Do You Plan Activities that Have Different Levels or Variations?

I previously shared how large group activities are a crucial part of a well-rounded physical education curriculum. Most of the time, I use them as culminating activities at the end of a unit, as a break between units, or on days immediately proceeding/following long weekends/breaks.

I learned long ago that the best time to stop an activity is when the excitement is at its peak. That way, the students remember the activity as fun and exciting. On the other hand, if you let it go for too long, you risk letting the activity become boring along with an increase in off-task behaviors. As a result, I rarely do a large group activity for longer than 10-15 minutes.

LEVELS

If I do go longer than 10-15 minutes, I usually plan various levels within the same activity to “kick it up a notch” every 5 minutes or so. These levels allow me to add a challenge or slightly alter the activity in order to help maintain a high level of excitement. To me, changing the level is simply varying the task. For instance, Level 1 of an activity may call for the students to kick the object on the ground whereas Level 2 may call for them to punt it. Sometimes, the levels can be stacked, and the students choose which level they wish to participate in.

VARIATIONS

Another way I like to streamline instruction and stay organized is by using variations. Even though I am using different equipment to teach a “new” activity, I pair it with the same organization of a previously taught activity. This turns the instruction into a review (as the students already know the concept) along with a quick explanation of the variation. To me, using a different variation simply changes the skill/equipment being used. For instance, one variation of an activity may call for the students to kick a playground ball whereas another variation may call for the students to strike an object with a bat.

I have listed a few activities that include different levels and variations.

1.  Aerobic Bowling: (I learned this activity at a conference in 1999 from Don Puckett.)

Description: The students will be organized into relay lines of 3-4 with a bowling pin about 10-15 feet in front of them. The last person in line should move and stand behind the pin to be the retriever. The first person rolls the ball toward the pin using a two-hand, underhand roll. The roller then cleans up the pin (if necessary) and replaces the retriever. Meanwhile, the retriever returns the ball to the next person and goes to the end of the line.

  • Level 1 – as described above
  • Level 2 – allow them to roll the ball backwards
  • Level 3 – allow them to lay down and roll/push the ball
  • Level 4 – allow them to use a tennis ball
  • Level 5 – allow the line to move backwards each time they knock the pin over
  • Variation 1 – use a hockey stick to strike a puck at the pin
  • Variation 2 – kick a soccer ball at the pin
  • Variation 3 – throw a foam Frisbee at the pin

(Note: This description is for one area. I usually have 10-15 lines.)

2.  All Kick Kickball

Description: The students will be organized into groups of 6-8. Half of the players will sit at one cone (the kicking cone). A second cone and a bucket should be placed straight out in front of them about 15-20 feet away.   The other 3-4 players are the fielders and should spread out behind the bucket. The kicker will place the ball on the ground and strike it. As soon as they kick it, they should run back and forth touching both cones. Meanwhile, the closest fielder should retrieve the ball and proceed to throw it to a teammate who will then throw it to another and so on (all team members must touch the ball). When the last fielder touches the ball, they can quickly lay it in the bucket and yell, “STOP!” The kicker gets one point for each time they touched a cone. After all of the kickers have had a turn, the kicking and fielding teams will switch places.

  • Level 1 – as described above
  • Level 2 – Pitch – allow a teammate to roll the ball (two points for each touch of the cone) – They get one try. If it is not successful, they default back to Level 1.
  • Level 3 – Punt – allow the kicker to punt the ball (three points for each touch of the cone) – They get one try. If it is not successful, they default back to Level 1.
  • Level 4 – 360 Degrees (if your area is large enough) – allow the kicker to kick the ball in any direction
  • Level 5 – Plus 1 – allow the previous kicker to go out into the field – If the teammate retrieves the kicked ball before the fielders, they can punt the ball further away. (This level makes the fielders hustle!)
  • Variation 1 –Sango Baseball – (as described above) allow the person to strike a whiffle ball with a bat (3 levels – use a tee x 1 point, self pitch x 2 points, peer pitch x 3 points)
  • Variation 2 – Chicken Ball – (as described above) allow the person to self pitch and strike the rubber animal with their hand (This is an easy indoor activity.)

(Note: This description is for one area. I usually have 6-8 areas lined up outside.)

3.  Take that Cone

Description: The students will pair up and sit around the perimeter of the gym. Each partner will take turns moving to stand next to a randomly placed half cone and tossing an object into one of several large buckets. If they make it, they get to take the half cone back with them. The partner will then get a turn.

  • Level 1 – as described above
  • Level 2 – Sort by Color/Bar Graphs – The student who is waiting their turn can sort their objects by color or organize them into a bar graph.
  • Level 3 – Jackpot (3rd +) – Place hula hoops in the four corners of the gym and a stack of large cones inside each hoop. Once a pair has earned at least one object, the next person can bring that item and deposit it inside a hoop for an attempt to win the jackpot. They must bring an object to deposit every time a student attempts the jackpot. If they miss it, they leave their deposit and return to their line with nothing. If they make it, they get the jackpot (every item in the hoop that has been previously deposited plus 1 large cone).
  • Level 4 – Catch, Turn, and Toss – This is the same concept, except the partner waiting their turn has to pass the object to the partner who is standing by the object. If they catch it, they can turn and try to toss it into the tub. If they make it, they take it.
  • Variation 1 – Basketball Style – This is the same concept, except they take their basketball, stand beside an object, and attempt to make it in a basketball goal. If they make it, they take it.
  • Variation 2 – Overhand Throw – This is the same concept, except they take their bean bag, stand beside an object, and execute an overhand throw in an attempt to hit a basketball backboard. If they hit it, they take it.
  • Variation 3 – Bounce It – This is the same concept, except they take a foam or regular tennis ball, stand beside an object, and try to bounce it into the tub (one bounce). If they make it, they take it.
  • Variation 4 – Money Ball – Use laminated pieces of money (coins and bills) as the objects. At the end of a round, allow the students to count their money.

When possible, I encourage you to plan activities that include levels and variations in order to keep the excitement level high and to streamline instruction.

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