What Do You Get When You Combine a Beanbag with a Playground Ball?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

I love teaching tossing and catching to first and second graders. It is one of my favorite units because the progression of skills is quite simple, and then all of a sudden, the skills are combined into a culminating activity that rocks!

In the fall of 1999, I attended a professional development (PD) session that was lead by Dr. Marcy Maurer (Austin Peay State University) that outlined a skills progression for tossing and catching. This PD experience still influences my instruction some 16 years later!

The students begin the unit by focusing on just tossing. We talk about the critical elements as well as common mistakes. The students then participate in large-group activities that involve tossing to a target from varying distances.

The next day, we begin to discuss catching. We discuss and practice hand placement and how to catch both above and below the waist. Please note that the students are spread out with their own piece of equipment during the skills practice. I prefer to use a beanbag (when it drops, it stops – no chasing after it). I ask them to begin by self-tossing the object up and catching it. The students then attempt to toss, clap their hands, and catch the object. If they can do that, then they try to clap twice and so on.

After a couple of minutes, I lead the students through a series of tasks/challenges in which they are self-tossing and catching.

Can you toss the beanbag in manner that requires you to:

  • Reach above your head and catch?
  • Go down on one knee and catch?
  • Stand on one foot and catch?
  • Jump in the air and catch?

The students practice each one for a couple of minutes before we move to the next task/challenge. After working our way through each of these tasks/challenges, we then arrive at the culminating activity. This is the part that rocks! I love showing this to student teachers as they even have fun with it!

I like to bring all of the students close by and demonstrate the steps of the activity.

  • First, I place a beanbag on top of a playground ball (PGB).
  • Second, I hold the PGB straight out (like Frankenstein) while balancing the beanbag on top.
  • Third, I drop the playground ball.
  • Finally, I let the beanbag bounce up and then try to catch the beanbag.

Bean Bag

As soon as I demonstrate this activity, the students respond with, “Wooooaaaah!” and, “Cooool!”

I absolutely love this culminating activity! I first observed it at a conference about 8-10 years ago and eagerly anticipate teaching it each year. Combining a beanbag and a playground ball is not your simple catch and toss activity with a partner. You have to quickly react to the bounce, track the beanbag, and then catch it. This activity is unpredictable and requires the students to apply all of the tasks they just practiced.

After demonstrating, I remind them of the process and send them back to their spots to begin attempting the activity. After a couple minutes of practice, I stop the practice and ask the following:

  • Who had to reach above their head to try and catch it?
  • Who had to go down on one knee to try and catch it?
  • Who had to stand on one foot to try and catch it?
  • Who had to jump in the air to try and catch it?

This purposeful questioning is designed to help the students understand why we practiced each of those tasks in isolation prior to participating in this culminating activity.

I then remind them of the process and tell them that if I (or my co-teacher) see them successfully catch the beanbag (this is the skill assessment), they can then earn another item (a Koosh ball or a heavier beanbag). I demonstrate these (they bounce even higher) and then allow them to work on catching the original beanbag. As I observe children catching the beanbag, I toss them the new piece of equipment. They react with excitement and joy as they get to try the next level!

At some point, some of the students will start to get frustrated because they are not catching the beanbag. When this happens, I stop and ask everyone to look at his or her neighbor. I ask those who have already progressed to a Koosh ball to stop and help those around them. Watching them work as peer tutors is awesome. I empower them to help coach their peers. If they observe their peer being successful then they can tell me and I will progress them to the next level. They really take the time to provide encouraging and corrective feedback. They are also filled with excitement when they try to get my attention to tell me that their neighbor was successful and is ready for the next level. This brings me pure joy!

What are some unique ways that you challenge your students during skill development?

**UPDATE** – Here is the K-2 unit plan (SPS) for Tossing & Catching

K-2 Sango Toss_Catch – Blog

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