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Teaching Gymnastics Skills in Physical Education: Benefits, Tips and 20 Stunts for Your PE Lessons


Educational gymnastics and tumbling activities in physical education classes provide students with a fun and exciting way to learn new static and dynamic movement skills. They also help develop coordination, agility, balance, strength, flexibility, and other valuable motor skills. Through gymnastics, students can experience the thrill of mastering their bodies while constructing patterns of movement that require skill and precision. Additionally, gymnastics encourages physical activity and teamwork, helping students become more active and stay healthy.

Teaching Gymnastics Skills in Physical Education: Benefits, Tips and 20 Stunts for Your PE Lessons

Pics by Kelly Brown @LovePrimaryPE


Because gymnastics isn't widely taught or focused on during teacher training, it can feel daunting for educators who are asked to teach the subject in a school setting. This blog will help to empower you and give you the necessary tools to teach with confidence. You'll find lots of resources, tips, and tricks throughout this blog that will point you in the right direction.

Physical Education Gymnastics

Pic by Kelly Brown @LovePrimaryPE

 

Why should I incorporate gymnastics into my PE program?


There are many solid reasons to include gymnastics in your physical education classes. Participating in gymnastics can help students learn new movement skills, improve their coordination and agility, and stay physically fit. Gymnastics can help students improve posture, as well as focus, self-discipline and perseverance. All of these elements work together to create a strong foundation for physical fitness.


Check out some of these other amazing benefits of including gymnastics as a unit or activity in PE.


Educational gymnastics and tumbling...

1) Strengthens Muscles: Gymnastics classes can help students build muscle strength and density, leading to better overall health.

2) Improves Flexibility: Gymnastics improves flexibility, which can help kids remain physically active and reduce their risk of injury. It also helps them become more agile and coordinated in other activities they participate in.

3) Enhances Balance: By learning gymnastic skills, students can improve their balance by developing better control over their bodies and muscles. Mastered balancing, both static or dynamic is vital for becoming proficient in many other sports.


Gymnastics in PE Helps Enhance Balance and Coordination

4) Increases Coordination: As gymnastics involves different movement patterns, students can learn how to move efficiently by coordinating the body’s movements in a balanced way.


5) Develops Self-discipline: Learning gymnastics tasks teaches students the value of hard work and dedication, helping them to achieve their goals.


6) Helps with Self-Confidence: By successfully mastering gymnastics skills, students can build confidence in themselves and also learn how to work together with others on various movement tasks.

Educational Gymnastics Stations Video



Does teaching educational gymnastics help address PE standards?


Not only is learning gymnastic skills a fun way to get students active, but it can also help them master coordination, balance, and strength. This helps them address SHAPE America's Standard 1, which reads: "The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns." The gymnastics and tumbling movements and skills you choose to use during your PE lessons can easily meet any national, state, or district standards.


Gymnastics in PE- SHAPE America Standard 1

 

Tips for implementing gymnastics in your PE program

Now that you know some of the benefits of gymnastics, here are some tips for implementing gymnastics into your PE lesson:


  • Consider your students' abilities when making lesson plans: When planning gymnastics lessons, it is important to consider your students’ physical abilities and skills. Incorporating gymnastic activities that are appropriate for the grade level of your class can help ensure a safe experience for all students. You should also keep in mind any special needs or accommodations that need to be made.


  • Warm Up Properly: Before engaging in any gymnastic physical activities, make sure to warm up with light calisthenic exercises and stretching. This will help reduce the risk of injury for your students.


  • Focus on safety: Safety should be the top priority when teaching gymnastics in PE. Make sure that your students are properly supervised, and that all gymnastic activities are done on gymnastics mats or padded surfaces.


PE Gymnastics Setup

Pic by Tanner Roos @Mr RoosPE


  • Keep it simple: Start with teaching basic gymnastic movement skills such as: jumping, crawling, balancing, and rolling. Once your students have mastered the basics, then you can introduce more advanced gymnastic movements such as cartwheels or handstands.


  • Limit the lines: Keep your mat lines as short as possible to increase students' time on task! Avoid having students line up side by side and instead have them spread out across the gym space. This helps to prevent any potential accidents that can occur when multiple gymnasts move at the same time.


