Mr. Mack introduced a new unit of gymnastics to the 5th grade students at St. Mary’s Elementary School today. The class was separated into 4 small groups that were each assigned stations that had a different gymnastic activity in each station. One activity involved rolls on a mat that included a wedge to roll down. Another activity was a balance beam where students participated in balancing skills. The other gymnastic activity stations each had mats where students practiced tripods, cartwheels and round offs. Since the 5th grade students had previous learning experiences in gymnastic units from past years, a quick review was all that was needed by Mr. Mack.
I assisted and spotted students at the cartwheel and tripod stations while Mr. Mack did the same at the balance beam and roll stations. The tripod and cartwheel are non-manipulative skill themes that are based on balance and transfer of weight. Before class had started, Mr. Mack and I discussed what abilities of the students needed improvement. He explained that the majority of students within the school had trouble throwing an object or demonstrating a cartwheel because of the lack of ability to transfer weight. During the lesson I was able to observe problems that students demonstrated when performing the cartwheel. Students had issues determining which hand and foot to lead with when performing the cartwheel. Another issue was the student’s lack of commitment of landing on their hands due to fear.
Mr. Mack and I expressed progression levels to the students when performing cartwheels to help them improve these problems. The students had opportunities to use a large foam block or an additional mat to make them more comfortable landing on their hands without having to go down all the way. I also asked them questions regarding their comfort ability on what hand and foot to lead with. Examples include “What hand do you throw and write with?” and “What is the first hand you push out if you fall accidently?” I also had the students try both hands to lead with on the large foam block just using their hands to jump from one side to another.
These were all great effective teaching strategies that Mr. Mack had demonstrated to help improve the student’s skill themes and abilities. The only thing I would have done different when teaching a class would be to create a whole lesson plan that focuses on the transferring of weight and then include stations of different gymnastic activities. Given the length of time of the 5th grade class I do understand his planning because of practical purposes. Nonetheless because of the success of performance in other activity stations I believe it is important to create a deeper learning experience for one specific skill that needs improvement. The transferring of weight will be the focus for me and Beka’s curriculum project moving forward that is too completed in EDU 355.