By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym
We use 4-square courts all the time. They are versatile floor markings that can facilitate all types of activities within a PE class.
In our gym, the 4-square courts are 8’ x 8’, and we have several of them painted on the gym floor. Prior to painting more courts on the floor, we used 2” floor tape to mark them.
Here are some of the ways we use 4-square courts: (Please note that most of these are culminating activities that are only introduced after the students have worked through a progression of the skills needed to appropriately participate.)
Basic 4-Square (3rd Grade +) – We teach this activity at the beginning of the year for several reasons. First, it is a great activity that involves basic striking skills, cooperation, and use of strategy. Second, our school has several 4-square courts painted on the playground so it is a great activity the students can participate in during recess. Finally, we encourage the students to draw a court at home (with sidewalk chalk) and engage their friends and family in either 2-square or 4-square. In class, I prefer to put the students into groups of 5. I have found that requiring one student to momentarily wait a turn helps to keep the entire group on-task. Part of a previous blog post (How Do You Plan Your Units of Instruction?) shares our 4-square skill progression. We typically use an 8.5” playground ball (PGB); however, we vary the equipment throughout the year with a 5” PGB or ping pong paddles and ball.
Long Jump Rope (LJR) (2nd Grade +) – We allow the students to jump throughout the year. The turners can stand on opposite corners of a court and take a small step backwards. This places the turners at an appropriate spacing to properly turn a 16’ LJR. The jumper can then stand in the middle of the court.
2v2 Volleyball (4th Grade +) – This activity provides for increased opportunities to make contact with the ball. The students should be divided into groups of 6 at a court. There will be four players (one in each square) and two net holders. The net is an individual jump rope. Each group will start with a balloon and may progress to a beach ball and/or soft-type volleyball as needed. I keep the rules simple. Each person on the team must contact the ball before it can be sent back over the net. If someone on your side of the net hits the ball 2 times in a row, hits the ball way out of bounds, hits the ball into/under the net, or allows the ball to hit the ground, the other side gets the ball to serve and a point. Once a team gets 3 points, all three pairs rotate.
Striking a Balloon (Kindergarten +) – I love allowing the students to strike balloons. After walking around and striking balloons as an individual and striking with a partner, I then place the students into groups of 4 at a court. I ask each student to “nail” one foot to the ground in the center of their square. I have dots on the floor, but you can use floor tape also. The group then works together to continuously strike the balloon and keep it up in the air. If someone strikes the balloon two times in a row or has to move both feet to get to the balloon, the group then stops and starts all over. Older students can complete this as a teamwork activity (e.g., only use one hand, everyone joins hands, etc.).
Over the Fence (1st & 2nd Grade) – The students are put into groups of 4 at a 4-square court. Two students stand on opposite corners of the court and are instructed to pass an object back and forth. Meanwhile, the third student stands in the middle with their hands up and acts like a fence that the other two have to pass the object over. The fourth person waits their turn. Everyone should rotate after 4 or so passes.
Offense & Defense (3rd Grade +) – The students are put into groups of 4 at a 4-square court. One student will stand on a corner of the court and is the passer. They can pivot or pass within a 90 degree area. The second student will stand in the middle and is the defender. They can have their hands up and move along the small “V.” The third student will stand on the opposite corner from the passer and is the receiver. They can move along the large “V” toward either one of the two “open” corners. The fourth student will simply wait their turn. The passer gets two attempts to successfully pass an object to the receiver before they all rotate. This activity provides a slight advantage to the passer, while being guarded by a defender who is kept a few feet away.
This activity is used during our basketball as well as our tossing, throwing, and catching units. Like 4-square, I prefer to put the students into groups of 4. I have found that requiring one student to momentarily wait a turn helps to keep the entire group on-task.
Offense/Defense (360 Degrees) (4th Grade +) – This activity is very similar to the one above. However, the passer is moved to the center of the court, the defender is on the outside edge of the court, and the receiver is about 3 feet outside of the court. This set-up allows everyone to move in a full 360 degree circle.
If need be, you can use two receivers and two defenders as well.
Ping Pong Tennis (4th Grade +) – This one is very similar to 2v2 Volleyball except we make a net using 2 chairs, a LJR, and some newspaper. Using a rope by itself is too hard to see. The students should be divided into groups of 3 at a court. There will be two players (one on each side) and one person waiting their turn. If need be, you can do 2v2 with 2 waiting.
I keep the rules simple. If the ball bounces twice on your side, if you hit the ball way out of bounds, if you hit the ball into/under the net, or if the ball bounces on your side and you swing and miss it, the other person gets the ball to serve and a point. The first one to three wins and gets to stay and face the next opponent.
What are some creative ways that you use 4-square courts?
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