  • Provide instruction and allow choice: Make sure to provide instruction when introducing gymnastics and tumbling activities. Break down each gymnastic skill into small steps. Progressive movements should be differentiated to meet the needs of all students. To do this, allow them some choice in what stunts they perform. For those who need a challenge, you can provide more advanced gymnastic tasks; while for those needing a bit more support or safety reinforcement, use gymnastics activities that are appropriate for their skill level.


  • Use demonstrations and visuals: Demonstrate gymnastic movements and provide visuals such as illustrations, photographs or videos when introducing gymnastics activities. This can help reinforce your verbal instructions and also give students a better understanding of the task at hand.


  • Keep it fun and creative: Students learn when the are having fun! Keep gymnastics lessons fun and exciting by coming up with creative activities or fun challenges incorporating gymnastic movements. Bring in other PE equipment into the mix such as bean bags, scarves, hula-hoops, or balance beams. You can also use music and games to help motivate and inspire your students during gymnastics activities. Encourage collaboration among students to build teamwork skills.


Video by Brooke Gustavel and Ami Crawford @TESPhysEd


Offer positive feedback: Offer positive words of encouragement and recognition when they perform gymnastic skills and movements correctly. This will help to build their confidence and make gymnastics more enjoyable for them.

 

20 Educational Gymnastics Stunts to Teach in PE

Gymnastics is a great way to supplement physical education activities and create a more well-rounded approach to learning. The following 20 easy-to-implement jumps, crawls & animal walks, rolls and balances & inverts can be utilized in a PE class gymnastics or tumbling lesson.


Assign these gymnastics and tumbling activities to your students as solo tasks, or have them work in small groups where they take turns teaching each other (on gymnastics) at designated stations around the learning area. The activity can also be done with the entire class as one large gymnastics and/or tumbling session under the guidance of a teacher.



1- Jumps

  • Tuck Jumps- Jump up using a “2 foot” take-off and bring your knees up to your chest. Touch the front of your knees with your hands in the air. Land softly on your feet and bend your knees when you land. Repeat the tuck jump as you move down the mat.

  • Star Jumps- Jump up using a “2 foot” take-off and spread your arms and straight legs out in the air. Make the shape of a 4- point star in mid-flight. Land softly on your feet and bend your knees when you land. Repeat the star jump as you move down the mat.

Video by Christine Mason @LPESVB

  • Straddle Jumps- Jump up using a “2 foot” take-off and kick your legs out to a straddle position in the air. Bring your hands to your toes. Land softly on your feet and bend your knees when you land. Repeat the straddle jump as you move down the mat.

  • Half turns- Start at the front of a mat facing forward. Use a 2-foot takeoff and jump 180 degrees (jump half turn), then land facing the direction you just jumped from. Continue jumping 180 degrees as you travel down the mat.

  • Full Turns- Start at the front of a mat facing forward. Use a 2-foot takeoff and jump 360 degrees landing facing the same way you started. Continue jumping 360 degrees as you travel down the mat.


Educational Gymnastics- Jumps

2- Crawls and Animal Walks

  • Army Crawl- Lay face down on the front of the mat. Stay low to the ground and work your way down the mat using your elbows and knees. Wriggle your body back and forth as you move.

  • Bear Crawl- Start the crawl on your hands and feet. Walk down the mat using your hands and feet to propel your body. The same hand and foot move together at the same time. Do not crawl on your knees

  • Lame Dog Run- Start the walk on your hands and one foot. Walk or run down the mat using both hands and only one leg to propel your body. Your foot/leg will bounce behind you as you walk your hands down the mat.

  • Seal Walk- Start at the front of the mat on your stomach. Use your arms (hands on the mat) to drag the rest of your body down to the end of the mat. Pull and wriggle your body but don’t use your feet as you travel.

  • Inchworm- Start at the front of a mat in a push-up position. Keep your legs straight and walk your toes up to your hands. Then walk you arms back out to a push-up position. Repeat your straight leg walk to your hands. Continue this 2-part motion down the mat


Educational Gymnastics- Crawls and Animal Walks

3- Rolls

  • Pencil Roll- Lay sideways with your arms stretched up outside your head. Keep your body tight and straight. Roll sideways all the way down the mat. Readjust your body if you roll off the mat.

  • Egg Roll- Lay sideways and grab your knees with your hands and pull your self into a tight ball. Stay in a ball and roll sideways down the mat. Readjust your body if you roll off the mat.

