October 15, 2015
Teachers Talk - Chicken, Noodle, Hoops
Jason Perkins, Teacher, College Park Elementary School, Oshawa, ON

Being a gym teacher has its challenges and rewards. For the past 19 years I have been able to teach in a variety of schools across Ontario, and I've had the privilege to teach many students not just in a homeroom setting, but in a gym setting as well. Although my educational career did not begin with teaching Physical Education, opportunity presented itself, and now I teach students of all ages in a variety of sports and activities which enhance their physical education.
Teaching children physical education in elementary setting is not just about focusing on traditional methods. It is, rather, having students understand that gym is about something more. Teaching students the basic sports such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, hockey and many others is still an integral part of the physical education curriculum, but in the last number of years, I have learned many new and exciting ways to make gym classes fun and appealing for all ages and athletic abilities.
What do chickens, noodles and hoops have to do with all of this, you might ask. Well, let me tell you. During a class that I was taking in the evenings to stay current with my teaching degree I was introduced to the rubber chicken, the pool noodle and the hula hoop. My eyes were opened and I began to see the endless ways that I could create games and activities that would reach a broader audience of students.
I would like to share three examples with you:
Chuck the Chicken
This game involves two teams of equal students, boys or girls, one rubber chicken, and a big open space -- either inside a gymnasium or outdoors.
One team lines up in a straight line, while the other gets into a tight group with one member outside of the group whole as the runner. When the game begins, the group in the straight-line will have the rubber chicken in the hands of the first person of the line. At the whistle, the students in the line will pass the chicken overhead and under through their legs back and forth in a weaving motion, until the chicken ends up in the hands of the last person in line. At the same time as this is going on, the other team that is in a tight group with the runner on the outside will be doing their activity. The runner will begin to run circles (laps) around the circle group. Every time the runner makes a complete circle (lap) around the group, it counts as one point. The runner’s total laps around his team are counted as points. While this is going on, the chicken is on the move. Once the chicken has ended up in the hands of the last person in the line group, that person shouts "chuck that chicken," and throws the rubber chicken as far as they can away from the lap group. The lap group breaks formation and runs to where the chicken has landed. Once there, they line up in a straight line to begin their sequence of overhead and under through their legs just as the previous group done. While they are doing this, the other group gains points with a runner doing laps. Both teams will go through this two times each and at the end total lap points will be counted. The team with the most laps is the winning team of "chuck the chicken."
I introduced pool noodles to my gym classes in an effort to reduce the number of hands-on incidents that were occurring. Now, any game that involves tagging another person is done by touching them with a pool noodle (approx. 20 inches long). This helps even the playing field when it comes to some tag games. Students who might be slower than others now have a reach which is 20 inches longer, giving them more opportunities to tag the faster students in the class.

One of the students favorite games is called Pac-Man. In this game, runners stay on the gym lines, which may be volleyball, basketball, or badminton lines painted on the gym floor. The students move about freely zigzagging their way along any of these lines turning at any of the intersections that they may come to. One student is given a yellow noodle symbolizing that they are the Pac-Man or Pac-Woman. Two other students are given red pool noodles to represent that they are the chasers who are after everyone else. The students with the red noodles touch the other students.  Once a student has been tagged, they must sit on the floor on the line where they were touched. The students that are sitting now have become roadblocks for any other running students or the chasers. Pac-Man is the only one you can run past a roadblock. Pac-Man chases the two students with the red noodles. When Pac-Man catches one of the students with the red noodle, that student must go back to the center of the gym and begin chasing again. Once all the students have been caught by the chasers the game is finished. This game can be modified in many different ways.
Hula Hoop Tower:
Using hula hoops and combining them with commonly played games, like dodgeball, creates a fun twist to an old game. In my new rendition of dodgeball, hula hoops represent a tower. The dodgeball rules apply, but if a student knocks down the tower of hoops, the game is over immediately. Guarding the hula group tower is difficult, because students may get out in the process. Once a student is out, they still are able to aim their dodge balls at the other students, or the hula hoop tower to help their team win the game. During the month of October, when I played this modification of dodgeball using the hula hoops, I had some very exciting matches between two teams. The teams were divided as evenly as possible with strong and weak players on both. We played three games in total. The third and final game came down to a player who was not known for their athletic ability or even strong participation.  When this student made the winning shot and knocked down the tower of hula hoops, his entire team ran to him, and cheered and hugged to celebrate with him. It was proof again that each student has the potential to have fun in gym as long as the proper care is given and the games are made inclusive and not just exclusive.
Doing fitness tests and playing the traditional sports games are still great ways to have fun and be healthy in gym, but introducing new and exciting games which may include a rubber chicken, a pool noodle or even a hula hoop may be better. I say…."Let the games begin!"