I find that striking and fielding type units can be quite a challenge to the younger students as they have not developed the necessary hand and eye coordination skills to enable them to actually strike and field a ball successfully. Another consideration is that often times there is only so much equipment to go around. We certainly don’t want our kids idle and having to wait in long lines to be able to practice striking a ball off of a tee or fielding a ball.
Bearing this in mind, I believe that working with the students to practice and develop hand and eye coordination is critical as it builds the foundation of skills that are transferable to all striking and fielding type sports.
Today’s grade 1 lesson was about just this and I had the students, both individually and in pairs, work on 3 different activities; catching a bean bag that they threw up in the air, catching a bean bag on their tennis racket (they flung the bean bag up then caught it on the strings of the racket), and finally popping a tennis ball up in the air, letting it bounce then popping it up again and again. They would work on each of these skills individually first, then do it with a partner. After each activity, they were required to record the number of successful catches or tennis pop ups individually and with their partners(please examples of student assessment below).
As there are such a wide range of student abilities, activities such as this must be differentiated in order for learning and development to take place. The way I differentiated this lesson to suit all of my students was by getting the students to really inquiry into what level they believed they were at. Key questions that I asked were:
How easy is it for you to catch the bean bag with your hands or racket? and How easy is it for you to pop the tennis ball up in the air after it bounces? If the students answered something to the effect of “not easy at all” or “ I cannot do it”, I would have them stand still while throwing and catching (softer, easier throws or pop ups). If the students answered something like “I can do it, but it is not too easy”, I would have the students walk around slowly while catching and throwing or popping the tennis ball up. If the students answered (and a few did) that it was super easy, I would make them jog or run while throwing, catching, or popping tennis ball up.
The key was to challenge them by getting them out of their comfort zones!