US History connecting with PE?
You bet! And here’s how it happened:
One day, the 8th grade PE teacher (Erin Visch-Krahn) popped by my classroom to talk about a collaboration piece she was working on with another teacher. And when I say “talk about”, what I mean is “brag about”. I was jealous as I am ALWAYS looking for ways to collaborate and here was EVK putting joint projects together in the first month of school.
I demanded that she and I create something. The problem was, what could possibly link our curriculum? I asked her what upcoming unit would she be focusing on. Erin said her students would spend a few classes on dodgeball. My students, on the other hand, were in the middle of a unit on the US Revolutionary War. Hmmmm…..
Then, like a dodgeball to the face, it hit us: dodgeball? War? Eureka!
Within minutes, we had created our school’s first US Revolutionary battle reenactment activity. Instead of muskets and cannons, students would employ dodgeballs and fiery rhetoric.
Here’s how it worked:
- Prepping the US History Students
I provided students with a worksheet. On one side (entitled Lawful Loyalist) students had to list 3 reasons why the Loyalist side of the war was right and the rebels were wrong. On the flipside (entitled Raging Rebels) students had to list 3 reasons why the Loyalists were crazy and why the king had to go. For both sides, students had to include old timey insults – names people would have called each other during colonial times.
Once complete, students reviewed both points-of-view to familiarize themselves with the arguments of both sides and the curse words.
- Teams Divided
Days later, in their PE class, students were randomly split into 2 teams. One team wore red pinnies, the other wore blue. The red side represented the Loyalists (red = British Redcoats!) and the blue side were the Rebels.
- Inspiration Speeches/Name Calling
Before the dodgeball game began, there was time set aside for speeches. Students were selected by the PE teacher to step forward and explain – on behalf of their team – why the battle was happening. Students had to use the ideas and arguments outlined in their handout. Also, upon concluding the exchange of ideas, insults were to be exchanged. During all this, the PE teacher observed and used a rubric to check who was participating and to what degree.
Once the rhetoric and posturing was complete, the actual dodgeball game began.
Once the game ended, the winning team was declared victorious and gloated, in a most unsportsmanlike way, at the losers.
What I like about this activity is that it connects two classes that normally do not connect. Next, by connecting competition with the revolution, the activity helps students understand the passions on both sides of this struggle. For PE, this activity takes a ho-hum traditional game and, by putting context around it, lifts it into something more powerful. I also like how it links learning with physical activity, making it (for those more kinesthetic learners) a more active and engaging event.
This was super easy to organize and it really encouraged me to find other ways to link my curriculum with that of my colleagues.