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Traveling Transformers

This is an excerpt from Teaching Children Gymnastics-3rd Edition by Peter Werner,Lori Williams & Tina Hall.

Traveling Transformers


As a result of participating in this learning experience, children will improve their ability to

  • travel in a variety of locomotor patterns changing pathways (standard 1);
  • demonstrate clear contrasts between slow and fast movement when traveling (standard 1);
  • match a sequence of traveling actions on the floor (standard 1);
  • demonstrate momentary stillness in a variety of shapes on a variety of body parts and at different levels (standard 1);
  • jump and land using a variety of takeoffs and landings in relation to small equipment (standard 1);
  • jump and land using various patterns (one foot to the same [hop], one foot to the opposite [leap], two to two, one to two, and two to one) (standard 1);
  • design and perform a simple sequence involving traveling and balancing and incorporate changes of shape and speed or pathway (standards 1 and 2);
  • identify the critical elements of locomotor skills (standard 2); and
  • work cooperatively in a group setting and with a partner by sharing equipment and space (standard 5).

Suggested Grade Range

Primary (1 to 2)


A large, open space. Children spread out in personal space with jump ropes stretched out, or in random shapes, on the floor and scattered throughout the area.

Equipment Needed

You will need several jump ropes, approximately one for each child to avoid collisions.


“As we begin today, you can see all of the jump ropes spread about on the floor. We are going to start by staying away from them and moving all around them. When I say go I would like for you to run like a gymnast, traveling all around the ropes. I want you to run softly on the balls of your feet (I). Remember to get your knees up high and to swing your arms. When I say freeze you must come to a complete stop on your feet beside a rope that is nearby. Remember to watch where you are going and enter empty space so you will not bump into anyone. Go! Make sure you are visiting all the areas of our work space (R). I see many of you traveling at the same speed. See if you can change that by moving slowly and then speeding up and then slowing down again (E). See how many pathways you can travel in: Try a curved pathway and zigzag pathway as you move between and around the equipment (A). Great! I like how you are using soft feet and getting your knees high. Freeze.

“Now we are going to work on traveling over the ropes. What do you need to watch out for when you arrive at a rope? Yes, other people. So if someone else is about to travel over a rope, you should move on to an empty space. When I say go I want you to continue to run like a gymnast; but when you come to a rope, instead of traveling around it, hop over it (E). Who remembers what a hop is? Yes, Bethany it is taking off on one foot and landing on that same foot. When I say freeze, remember to come to a complete stop beside a rope. Go! I see a lot of good hopping using a one-foot takeoff and a soft landing. Many of you are hopping on your favorite foot only. So make sure the other foot gets a turn to hop (E). Remember to include a change of speed (E). See if you can change your pathway to get to another rope (E). Freeze!

“Next let’s try galloping. Continue to hop over the rope when you come to it. But before I say go, who can tell me what a gallop looks like? Yes, Charlie, it’s step, together, step, together. Would you like to demonstrate that for us? Nice job remembering to lead with the same foot forward. When I say go, gallop, and when you come to a rope, hop over it (E). Go! Remember to face forward while you gallop (R). Remember to give the other foot a turn being the leader and the other foot a turn to hop (E). See how smoothly you can change the lead foot (R). Try using your lead foot to hop over the rope to make a smooth move from the gallop to the hop. Work to make your actions flow (R). Also see if you can show a change in speed while you travel (E). Freeze!

“Let’s gallop and jump this time. What does a good jump look like? You are right; when you jump do you take off on two feet and land on two feet? Should I hear your two-foot landing? No. Remember to land softly on the balls of your feet while bending at your hips, knees, and ankles. On go, travel by galloping, and when you come to a rope, jump over it (E). Go! How can you move smoothly from the gallop to the jump (R)? Remember to give the other foot a chance to lead when you gallop (E). See if you can gallop in a zigzag pathway (E). Can you change speed (E)? Freeze!

“We are going to gallop and jump again. But before we do, I want you to change the shape of the jump rope you are standing beside. You can make the shape of a letter of the alphabet or a letter in your name, or you can make a heart shape or a square—any shape that you like. Now, when you come to a rope you can decide if you are going to jump over it or in and out of it. This time I want you to work on making your moves look really smooth as you connect your gallop and jump and landings. I will be watching for galloping that moves smoothly into a jump and soft landing and then back to a gallop (R). Go! Freeze!

