I felt I had a breakthrough in this area when I started to plan Gymnastics lessons and club sessions from the perspective of a ‘High quality PE lesson structure’. The structure has four not particularly groundbreaking parts – warm up, key task, development of the key task and cool down. It was the ethos underpinning the structure, however, that EVERY part of EVERY lesson progresses pupils towards the desired lesson outcome that has significantly influenced my practice. Essentially, it has progressed my thinking to see the warm up as a major opportunity to maximise learning in addition to a necessary ten-minute episode to physically prepare pupils for safe participation. In essence, I now seek inspiration for each session’s pulse raising activity by identifying an aspect of the lesson objective I can introduce through the opening physical task. To bring this to life, I’ll detail the warm up activities I designed in response to the session outcomes for four of my spring term KS2 Gymnastics Club sessions.
Example warm up 1:
LO – Explore Gymnastics actions to represent hour and minute hand positions for various times on a clock face.
Gymnasts worked in pairs at a large hoop placed flat on the floor, travelling around it in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction in response to commands. Once established, time commands were added upon which pairs had to show that time on their clock (hoop) by freezing at the position of the (imaginary) numbers to which the hour and minute hands would point. For example, on hearing 6 O’clock, a gymnast in each pair would freeze at the top of the hoop to represent that the minute hand would point to the twelve and the other gymnast would freeze at the bottom to represent that the hour hand would point to the six.
Example warm up 2:
LO – Work with a partner to create and negotiate obstacles using Gymnastics actions.
In pairs, gymnasts numbered themselves ‘1’ and ‘2’ before travelling independently and freely around the hall. On hearing a ‘1’ command, all the number ‘1’ gymnasts lay on their back leaving their partner to locate and safely negotiate them by going around or over the shape before both continuing to travel independently. The roles reversed on giving the ‘2’ command. The obstacle shape was then progressed to front support meaning the negotiator could now also choose to travel under the obstacle. Finally, gymnasts created their own basic and comfortable to hold obstacle shapes for their partner to find and negotiate.
Example warm up 3:
LO – Demonstrate ‘Getting On’ qualities whilst participating in and creating a range of Gymnastics activities.
In explanation of the qualities, I watched an episode of ‘Hey Duggee’ with my son unknowing that it would inspire the content for my next Gymnastics Club session. It was called ‘Getting On badges’ and started with the ‘Squirrels’ (think Scouts) squabbling so Duggee (think Scout leader) teaches them five qualities they then show to earn their badge. The qualities I took forward for exploration were trust, share, teamwork, communication and patience.
The warm up involved three groups of gymnasts rotating around stations of co-operative pulse raising activities specifically designed to require them to draw upon the qualities:
1 = Team link shuttle run – the first gymnast in the group completes a shuttle run and then
‘picks up’ the next gymnast to join them for the second shuttle run by linking arms at the elbows. This continues until the whole group has been picked up and then each gymnast is ‘dropped off’ in the order they joined the shuttle run.
2 = Hoop star jump – gymnasts worked in pairs with one hoop between them to come up with ways of safely performing 10 star jumps whilst both maintaining contact with the hoop.
3 = Canon skipping – the first gymnast started a series of 15 skips with the next starting their 15 skips in time with the first gymnast’s fourth skip. This pattern continued down the line until all gymnasts had completed 15 skips. The whole team, however, had to start again (from the other end of the line) every time a gymnast stopped part way through their 15 skips.
After the warm up, gymnasts thought about how each activity asked them to draw upon the ‘Getting On’ qualities e.g. patience to succeed in the canon skip, communication of ideas to star jump in pairs involving a hoop and the teamwork it takes to shuttle run at a controlled group pace. The gymnasts took their increased understanding forward to design their own Gymnastics activities for which success depended on drawing upon one of those qualities.
Example warm up 4:
A mentor of mine once gave the opinion that warm up ‘games’ have no place in Gymnastics. I understand to a point but, for me, they can provide valuable learning opportunities as long as they’re adapted to have meaning relative to each lesson objective. For example…
LO – Perform increasingly complex Gymnastics actions showing the straddle shape with consistently good technique.
‘Traffic Lights’ with the following commands and responses:
Green = jog
Red = straddle sit
Traffic jam = straddle sit one behind the other in a line down the hall
Tunnel = stand opposite another gymnast and fold to straddle stand linking at the arms to create a tunnel
Lane closed = sit in straddle back to back with another gymnast so as to create an ‘X’ with your legs.
N.B. In the following session, we continued to explore the straddle shape and so repeated our ‘Traffic Lights’ warm up incorporating straddle shape based command and response ideas from the gymnasts e.g. a gymnast came up with sitting in straddle facing another gymnast to create a (sort of) circle as a response to ‘Roundabout’.
In my work, I often come across PE colleagues asking one another, ‘What’s your favourite warm up?’ thus suggesting it’s common practice for PE deliverers to frequently roll out their favourite pulse raising activities with a disregard for the aim of each lesson. Perhaps a better question would be, ‘What is the best warm up idea you’ve developed to initiate significant learning in relation to a lesson objective?’ With increasing time constraints seemingly being placed on the PE curriculum, deliverers must maximise the potential of every minute they have with classes – starting with the warm up. I feel that I really started to achieve this when I began to identify how learning in relation to the lesson objective could be initiated through the warm up. Furthermore, I’ve found it’s helped me tap into a creative side that I’d never have previously credited myself with. As such, I no longer dread being asked about warm up ideas and am continuously excited to see what I’ll come up with next. I know gymnasts who have left community clubs because they find the warm up ‘boring’ so also believe that an approach such as this which generates varied warm up activities must work to promote participants’ enjoyment and therefore motivation to participate longer term.
So, over to you – ‘What is the best warm up idea you’ve developed to initiate significant learning in relation to a lesson objective?’