Archive for September, 2016


Lacrosse 101

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

SPARK-Lacrosse

By: Dr. Scott Townsend and Dr. Derek Mohr, Appalachian State University

What sport is…

Considered the fastest game on two feet?
The national summer sport of Canada?
Originally derived from a game called Baggataway?

You got it – Lacrosse a.k.a. Lax!

Think you don’t know anything about lacrosse? Think again! Lacrosse is a field-based invasion game that is similar in strategy to sports like soccer or team handball. So while the skills of the sport are unique, the tactics are likely familiar.

Whether you are looking to freshen up your curriculum with new content or teach lacrosse again, the tips and resources below can help you be successful.

The Terrific 10

Here is a list of 10 basic rules of traditional lacrosse:

  1. Teams. 10 players per side; three defenders, three midfielders, three attackers, one goalkeeper.
  2. Games. Four 12-15 minute quarters with a running clock.
  3. Scoring. One point per score.
  4. Starting Play. Game starts with a coin toss to determine defending ends. Teams switch ends after each period.
  5. Restarting Play. After a goal with a face-off.
  6. Out-of-Bounds. Over a sideline: use a thrown-in to restart play. Over an endline: use a throw-in or run-in (possession of a missed shot that crosses an endline is awarded to the team with the player nearest the endline as the ball goes out).
  7. When a team fails to have at least three players in the attack half of field and less than four players in the defensive half; results in a 30 sec. penalty.
  8. Tie Game. Games tied are decided by extra time play, then penalty goal shootouts.
  9. Breaches of rules result in time-out penalties, divided into technical (non-injurious fouls such as holding; 30 sec.) and personal (severe foul such as slashing; 1-3 min.). While penalties are served, teams play shorthanded until the penalty time-out is over.
  10. May stop the ball with any part of their body or stick while inside crease. Consequently, offensive players may not contact or interfere with the goalkeeper in the crease.

Terms of Endearment

Whether watching or playing, knowing the terms below will make you more lacrosse-literate:

  • Clearing: Passing or running the ball from the defensive area to the attack area
  • Crease: Circle around the goal area
  • Extra Player: When a team has a player advantage due to a penalty on their opponent
  • Loose Ball: An uncontrolled ground ball
  • Quick Stick: Catching and passing or shooting in one fluid motion
  • Riding: A quick transition from offense to defense to prevent a clear

So Skillful

While the tactics of lacrosse are similar to other invasion type games, the skills are unique. Some of the most important stick-based skills include:

  • Scooping: Retrieving the ball from the ground quickly
  • Catching: Securing the ball in the pocket in preparation for a pass, shoot, or to run
  • Passing: Moving the ball around the field from player to player
  • Cradling: Maintaining possession of ball without passing, catching, or shooting
  • Dodging: Changing direction and speed to free a player up to either pass or shoot
  • Shooting: Similar to a pass but its intent is to score a goal
  • Stick-Checking: Defensive use of the stick to keep offensive player from scoring or passing

Did You Know?

SPARK is hosting a free lacrosse webinar on October 19, 2016 (click here to register) and has just rolled out a web-exclusive SPARK HS Lacrosse unit located on SPARKfamily.org. Please join us to learn more about this exciting sport and experience the vast array of educational resources SPARK offers to help you implement lacrosse in your PE program.

What are your experiences teaching or playing lacrosse? What advice would you give to someone who has never played the game or a teacher wanting to add this to their curriculum? Post a response below and let us know!

Click here to shop lacrosse equipment & resources.

Big Results in a Short Period of Time

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

New Research on SPARK Middle School PE program Published!

By: Paul Rosengard, SPARK Godfather

Did you know today’s SPARK’s Middle School Physical Education curriculum and teacher training program evolved from the three largest studies of MS PE ever conducted? It’s true. The three National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research projects, M-SPAN (Middle School Physical Education and Nutrition), TAAG (Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls), and The Healthy Study contributed to the exemplary and award-winning program being disseminated today.

While the last of these studies concluded in 2010, middle schools across the country have partnered with local universities to conduct ongoing tests of the SPARK program and better understand its effects on students and teachers.

One such effort titled, “Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle School Students” was recently published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health*. Several significant takeaways from this paper:

Background: This study examined the effect of a 9-week SPARK Middle School Physical Education program on physical activity levels, cardio-fitness, and motivation of 174 sixth through eighth grade students from two urban, private schools in Salt Lake City, Utah. This intervention group (using SPARK MS PE) was compared to other students in the same grades and schools who continued with their usual physical education program (Controls – referred to in the paper as Traditional group).

Measures: To ascertain student activity levels, students wore high-quality, research-validated pedometers. To determine their levels of cardio-fitness, students were administered the PACER test. To assess students’ motivation and enjoyment of the SPARK activities, they completed questionnaires (Sport Enjoyment Scale).