“Let’s add a leap this time. On go, I want you to run like a gymnast, traveling through open space, changing speed and pathways. When you come to a rope, leap over it (E). When you leap, remember to take off on one foot and land on the other foot. Pretend you are leaping over a big mud puddle. It looks like this (demonstrate) run, run, run, l-e-a-p. Now you try it: Run, run, run l-e-a-p! One more time: Run, run, run l-e-a-p! You’ve got it! So when I say go, you are going to run like a gymnast, changing speed and pathways. When you come to a piece of equipment, leap over it (E). Go! Nice work, Grace. That was a very smooth, controlled move from the run to the leap and back to the run. Everyone focus on that (R). You can pretend that the ropes are puddles and decide if you want to leap all the way over them or you can leap with the lead foot landing right in the middle of the space made by the rope (E). You can decide. Freeze.

“Now let’s skip as you travel throughout space (E). Remember that a skip is a step and a hop. Chris, would you like to demonstrate a skip showing really smooth moves from the step to the hop? Great! Notice how Chris gets his knees up high and swings his opposite arm forward. When you arrive at a rope, jump over it using a one-foot takeoff and then land on two feet (E). Who remembers what to do to make your landings soft? Yes, Stephanie, bend your knees and land on the balls of the feet (R)! When you hear me say go, skip and then travel over the ropes by jumping with a one-foot take-off and a two-foot landing (E). Go! Great, Manny, you are light on your feet and skipping like a gymnast (R). Yes, you too, Carol. Freeze.

“You have been doing such great work. Now I would like for you to show me your favorite way to travel around and over the ropes (A). Go! I see several of you like to gallop and jump. Nice leap, Da’quan. Freeze!

“Let’s begin again with your favorite travel. But this time, after you travel over a rope and land, change to a different travel and continue to a new rope and a new way to travel over it (E). So after each landing, change to a different way to travel. Remember to make your movements flow smoothly from one to the next (R). Go! Good, I see skipping, hopping, galloping, jumping from one foot to two feet. Tess, what a smooth gallop in a curved pathway. Remember to also change your speed (E).

“In a few minutes you are going to create a travel sequence. You are going to begin and end the sequence with a shape. These two shapes must be different. Before we continue on with the sequence, let’s practice making some really nice shapes. Remember to hold the shape for three seconds, or three hippopotamuses. Count in your head, one hippopotamus, two hippopotamus, three hippopotamus. Let’s start with a narrow shape (I). Have a plan for all of your body parts to be doing something, even your fingers and toes. Now, show me a different narrow shape with a different base of support (E). I see a lot shapes on two feet. See if you can change the base of support to one foot, or maybe one foot and one hand, or a knee and an elbow (E). How about a curved shape (E)? Make your body parts really curved and round. How about a curved shape at a low level (E)? Hold it while you count three hippopotamuses in your head. Good work. Show me a twisted shape (E). How many body parts can you twist (A)? Make it really twisted and remember to hold it really still. Make a wide shape at a low level (E). How about a wide shape at a medium level (E)? Great!

“Now you are ready to start working on your sequence (A). Who has ever seen a transformer? What does a transformer do? Yes, it starts out as one thing and then changes, or transforms, into something else. The beginning shape of the transformer is different from the ending shape, isn’t it? Who remembers how the sequence will begin? Yes, Rachel, with a still shape. Next, you are going to move out of your still shape into a travel to your rope. Once you arrive at the rope, you are going to travel over the rope and move into a different travel and finally into an ending shape. Remember, the ending shape should be different from your beginning shape. So when I say go, find a jump rope, take it to your work space, and arrange it in a shape on the floor that you would like to travel over. Then begin working on your sequence. Start with a beginning shape, then a travel, travel over, different travel, and ending shape. Remember shape, travel, over, travel, shape. Go!

