Students must remember many things while doing a sport or dancing. Remembering which muscles to move, the order in which to move them, and coordinating muscles to move at the right time can all be important. Having a sense of where they are in space is another skill that can help students coordinate their muscles when doing gross motor activities, for example, when trying to catch a ball or keeping their balance.

Choosing and ordering actions during a sport or dance involves problem solving strategies and an understanding of the steps in a process. Coordinating muscles for an activity, requires a student to use memory to remember the procedure or steps, to have a sense of spatial location in relation to other people or objects, and to send signals to the right muscles at the right time.

Knowing which muscles to use and which to not use during an activity can also be important. For example, if a student avoids using certain muscles when coasting on a bicycle, it is easier to maintain his or her balance. As students get older they are able to better control muscle use, in a sense, conserving energy.

Helpful Hints

  • Help students work on athletic skills and sub-skills by practicing the activity in a series of steps such as first practicing kicking a ball while standing still, then practicing walking up to the ball and kicking it, then practicing jogging up to the ball and kicking it, etc.  
  • Promote gross motor abilities with games that target specific skill areas such as balance and coordination, spatial awareness, eye-hand coordination, body image, and body rhythm. For example, have students act out a pretend adventure that encompasses many body movements. Incorporate different scenarios based on students’ interests, a thematic unit you are studying, events in the news, etc.  
  • Play Simon Says, specifying different movements for different parts of the body, e.g., Simon Says touch your left knee with your right hand, stand on one leg, etc. Create playful and imaginative ways to play Simon Says, asking students to be a tree on a windy day, popcorn popping, a person walking through mud, etc.  
  • Provide light weights for students to use. Weight use may improve a student’s awareness of body and movements by increasing the feedback received when movement occurs.  
  • Introduce the Mirror Game, in which students work to mirror or exactly copy each other’s movements. Start by having students work in pairs facing each other. Ask one student to lead by generating movements, and the other to mirror by following the movements exactly, so that the students are doing the same thing at the same time. Remind students that success in this game comes through cooperation rather than competition.