  • Forward Roll- Start in a full squat with your hands out in front. Tuck your chin into your chest. Push with your legs and place your hands down on the mat first. Roll on the back part of your head and stay in a tight ball grabbing your knees as you roll. Let your momentum carry you back to your feet.

  • Fish Flop- Sit in an “L sit” position on the mat. Put your arms out to the side. Tuck your head to one side. Roll backward over your opposite shoulder. Flop over on to your belly with your body and legs straight.

  • Backward Roll- Start backward in a full squat with your hands beside your ears and your palms up. Roll backward until your head and hands touch the mat and then push up evenly with your hands. Lift your head slightly off the mat (by pushing with your hands) while you roll in a tight ball. Let your momentum carry you back to your feet.


Educational Gymnastics- Rolls

4- Balances and Inverts

  • V-Sit Balance- Sit down on a mat in a “pike” position with your legs our front. Simultaneously, lift your legs and your arms up in the air to form a “V” shape. Hold that position for as long as possible, then rest and try it again.

  • 2 and 3 Foot Balances- Find a place on the mat to balance. Get in a balance position using 2 or 3 body parts and hold the position as long as possible. Readjust your body position if you lose balance. Try a variety of balance poses.

  • Shoulder Stand- Sit in an “L sit” position on the mat. Put your arms by your sides. Roll back until your body and legs are straight up in the air. Prop up on the back of your shoulders. Keep tight and rigid. Point your toes


Gymnastics in PE- Learning a Tripod

Pic by Christopher Sanders @SandersCB3

  • Tripod- Get in a full squat position. Put your head & hands down on the mat forming a triangle shape on the mat (head in front). Slowly bring your knees to your elbows and balance on your forehead and hands. Readjust your body if you start to tilt.

  • Head Stand- Begin the balance with a 3 point tripod (triangle shape). From the tripod, slowly lift your legs up into the air. Keep your body straight and tight. Tuck your chin to your chest to roll out of the headstand balance.


Educational Gymnastics- Balances and Inverts

 

Final thoughts


Incorporating gymnastics into physical education can have a positive impact on your students’ physical, social, and emotional well-being. Gymnastics can be adapted for any age group and provides an enjoyable workout for students. By following the tips and using the gymnastic stunts listed above, you can create an engaging PE lesson that will benefit your students for years to come.


Thank you for taking the time to read about gymnastics in physical education. I truly hope this blog post will help you as you plan gymnastics lessons for your PE class. Have fun!

*SHAPE America. (2013). National Standards for K-12 Physical Education. Reston, VA: Author.

 

Need resources?


Do you need some PE Tumbling Mat Challenge Cards that can easily help you teach movements and stunts like the ones discussed in the educational gymnastics PE article written above? Would it help to have easy-to-implement visuals that include detailed instructions and state-of-the-art graphics? Cap'n Pete's Power PE has you covered!

PE Tumbling Mat Challenge Cards

Fill in the form below to download 12 FREE fun and active PE Tumbling Mat Challenge Cards with a variety of gymnastic movement skills to teach in your physical education classes.



The set is a PDF digital download that includes twelve visuals (cards) that teachers can use for teaching educational gymnastics in a lesson. The cards make it EASY for physical educators to help guide students through a variety of engaging mat-based gymnastic movements and they provide opportunities for them to develop skills in jumping, crawling, rolling, balancing and working with others.



This freebie set will be sure to enhance your PE curriculum for years!

 

If you REALLY want to expand your physical education program's gymnastics resource stockpile, check out Cap'n Pete's, PE Educational Gymnastics Station Signs and Task Cards- 36 Instructional Visuals. Inside this packet you will find 36 printable signs/cards that can be used to teach a variety of educational-gymnastics and tumbling skills, using a variety of teaching styles and learning formats (i.e. stations, peer teaching, practice style, etc.). Each sign/card is uniquely designed to display and describe specific jumping, crawling, rolling and balancing skills commonly used by practicing physical educators when teaching an educational gymnastics or tumbling unit during PE.


PE Educational Gymnastics Station Signs and Task Cards- 36 Instructional Visuals

You can download them from either of the following platforms: Cap'n Pete's Power PE Website or Teachers Pay Teachers- Cap'n Pete's TPT Store



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