It does not take a huge leap to become a champion of literacy skills in your school. As a physical education teacher, you have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with many students each day. The position gives you the opportunity to promote fitness, healthy lifestyle choices, teamwork, and much more. You are a role model and your reach can go even further when you integrate reading into your instruction to ensure you are promoting literacy through PE.
One way to promote literacy skills in P.E. is to include a story into your game or activity. One example is an activity I created with the use of a very fun book, The Great Fuzz Frenzy, by Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens. The book is a personal favorite and takes place in the world of prairie dogs that become intrigued over a tennis ball that is dropped into their underground home. The fuzz of the ball sets off a fuzz-frenzy among the prairie dogs and eventually leads them into a dangerous situation with a hungry eagle.
Prior to playing the game I take time to read the book to the class. If your class time is short and reading the book at the beginning of your lesson does not leave you with adequate time to play the game, try pushing into the classroom. Going into the classroom to read the book a few days prior to playing the game will provide you with more time for movement, allow students to see you in a different light, and will help you forge relationships with other teachers. Another idea is to host a 20-30 minute reading assembly for multiple grades or classes and make this book a highlight of the experience.
Once students know the story you are ready to introduce and play the game. It is a great activity for outside or any large space indoors. As always, make accommodations to the rules and set up based on your safety needs, equipment, class size, and space.
Be creative, modify the rules, and adapt as needed. Make up a name you feel will grab the attention of the students. Our game was played with students in grades K-4 and was simply called, “Fuzz Frenzy!”
Activity Description: There are two “characters” in the game: the prairie dogs that are trying to get the tennis balls, and the eagles circling overhead. Create a large, safe place to run that has clearly marked boundaries on the sides and ends. Try a rectangular space that is roughly 30 x 60 yards, scale it to your grade level. Spread out a variety of equipment of various sizes as places where prairie dogs may stop to hide and be safe as they cross. Create groups of 3-4 students. Each prairie dog will wear a flag belt.
Line groups of students up behind a hula hoop. Choose one team to come to the middle of the playing area to be the eagles for the first game. On your signal to begin the game, a prairie dog may leave their hoop and try to make it across the field to the tennis balls. If they make it across they are safe behind the cones (in the end zone). They must run back across the field and put the tennis ball in their hoop (the prairie dog hole) without being caught by an eagle. When a gopher returns to the hole with a tennis ball the team should yell “We’ve got FUZZ!!” The next prairie dog tries to go across. If a gopher has their flag(s) pulled while going across the playing area they must go back to their group and a new prairie dog attempts to cross the field. If the student has their flag(s) pulled and has a tennis ball, they hand it to the eagle who then places it back in the end zone. The student then returns to their group and a new team member attempts to steal some fuzz.
After 3-5 minutes or when the tennis balls are gone, rotate a new group to be the eagles in the middle of the field.
In the game, prairie dogs may touch an object as they go across the field and be safe for a 5 count at the object (1-fuzz, 2-fuzz, 3-fuzz…) They must continue touching the object in the field to be safe. The gophers may move from object to object to make it across the field without having flags pulled.
Eagles must stay in the main playing area and may not go in the end zone past the cones where the tennis balls are scattered or in bins. Prairie dogs that make it past the eagles and into the end zone are safe until they decide to cross back into the playing area and try to make it back successfully to their group.
Some easy modifications may include allowing multiple prairie dogs cross the field at once, limiting the number of objects they can touch on their way across, and changing the locomotor movement.