By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym
Every now and then, you attend a session at a conference that opens your eyes to an entirely new way of approaching skill development. This happened to me several years ago when I attended a session by Jim Rich at the Share the Wealth PE Conference. Jim is an adapted PE teacher from North Carolina, and his session focused on using shop rags to teach throwing and catching.
Yeah, you read that right…shop rags. You can buy these in bulk at various retailers.
Jim suggested using shop rags for a couple of reasons. First, when you throw it, the shop rag opens up which causes it to slow down and makes it easier to catch. Second, even when in close proximity to their partner (e.g., 8’-12’), the thrower can perform the full overhand throwing motion. When using a ball or beanbag from this distance, most throwers will automatically modify their throwing technique and perform more of a lob. I also like the idea that you can throw them for distance in a crowded area and not have to worry about injuries.
I took what I learned from Jim, tweaked it, and overhauled our K-2 throwing unit.
As you know, there are several ways to teach the overhand throw. My preferred method uses the cues Side, Arm, Step, and Throw. I like these cues because the concept is transferrable and with a little variance can be used when teaching how to strike with a bat (i.e., Side, Bat, Step, and Swing).
During the first semester, our students participate in a tossing and catching unit. I usually have a throwing, catching, and striking unit during the beginning of the second semester.
At the beginning of this unit, I like to focus on throwing and save catching for another day. Here are some activities that just involve throwing:
Throwing Around the Track: The students spread out around the track (i.e., the area between the basketball and volleyball boundary lines). They are encouraged to wad their shop rag up, throw it as far as they can, move to where it landed, and repeat. I challenge them to see how many throws it takes them to go around the track.
After they begin the activity and I make sure everyone is on task, I stop and explain to them how they can earn the next level. I tell them if I see them using the correct cues, I will tie their shop rag in a knot.
When this occurs, it can be thrown even farther. I then begin to assess each student as they participate. Most are ready and quickly earn the next level. Others need encouraging and corrective feedback coupled with additional practice time. After a few minutes, I can easily identify who still needs help by looking to see whether or not their shop rag is tied in a knot.
Clean Your Room: The gym is divided in half or quarters to make “rooms,” and the students are evenly separated into each room. The students can throw the knotted shop rags from their room into another room. At the end of each round, the team with the cleanest room is the winner.
In the Hoop: My colleague likes to hang hula-hoops on the basketball goals as a target. Each target will have 2-3 lines throwing at the same hoop. We try to limit each line to 3 or less students. Directly underneath each hoop is a tub with some bagels (i.e., sliced pool noodles). When it is your turn, you try to throw the knotted rag through the hoop. If you make it, you get to take a bagel back to your group and make a tower.
After participating in the throwing activities, we review the skill of catching. We begin the catching review using a shop rag that is not tied in a knot.
Self-Toss and Catching:
Can you self-toss and catch the shop rag?
Can you self-toss and catch the shop rag above your head?
Can you self-toss and catch the shop rag on one knee?
Can you self-toss, clap, and then catch the shop rag?
Throw and Catch with a Partner: Each pair should stand about 8’-12’ apart. I have them stand on the corner of a 4-square court. The students can simply throw and catch the shop rag back and forth. Like above, I assess each pair so that those who are throwing and catching correctly can have their shop rag tied in a knot.
Partner Hoop: This activity is very similar to “In the Hoop.” The difference is that partner #1 will throw the shop rag to partner #2 who will catch it, turn, and attempt to throw it in the hoop.
Over the Fence: 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 throw a shop rag 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.
If you have never used shop rags to teach throwing, I encourage you to give it a try!
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