“Make your sequence interesting by changing speed or pathways (R). Practice the same sequence each time and make your actions flow smoothly from one to the next and make your shapes clear by using tight muscles (R). Your sequences are looking really nice. Practice it one more time and then come have a seat in front of me.

“It’s time to share your travel sequence. When I say go, I would like for you to quickly go sit beside someone you can work with today. Go! Three, two, one. Nice job finding a partner quickly. Now you are going to perform the sequence for your partner. Everyone will have a turn to share their sequence with their partner. But first, decide with your partner who is going to be the blue transformer and who will be the red transformer. When I say go I want all blue transformers to go to your work space and stand in the spot where your sequence begins. Go! Now all red transformers go join your partner by standing behind them so you can watch them perform their sequence. Blue transformers will demonstrate their sequence first (A). Red transformers, I want you to watch your partner’s sequence carefully and then copy the sequence. Blue transformers will be your coach if you need help. You may even ask them to repeat the sequence for you.

“OK, red transformers, it’s your turn to invite the blue transformers over to your work space and teach them your sequence (A). Blue transformers, watch closely so you can copy the red transformers’ sequence exactly.”

Ideas for Assessment

  • Children should be able to identify the critical elements (learning cues) for locomotor skills. For example, when asked to state the cues for skipping, children should identify step, hop, step, hop; arm swing; high knees.
  • The emphasis should be on quality performance of locomotor skills. Choose one or two to assess using a rubric.
  • Have students observe and assess their partners’ or classmates’ sequence using a peer assessment (see figure 5.3). One student can be the gymnastics coach or judge (evaluator), the other the gymnast (performer). Design a peer assessment that addresses the desired performance criteria, such as the following:
  • Are children’s traveling actions gymnastics-like? Children should be encouraged to work to improve the quality of their traveling actions. Racing, speed contests, or traveling out of control should not be allowed.
  • Videotape the sequences and have children identify what was really good about the sequence and what parts may need more work. Children could also evaluate the videotaped performance using a checklist to identify specific components or qualities of the sequence.

How Can I Change This?

  • When sharing a sequence with a partner, work to synchronize movements so they are moving simultaneously, at exactly the same pace and at exactly the same time.
  • When traveling over a rope, jump, hop, or leap for distance. Jump, hop, or leap with an emphasis on height.
  • Use large equipment such as boxes, benches, or balance beams to travel over. Mount the equipment, make a shape on the equipment, and then dismount.
  • Introduce the concept of relationships. Use a variety of small and large equipment to travel over, under, beside, onto, off, along, and through.
  • Explore different ways to travel; travel in ways other than steplike actions on feet.
  • Add a roll.
  • Change directions while traveling.
  • Emphasize jumping for height, then distance. Jump over the ropes with an emphasis on jumping for height. Then emphasize jumping for distance by stretching the ropes out and jumping from one end of the rope to the other. See how many jumps it takes to get to the end of the rope.
  • Add a hoop for a starting point for the beginning shape and another hoop for the ending shape.

Ideas for Teaching Fitness

  • Traveling using steplike actions provides the opportunity for developing cardiorespiratory fitness. Children benefit from short bouts of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
  • Hopping, jumping, and landing enhance muscular strength and endurance.
  • Balancing and holding shapes in various positions require strength and flexibility.

Ideas for Integrated Curriculum

  • Have students draw a movement map of their sequence. The map should show the location of the beginning balance and the various pathways (straight, curved, zigzag) used in getting to their destination for the ending shape. The movement map should also identify the location of the rope traveled over.
  • Create cards with locomotor actions, such as Jump, Skip, Hop. Children can use them to create a sequence or put them in order to describe the sequence that was created.

Ideas for Inclusion

  • Children in wheelchairs can travel forward and backward at different speeds and pathways while other children are galloping, skipping, or hopping.
  • Allow children to move about on the floor, traveling about and over equipment in any way they are capable of moving. Children could push with their arms or slide on the side, back, or belly.
  • When students work with a partner, they can be assigned to work with someone with a similar or a different ability level. By working cooperatively and responsibly together, they learn to recognize and accept the skills and abilities of others.

Read more about Teaching Children Gymnastics, Third Edition by Peter Werner.

More Excerpts From Teaching Children Gymnastics 3rd Edition