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Tight Rope

Promotes balance and stability while developing power in the hip extensors as students walk the "Tight Rope"

Tags: elementary school, legs & feet

Objectives In Tight Rope, students try to walk a straight line, going from small steps and gradually increasing their stride length and the speed at which their feet pop off the ground. This activity improves balance and joint stability for running efficiency and injury prevention, and develops power in the legs for pushing off during the running stride.
Standards National Standards for Physical Education (NASPE)
Standards 1,2
New York State Education Department (NYSED)
Standard 1
Prerequisite Best done after Springy Feet, Running Tall, and Bang the Drums.
Time Required 20 minutes
Materials Chalk or tape to mark two 10-15 meter lines (you can use existing markings if available)

 

Prepare for the Activity

  • Watch the Tight Rope video below to see how to conduct this activity.
  • Mark two 10-15 meter straight lines with chalk or tape. Or use a straight line that is already marked on your gymnasium, track, or playground floor.

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEO

Events Play
TightRope_ES ()
Form

Improves balance and stability and develops power in the hip extensors.

Click here to access on Teacher Tube

Introduce the Activity

  • Tell students the name of the activity and its purpose: “This is an activity that will test your balance, as if you were on a tight rope. We’ll see how balanced you guys can be. Let me show you how to do it, because you don’t want to fall off that tight rope.”
  • Show them the “tight rope” lines that they will use for the activity, and demonstrate three types of steps:
    • Small steps (you can extend your arms out to the side for balance)
    • Larger steps (still taken slowly, but with locked knees and straight legs as if you are on a balance beam)
    • Goose steps—quicker, longer steps with knees locked and with only the balls of the feet touching the ground quickly and then immediately popping up. Keep the legs straight and move them only in front of, not behind, the body.
  • Tell them to make sure that their eyes are looking forward and not down at the line during each phase of this activity.
  • Explain that they will do these three types of steps as you instruct them.

Conduct the Activity

  1. Line students up and have the first student on each line begin the “tight rope” walk using relatively small steps. When they get a third of the way tell them to switch to bigger steps. When they get to the final third of the “tight rope” yell out “goose steps,” their signal to take longer, straight-legged steps, pushing off quickly and powerfully and landing on the balls of their feet with their legs remaining in front of their bodies.
  2. Keep students going down the line, one at a time, in the same fashion.
  3. Each student should do 2-3 repetitions of the small steps/longer steps/goose steps.

Assess the Students

What to watch for:

  • Heads up and eyes looking forward, not down at the line
  • Good upright posture
  • Knees locked during goose steps
  • Good arm swing during goose steps
  • Popping quickly off the ground with their goose steps
  • Legs always in front of their bodies during goose steps

Direction cues to share with students:

  • “Heads up! Eyes looking forward. Like you have a beanbag on your head.”
  • For the goose steps:
    • “Land on the line.”
    • “Keep your legs straight and in front of your body.”
    • “Land on the ball of your foot.”
    • “Spring forward quickly.”
    • “Swing your arms, bang those drums.”

Note: Only give a student one direction at a time.

Discussion

When you've completed Tight Rope, talk to your students about their experience with the activity. Here are some sample questions to get you started:

  • Which was harder—the small steps, the longer steps, or the goose steps? Why?
  • Why do you think it's good to have balance when you run? (Lots of little muscles help you balance and keep your knees and ankles stable. If they are weak you are more likely to twist an ankle or have another injury. Also, when you are off balance all those muscles have to work harder. If you have good balance you can run easier and more purposefully.)
  • This activity helps to strengthen the backs of your legs—the hamstrings—and your hip muscles. How do you think that helps you as a runner? (You can push off the ground more forcefully, which gives you power and speed)
  • When you run, do you keep your knees straight and legs in front of your body? (No)
  • So why do we do this exercise to help with our running? (It helps make certain muscles stronger so they don't get tired when we run)

Modifications

  • Instead of having them do all three steps—small, longer, and goose—in one repetition, have them go down the line three times. The first time they do the small step; the second time, the longer step; and the third time, the goose steps. Repeat the goose steps a few times.
  • Set up two “tight ropes” and divide into two teams. Conduct a goose step shuttle relay, with each team having half their members at one end of their “rope” and the other half at the other end.

Inclusion Strategies

Classrooms are filled with learners who demonstrate a variety of needs and abilities, including ESL students, those with disabilities, and gifted/talented students. Consider these adaptations as you work to modify the lesson for student success.

  • Have multiple lines of different lengths and widths and allow the children to pick which rope or line they want to start on. Consider using a balance beam or similar equipment for younger learners and for novelty. 
  • For students who demonstrate balance difficulty, allow them to have a partner on either side to be there for emotional and physical support.
  • Have the rope or floor tape be bright colors so the students can see the contrast between the floor and the tape.
  • For students in a wheelchair, make two lines and have them try to place both wheels on the line. Consider using painted lines and keeping casters (front) or rear tires on the line.
  • Have students hold a rope and be guided down the line.
  • Have a line close to the wall to allow for students to touch the wall as a support if they have a visual impairment, or minimal range of motion in their legs.
  • Have visual aids on the wall on what you want the children to look like while walking and bounding down the rope.

Youth and Schools