In a world that often focuses on competition and personal gain, children benefit greatly from opportunities that encourage them to think and act considerately toward others. Montessori teachers try to integrate such opportunities in all areas of the classroom, including physical education activities. To do this successfully in physical education, Montessori teachers shift the focus of sports and physical activities toward an approach that is non-competitive and collaborative.
Encouraging Physical Education the Montessori Way: Ideas for Non-Competitive Activities
When we teach sports such as volleyball, soccer, and basketball, we emphasize the goals of collaboration and working with a team instead of on scoring points and winning. In a volleyball game, we may encourage the students to continue a rally for as long as possible without letting the ball touch the ground. In soccer, we may suggest that the students work together as a team so that every player scores one goal each. Changing the focus of the sport motivates the students to work together to reach a common goal.
For our physical education lessons, we try to present a range of activities that appeal to the students’ interests and that are healthy, energetic, and fun. Most importantly, they demonstrate that athletics does not have to center on competition.
Here are some of the activities we include in the Montessori elementary environment:
- cooperative games like the human knot
- obstacle courses
- fitness classes that include circuits/stations with a partner
- hula hoop workouts
- parachute game (It requires team effort for the parachute to work!)
Another activity that we present is the Web of Life. The Web of Life is a cooperative simulation that invites students to take on the roles of organisms in a food web. It is not a physical game, but it works well when presented in the gym because it requires a lot of space.
As with the other cooperative games, the success of this activity lies in the students’ cooperation and positive communication.
The students stand in a circle and are each given a role as an animal, plant, or decomposer in the food web. One student holds an end of a skipping rope and gives the other end to a student with whom he is connected: a predator, a prey, or an organism in a symbiotic relationship. Each student in the circle is given a skipping rope to share in this same manner. Most of the students will end up holding multiple skipping ropes as their animal or plant will be connected to many others. This activity allows the students to concretely experience the interconnectedness of the organisms in the web of life. Students then consider how the web would be effected if something happened to one of the organisms. How would the web change because of deforestation or extinction? The students understand very quickly the importance of each organism. We also relate the idea of the web to our classroom and how we are interconnected and interdependent. We rely on and support one another and we each have an important role in our class.
We have the opportunity to see physical activity time as an opportunity for relationship building, cooperation, and positive interconnectedness. Teaching students to show consideration and care for one another develops stronger relationships among students that carry over to their everyday interactions. It also helps students become role models and positive leaders.
As Montessori teachers, we facilitate awareness and understanding. We demonstrate that the way we interact with each other and treat one another is a delicate yet powerful building block in the development of a greater peace in the world.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, January 8, 2016.