment.

Ideas for Teaching Fitness

  • Discuss the need for flexibility in using the stretch and twist moves. Provide students with ideas to increase their flexibility.
  • Twisting, turning, and rolling require strong abdominal muscles. Suggest that students do curl-ups at night for at least one minute.

Ideas for Inclusion

  • Students with intellectual disabilities may need specific sequences drawn or demonstrated for them.
  • Some autistic children may struggle with staying focused during extended practice time. Try providing other options for these students.
  • Obese children may not be able to hold weight in some inverted balances or maintain a curled shape during rolls. Options should be provided to allow for success.

Read more about Teaching Children Gymnastics, Third Edition by Peter Werner.



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