Why do we teach gymnastics? I believe that it is really important to get pupils ‘on-board’ with the importance of learning gymnastics. Pupils will learn good body management and how to control their bodies whilst moving in a wide variety of ways. The strength, flexibility and balance that comes from their gymnastics work will transfer to every other sport or physical activity that they might encounter.
So, when considering what would be my ‘5 top tips’ for teaching primary curriculum gymnastics, I have started from the position that the ‘on-boarding’ of the pupils and ‘why’ they are learning gymnastics is being or has been addressed.
Here are my ‘Top 5 Tips’:
1. Use Routines
I liken this to the good practice that exists in so many classrooms. This starts right from lining-up ready to go to the hall through to what to do when they enter the space. Do the pupils for example, go in and find a space to sit down, or sit by the whiteboard? Or do they, because of your planning, start the lesson almost immediately so that no learning time is wasted?
Whatever you do, and I favour getting them active from the get-go, make it a routine.
Another important routine is to always share the lesson intent with them prior to starting the lesson, either in the class or quickly when you get to the hall. Explain what you want to see and model it wherever possible, either yourself or using video clips. Share how this lesson fits into the bigger picture and context of their learning in gymnastics and how it builds upon previous work. Make the learning clear and make the learning make sense.
2. Introductory activity or warm-up
Lessons are for learning; I think we can all agree on that. So, for me, I always try to ensure that the learning time is maximised. To do this I try to ensure that the warm-up activity is linked and aligned with the main lesson focus. For example, if the main focus is balance, then right from the start we will talk about and do balancing rather than a game of tag or ‘Beans’.
These early balance activities will be embedded into pulse-raising activity and allow pupils to recap, refine, engage and use balance in a variety of ways. Teaching points from the main focus of the lesson can be introduced early along with the appropriate vocabulary.
When supporting teachers and through our national qualification in teaching and learning in primary PE (Level 3), I always stress the need to consider the transition points in lessons. This is because they can become points where behavioural issues occur. As mentioned already, consider how you will change from warm-up to main activity, from pairs to groups quickly (I advocate pairs – 4’s – 8’s, or individual – 3’s – 6’s – 12’s) and without the need for lots of organisational commands. This time spent planning can make all the difference to practice.
4. High expectations and extend
Have and set high expectations, just like in your classroom. Insist on quality of movement, emphasising control, co-ordination, poise, balance and linking of movements to help them flow. Think of their movements as being like their handwriting or how they set out their numeracy – ensure it is their best work.
I like to use some of the following to extend their thinking and movment:
- show me different levels in your routine?
- show different speeds in your ways of travelling?
- travel in different directions, explore pathways?
- try some different starting positions?
- travel away from each other, then come back together?
- add in another balance (jump, turn, travel, body shape)?
5. Build sequences or ‘gymnastics sentences’ to be proud of
Those who know me know I like to build up pupil’s sequences, which I often liken to sentences (making links to Literacy learning). Pupils need to edit their movement sentences for quality, interest, aesthetics etc. As each lesson emphasises or introduces new skills, knowledge and understanding I use this to help pupils select and apply this so as to refine and edit their sentences/sequences so that they become progressively more complex and refined. I have found that this helps improve not only the quality but also engagement through intrinsic investment in their work.
The link with sentence construction and SPaG is very high from starting and finishing positions (capital letter and punctuation) to the synergy with adjectives, adverbs, verbs, nouns etc. It’s a great hook through which to reinforce and engage pupils in both literacy and gymnastics. Pupils will, in my experience, also enjoy having a sequence / sentence which they have practised, refined and had increasingly positive feedback upon – sequences that they can be proud of.
Many thanks to Martin Radmore for sharing his many years of insight within this blog.
Martin Radmore is the Director at VisionEd – The Primary PE Experts
VisionED is all about curricular PE provision and ensuring that ALL pupils receive a high-quality experience and entitlement in physical education that inspires them to learn and be active throughout their lives. It’s our ‘Big Picture’ and why we use the jigsaw piece as we help you to build your Vision, your Big Picture for what PE will be. We do this by empowering staff and schools to sustain high quality provision through CPD, professional qualifications, guidance and support. We work to ensure PE is lead by well-informed, trained and empowered subject leaders who have access to high-quality professional development, including national qualifications in primary PE for themselves and their colleagues. Take a look at our offer, download free resources or book your CPD at www.visioned.org.uk.