How I Teach Tumbling

Meet The Author: Eric Davolt

This article was originally written by Eric Davolt and published on his website The Phys Ed Coach. Check out the original article published here. 

Introduction

Over the years that I’ve been on Twitter and going to different professional developments, I always hear teachers say they don’t know how to teach tumbling/gymnastics. So, I thought I’d take a moment and share how I go about teaching this topic in my classes. It has really evolved over the years and I’m sure it will continue to change as I learn more and progress in my teaching skills.

The Content

In my tumbling unit, I like to incorporate a lot of different content other than just tumbling skills themselves. I like to incorporate the principles of biomechanics (force, levers, opposition, rotary motion, and inertia), the six components of skill-related fitness (agility, balance, coordination, power, reaction time, and speed), and learning strategy and tactics for transitioning in between movements.

The Process

This unit is broken into two parts the cognitive part and the performance part. I start out by giving a pre-test in the cognitive section. This test is a tiered assessment. Students will start at level one and continue to try to answer the questions in each level. Once they get to the level where they can not answer any of the questions they stop taking the test. From there I grade the assessments and figure out who needs intervention and who needs enrichment.

For the skill section, the students work in teams to create routines. You might be thinking, “How do they create routines? They haven’t learned any skills yet”. If you were thinking that that would be a great thought.

Each team is given a mat or two, a rubric, a routine builder, and a Chromebook. The students start out by reading the rubric and deciding what level they want to shoot for.

Then they use the mats and the Chromebooks to practice about 30-40 different skills. All of the skills are in .GIF format on a Google Slides presentation. Once the students have discovered which skills each of them can do they use the routine builder to start creating their routine. Once the students believe they are ready to perform they let me know and they perform their routine. If they are happy with their score they are ready for enrichment. If they are not happy then they can continue practicing and perform again.

As the students are creating their routines we also do activities that will help them learn the cognitive information through tumbling/gymnastics.

I end up giving the cognitive summative assessment to see if the students have learned the content. If they have we are ready to move on. If there are still students struggling we can continue to a new unit because the cognitive skills can also be taught in other units.

Conclusion

I haven’t always taught my tumbling unit this way and it will probably continue to develop over the years. I’m always trying to make it better. I’ve even thought about changing it to a parkour unit or adding in parkour for those who might be more interested in that.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and have learned something new. If you have any questions feel free to reach out. I’m more than willing to help you any way I can.

Update, Update, Update!

Now that we are teaching in an online world adjustments have to be made in order to teach some of the same content that we always have. I believe a simple tumbling program can still be taught in a remote or distance learning environment. I’d like to share ideas for doing just that.

Like other pieces of content that we teach we must slow down the pace and simplify the skills to make sure student learning is happening. We also need to make sure students are safe.

Safety is the most important thing we have to think about when attempting this unit while students are at home. We need to remind students to do these skills on the carpeted floor, outside on the grass, on a pile of outstretched towels, or if allowed couch cushions. If a family can afford it they may choose to purchase a small mat for the student to work on. I would also advise being careful about teaching skills where the students go upside down.

Some of the tools I use at school can still be utilized when we are apart from our students. For instance, the use of animated GIFs to show proper technique. I really like having the GIFs I use on Google Slides. That way the students can see the demonstration in the GIF, I can have a written description of the skill next to it, and I can use the add audio function to explain verbally what is going on in the GIF.

Teaching the concepts of biomechanics and skill-related fitness through tumbling skills would be the same as in-person since they are cognitive skills.

For your synchronous time, you can:

  • have each student perform a skill and you could give instant feedback.
  • have them turn in videos of multiple pre-determined skills for you to provide feedback later.
  • if your school district allows you to record your lessons you could record all the students on the screen in grid form and watch later for feedback. This way you only have to open one video file. I know, you will have to rewind quite often for this though.
  • place the students into breakout rooms and assess and give feedback to small groups so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

Feedback is crucial for student learning so this can’t be skipped and should be given as soon as possible, even if you have a lot of students. They need to be prepared for the summative assessment.

For summative assessments, you can still have students perform skills or routines depending on what the standard is asking for. They can capture themselves on the video platform of your choice. This could be Flip Grid, YouTube, or a simple video file attached to an assignment in Google Classroom.

I hope this addition to this post has helped give you some help on implementing a tumbling unit in your online classes.

Resources

In this section, you will be able to download all of the resources I listed above plus a couple more.

Routine Builder

Tumbling Tiered Assessment

Cognitive Summative

Performance Summative Rubric

Tumbling with the six components of skill-related fitness

Tumbling with the principles of biomechanics

Skill .GIFs

Biomechanics Podcast

6 Components of Skill-Related Fitness Podcast

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