Results: Despite the very short intervention timeline, students participating in SPARK Middle School PE were more active, increased their cardio-fitness scores, and showed they were more motivated by the SPARK lessons and enjoyed them more than their “usual/traditional” PE program.

Here’s one interesting quote from the paper:

“The results from this study indicate that there were increases in-class PA for both the SPARK and Traditional groups from pre-test to post-test. However, the SPARK group had statistically greater increases on in-class PA compared with the Traditional group in younger children. These results support that SPARK, as an established health-related PE program, was significantly more effective in increasing middle school students’ in-class PA levels than the Traditional program in younger children.”

SPARK wishes to thank the authors, the University of Utah, and the participating schools and teachers for their time and subsequent contribution to the scientific knowledge base.

If your school is conducting research using any components of any SPARK program, please let us know via email, spark@sparkpe.org.

Ready to bring SPARK Middle School Physical Education to your school?

  • Click here to download free sample SPARK Middle School PE Lesson Plans
  • Click here to shop for SPARK Middle School PE curriculum sets
  • Click here to request a proposal for the full SPARK Middle School PE program (professional development training, curriculum, and content-alighted equipment)

*Article citation:

Fu, Y., Gao, Z., Hannon, J.C., Burns, R.D., Brusseau, T.A. (2016). Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle-School Students. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 13, 534-542.

Click here to access the research article.

Parents: 3 Easy Actions You Can Take to Boost Play for Kids!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Fish-eye view of children on play equipment

School is back in session. But too many schoolyards are LOCKED UP after classes, especially in Latino neighborhoods, and families often lack safe places to play.

That’s why Salud America! has a new campaign urging schools to boost public access to recreational facilities. Salud America!, led by health researcher Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national program. It was created to prevent Latino childhood obesity and is based at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (@SaludToday on social media).

Here are three actions all parents can take today to boost play for kids:

DOWNLOAD our free toolkit for parents with easy steps to achieve open use of school rec facilities!

SIGN our letter campaign to urge your state PTA association to help schools develop shared or open policies for recreational facilities!

SHARE photos on social media of recreational facilities you want kids to be able to play on, tag with #ActiveSpaces, and enter a random drawing for a free Jawbone fitness tracker!

Open and shared use policies can increase opportunities for physical activity and play among families.

Schools can adopt an “open use” policy to formally grant public access to its recreational facilities after school hours. Schools also can work with other groups to develop a “shared use agreement,” a contract that allows the sharing of school facilities for the public or groups after hours.

Don’t miss this opportunity to download our toolkit, sign the letter, and learn more about sharing active spaces photos to show support for these healthy school changes.

The future health and weight of Latino and all children depends on accessible opportunities for physical activity and play!

This post has been provided by Salud America!

Learn more at salud-america.org.

Introducing: Project IGNITE!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Project-IGNITE-blog-image

By: Naomi Hartl, PE Development & Technology Specialist, Sportime featuring SPARK

These two questions are frequently asked in the physical education profession today:

  • “What does effective teaching look like in a physical education class?”
  • “How can I observe model teaching practices in physical education?”

Physical educators are not always given time to observe other teachers within their school or district, and administrators observing classes may not understand what an effective physical education lesson looks like. They may think if students are smiling, moving, and behaving, then the educator is an effective teacher.

While the physical education classroom may “look” different from a general classroom, both require sound instructional practice, which is essential for an effective physical education program. Therefore, a recurring problem is the minimal knowledge about what evidence-based teaching practices look like in physical education.

There are many informative resources available that support effective teaching. These may be in the form of blog posts, resource documents, journal articles, and books. However, there is nothing that is freely and readily available to the public that visually shows us what it looks like.

This is where Project IGNITE! comes in…

Project IGNITE! is a free resource package, brought to you by the SPARK Innovation Team, that includes SPARK Lesson Checklists, an Effective Teaching Resource Document, and the much anticipated Project IGNITE! Video Library.

The purpose of Project IGNITE! is to elevate the profession by providing a platform that shares videos of what effective teaching looks like in a physical education setting. This platform will allow administrators, physical educators, university professors and pre-service teachers to begin to have collaborative conversations about what effective teaching looks like in physical education and begin the shift from a teacher evaluation lens to a professional growth mindset.

The Project IGNITE! Video Library is a crowd-sourced project where educators from across the country contribute by sharing videos of their lessons. All videos submitted will go through a vetting process before being posted on the website. We would like to post video clips that represent multiple levels of what effective teaching looks like in physical education and encourage you to share video clips at every level of your teaching. All videos are stored and posted for free on www.SPARKecademy.org.

Sportime featuring SPARK is actively searching for an elite group of effective physical educators to showcase best practice from their programs and assist others by adding their expertise to our online Video Library.

