Encouraging Movement in PE Through Parkour

My students like to have options, and they enjoy exploring new movement areas. So, this year when I began an educational gymnastics unit with my fifth grade students, I gave them the option of creating an Educational Gymnastics routine or creating a Parkour routine.

Connecting Parkour to Our Standards

Colorado has outstanding standards and benchmarks for each grade in physical education and health. Under Standard One, Movement Competence and Understanding, our 5th graders have the following grade level expectation:

  • Demonstrate mature form for all basic locomotor, non-locomotor, manipulative, and rhythmic skills.
    • Evidence Outcomes:
      • Develop and refine a gymnastics or creative dance sequence and demonstrate smooth transitions.
      • Develop and refine a gymnastics sequence or creative dance sequence that combines traveling, rolling, balancing, and weight transfer into smooth-flowing sequences with intentional changes in direction, speed, and flow

Parkour Lead-up Skills

Prior to introducing Parkour, students have practiced:

  • A variety of rolls:
    • Log rolls
    • Forward and backward shoulder rolls
    • Traditional forward and backward rolls
  • A variety of balances:
    • Stork stand, scales
    • Inverted balances such as tip ups, tripods, and headstands
  • A variety of weight transfers:
    • Cartwheels
    • Mule kicks
    • Kick up (one handed and two handed)
    • Handstands
  • A variety of rotational skills:
    • Spinning
    • Jump turns

Developing and Revising

Prior to introducing Parkour, students determine two skills from each of these categories that they feel comfortable and confident performing. Throughout the unit, they video record each other performing their selected skills and work on making improvements based on analyzing their video. We use the native camera app on iPads and have found it works best for the videographer to step back from the mat and hold the iPad stationary and sideways. This allows the entire mat to appear in the viewer.

Empowering Students Through Choice

Because many of the gymnastic skills my students already reviewed fit into Parkour, I gave my students the choice of working on putting their selected skills into a gymnastic routine or a Parkour routine.

If students chose to work on a Parkour routine, I reviewed additional Parkour skills and combinations with them. Students practiced each of the following skills multiple times, progressing to more difficult skills and combinations. Students had a choice to continue through the following progression with me, or they could stay at a skill that was challenging for them until they were ready to progress.

Introduction to Parkour Progression

  • Forward shoulder roll slowly increasing speed
  • Forward shoulder roll from standing position
  • Walking approach to mat then forward shoulder roll
  • Walking approach to mat, forward shoulder roll, walk out
  • Jump off folded mat, land with two feet touching the floor with one hand (Frog) forward shoulder roll, walk out
  • Jump off folded mat, land in Frog position, forward shoulder roll, bear walk which in Parkour terms is called “quadrupedal”
  • Jump down from 2’H bleachers (or comparable height), land in Frog position, front shoulder roll, then Quadrupedal
  • Facing bleachers, walk up to bleachers, kick off jump turn, land in Frog position, shoulder roll

Students then worked on combining their newly acquired Parkour skills with handstands and cartwheels. Unlike the students who were working on Educational Gymnastic routines, these students worked on a mat placed next to our bleachers or a stack of folded mats against the wall. We also discussed the different visual lines of each; Educational Gymnastics skills are more visually appealing with fully extended limbs or tight tuck positions, whereas Parkour can have flexed limbs creating interesting juxtapositions.

Parkour in Reflection

As our school’s introduction to Parkour, this provided a fun and sound foundation. It felt risky to teach something new, but the response was very positive. I am feeling more confident, and the next steps for my students will include vaulting over obstacles in a variety of ways. I encourage you to expand your gymnastics unit this year to include Parkour. My students loved our Parkour unit and I am sure yours will too!

One Response

  1. I think giving students a choice keeps them much more engaged. What are some other ways you use choice in the PE classroom?

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