Create Leadership Opportunities in PE with Free-Play Fridays

Do you reward your students with a free-play day or fun day during the week? If so, I’m sure you’ve experienced the chaos and frustration these fun days can create. Turn your free-play days into an organized, team-building, and student leadership opportunities with these tips!

Fun Friday Must Be Earned

First, a free-play day, or “Fun Friday” as we previously called it, is only earned by the students if the weekly program was successfully executed and they showed enthusiastic and supportive attitudes.

Why Fun Friday’s Fail

Fun Fridays typically consist of an open gym concept, with a team orientated theme. The challenge I often face, however, is due to the lack strict teaching format that’s less focused on developing fundamental movement patterns or structural adaptive learning, finding an activity that can be agreed upon by the entire class is quite difficult. Sometimes having too many options is a bad thing.

I’ve discussed with colleagues in the PE coaching community about how they mitigate the frustration of the free play concept and how to potentially back-door a less then obvious teaching opportunity in the mean-time. Those discussions have lead to some interesting and innovative perspectives on the free-play concept, from different takes on traditional games and team-work and student leadership opportunities. After several unsuccessful attempts to refine the free-play day, I finally decided that “freedom” to choose can lead to contention, frustration and drowned out useful ideas.

A Solution That Builds Leadership, Team Building and Public Speaking

I decided that I’d ratchet back the plethora of options and designate two groups or teams, along with a team leader, that rotates from student to student throughout the semester. Each team is given two game options and must decide upon their favorite as a team. Then, the team creates a check-list of five reasons why their team’s selected game is the right choice for free-play day, which is presented to the class by the team leader.

Essentially I’ve turned a fun, but potentially frustrating and worse, chaotic experience in the free-play day into an organized, team-building, public speaking opportunity. The students were initially reluctant to speak publicly in front of their peers, but with positive reinforcement, direction and fun environment, I’ve witnessed my young students blossom in this format. Allowing everyone, not just the athletic elite to hold a student leadership role has become a very rewarding and fascinating experience.

Free-play-Friday has been now renamed to Leadership Friday, and for many of my students, this format has reignited their excitement and enthusiasm for PE.

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