Ready to learn more?

Join us on for a free webinar on September 14th at 5pm PT, 8pm ET to learn more and join the movement. Click Here to register for the free webinar.

Want to get started? (after September 14th)

Log in or create your free account at SPARKecademy.org, then navigate to the Project IGNITE! Video Library under the Course Catalog. View videos, download resources, and access instructions for uploading your video.

Join us as we revolutionize the profession by sharing what effective teaching looks like in a physical education setting!

Back to School: Creating that Positive Learning Environment

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Group of little girls and boys in front of blackboard

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

The beginning of the school year is always a fun time for leading some icebreakers with your students. Icebreakers are meant to “break the ice” that might exist when a group of people, in your case, your students, don’t know each other. They are also helpful when kids do know each other but may be too shy or embarrassed to open up and work to their potential. Icebreakers done well can really help get your school year off to a great start. Here are five tried and true icebreakers that are fun, involve everyone, help students get to know each other better, and help break down barriers that may exist. Enjoy!

  1. 3, 2, 1
  • Find a partner. You have about a minute to come up with three UNIQUE things you have in common. E.g. You both swim on a team. NOT: You are both girls. (Have three pairs share their commonalities and give them time to discuss.)
  • Now, you and your partner join another pair to form a foursome. This time find two UNIQUE things the four of you have in common. (Have three groups share their commonalities and give them time to discuss.)
  • Finally, your group joins another to form a group of eight. Your task is to find one thing you all have in common! (Have three groups share their commonalities and give them time to discuss. Then discuss how they came up with their commonalities and how it helps to know things we have in common with others.)
  1. The Name Game
  • How quickly can we form a circle touching elbows?
  • In the Name Game we will start with me and move clockwise around the circle. When it is your turn, step forward, say your name loud and clear, and the physical activity you like to do best. When you say your activity, also act it out.
  • After each person, the rest of the circle calls out their name and acts out the activity while saying it. E.g. Joan likes to jump rope!
  • Continue around the circle, stopping to review every 5-7 students, until everyone has gone. Then we’ll do one final time around to review.
  1. Workout Buddies
  • Mingle, mingle in our activity area at a walking pace. Stand thumb to thumb with a partner. This is your Thumb Wrestling Buddy. Whenever I call “Thumb Wrestling Buddy!” find this person and begin thumb wrestling. (Explain and demo thumb wrestling. Allow them to practice for 30 seconds or so.) Say goodbye and thank you, then jog away.
  • Stand elbow to elbow with a new partner. This is your Rock, Paper, Scissors Buddy. You will be partners when I call “Rock, Paper, Scissors Buddy!” (Explain and demo rock, paper, scissors. Allow them to practice.) Say goodbye and thank you, then side-slide away.
  • Stand knee to knee with a new partner. This is your Knee Tag Buddy. In Knee Tag the object is to tag your partner’s knees while they try to tag yours. Use only one hand; the other hand wraps around the wrist of the hand you are using. (Allow them to play.) Say goodbye and thank you, and then skip away.
  • Stand back to back with a 4th This is your Secret Handshake Buddy. You will have one minute to create and practice a secret handshake that has five moves. (Allow time to create and practice.)
  • These Workout Buddies will be used for the first few weeks of school. Let’s do a quick review so we remember who our four buddies are and what to do when we meet them! (Call each buddy name and allow time for students to find their specific buddy and begin the activity. Once all have found each other, quickly move to the next buddy.)
  1. Change Three Things
  • Find a partner. You have one minute to look at and memorize what your partner looks like.
  • On “Turn away” both of you turn away from your partner (you’ll be back to back) and change three things about your looks; they can be subtle or obvious. On “Turn back” both of you turn to look at your partner and guess the three things they changed.
  • Turn away! (Give them about a minute to change things around.) Turn back! (Allow time for partners to figure it out.)
  • Now we are going to do it again! This time you will have to get even more creative! (Repeat at least one more time.)
  • (Discuss what it takes to be observant. Also, how were you able to change things and get creative?)
  1. Rock, Paper, Scissors Fan Club
  • Find a partner. On signal, play rock, paper, scissors with this partner. The lucky one raises their hand and looks for another lucky one with their hand raised to play again. The unlucky partner becomes the biggest fan of the lucky partner, cheering their name and following close behind them.
  • Then, after the next game, the lucky one repeats and this time all three of the unlucky partners are part of their fan club, which is now a growing fan club.
  • Continue until there are only two lucky ones left and half the class is cheering one name and half cheering for the other. These two will play one final match.
  • When there is one final lucky one, the whole class cheers for that player!
  • (Because it is based on luck, it is fun to see kids who have never been the center of attention or on the “winning side” of things. It is a nice way to end a class.)