My students absolutely love dodgeball. Even the students who don’t like dodgeball that much still ask me if they can play dodgeball. When I talk to other PE teachers, their experiences resemble mine; their students crave dodgeball. It is interesting how many adults I speak to that hate the game due to past experiences of getting hit too many times or too hard. Other teachers complain about the conflict that arises when students argue about getting hit or not. In my opinion, the worst part is when students have to wait long periods of time to get back in the game because they were hit very quickly. But even the students who are sitting out for long periods of time still crave the game. If the students really want to play, we need a better way to keep them playing.
The best PE games are cyclical in nature. Students should never sit out, but instead change roles.
One of the most important roles of a PE teacher (Montessori or traditional) is to facilitate play and practice. Anytime a student is “out” for a substantial period of time, we are not accomplishing that mission. Students who are not playing during PE will come to resent PE, and that is no good. Students who do not enjoy PE class will eventually learn to disdain physical activity in general, which will be detrimental to the health of the child. Students sitting out during PE are like a math student who must wait a period of time before attempting another problem because they got one wrong. It makes no sense.
However, students do want consequences for actions in a game. If a student is tagged or hit with a dodgeball, and nothing happens, the students will soon get bored of the game or not understand the game in general. Every game needs consequences based on actions during gameplay, but “getting out” is not a viable option. What is the right the option then?
The students should change roles as a consequence, and then continue playing the game in this new role. By doing so, the students are not afraid to take risks because they know they will continue to play. However, the game is not meaningless because something happens when a player is hit or tagged. A transition of roles also can be an excellent way for a game to describe some type of natural cycle, so changing roles in the game is symbolic of what happens in real life. Here are some examples of games (many which are in Montessori Physical Education Volume 1 ©) where students are not out, but change roles throughout the game:
When students can play their favorite games and not have to sit for long periods of time, they get the best of both worlds. They get to play. The student gets the full class time to learn, exercise, and participate. We want students to get the maximum amount of playing time possible learning and mastering the concepts of the game as well as practicing motor skills. Neither is happening when a student is sitting on the sidelines. So, in short, don’t sit the students, cycle the students.