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The Cranium Gymnasium

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Judith Black from Setauket, New York submitted this great activity for grades K-6.

Background: We call our gym “The Cranium Gymnasium” and use the expression repeatedly throughout the year. The word “cranium” is introduced in the first days of kindergarten and is reviewed for all other grade levels. We explain the “Cranium” is the name for the bones that protect your brain. In “The Cranium Gymnasium” children have to think! Here are two games we play in our Cranium Gymnasium:

“Hands-Up” – A Body Awareness Game

This is an engaging activity at all grade levels for body awareness and body parts vocabulary. It provides students with practice and repetition in naming and locating many body parts, muscles and bones. It is used for a mid-lesson change of pace, for refocusing the class, and as a closing activity at line-up. It is helpful for large-group management. Parents find it very impressive at field day.

“Hands-Up” is reminiscent of “Simon Says,” but no one gets “out” and children may look at the teacher to get the correct response. Keep it simple, play slowly enough for all children to respond. Focus on review words, adding tidbits of body information along the way. Explain new words carefully; use only one new word per month.

How We Do It: The teacher raises her own hands and simultaneously announces “Hands-Up.” As the children put their hands up, the teacher calls out the name of a body part and students then indicate the appropriate body area. Try the partial list below:

Kindergarten: Learns – Reviews:

Gluteus Maximus
Index finger
Ear lobe
Eye brow
Eye lashes

Grades 1-6: Add – Practice:

Upper Arm

Teacher Tips: Here are a few examples of exercises to reinforce the vocabulary.

Gluteus Maximum Spins: Sit with crossed legs and spin.
Deltoid Doves: Flap arms like a bird. Explain that birds have huge deltoid muscles to flap their wings.
Pectoral Peak: Hold the top position of a push-up.
Abdominal Curls: Curl-ups – only go one third of the way up.
Tricep Testers: Chair dips or crab push-ups.

The Playground Ball Warm-Up

Introduction: This is a favorite assignment for our second and third graders; first graders do it with fewer activities. Fourth graders add an under-the-leg dribble and against-the-wall volleyball skills. We also add bump, underhand serve and catch, and overhead serve and catch to fourth graders. This works with all playground balls or with a variety of balls.

Preparation: All grade levels learn and practice the Playground Ball Freeze. When a teacher calls “freeze,” all students sit cross-legged, hands on their knees, and with the ball in the lap. Any ball that rolls away may not be retrieved until the teacher restarts the activity.

How We Do It: Each child gets a playground ball and finds a good space. Begin with:

- 10 Controlled tosses overhead and catch,
- 10 Bounces right hand,
- 10 Bounces left hand,
- 10 Attempts lifting one leg over the ball as it bounces (5 right/5 left) – second grade,
- 10 Repetitions of “One-Two-Three O’Lario” – third grade (three bounces, then leg over).

Then go to a wall and continue with:

- 10 Times wall-bounce-catch (throw against the wall; let the ball bounce once, catch),
- 10 Times bounce-wall-catch (throw against the floor near the wall; let the ball rebound off the wall and catch),
- 10 Times wall-catch,
- 10 Times bounce-pass-wall (a very low two-hand underhand pass for Two Square).

Warm-Up for 2-3 Minutes: As children finish one round, they begin again. Call “freeze” after 2-3 minutes.

Teacher Tips: For limited space, divide the class into two groups; one group begins with bouncing and the other starts at the wall. “If you are wearing shorts, begin with bouncing … Long pants, begin at the wall.”

We hope you and your students enjoy these two activities from our Cranium Gymnasium to yours!

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