8. Inflating your Engagement

It’s been some time since I last wrote a blog post, and I find myself stuck on how to begin, so I am going to just blurt it out… I’ve been using balloons within my lessons and it has been amazing!

I will admit, I feel as though I have stumbled upon this in a similar fashion to someone stumbling upon a classic TV show on Netflix... You know the one, the person who then tries to tell how good some show is, when in fact, everyone was watching the exact show they are talking about 3 years ago and they're incredibly late to the party.

Recently I started teaching a Net & Wall Unit and decided that for the Instant Activity (to get students moving straight away) students would walk into the gym, grab a balloon and see if they could keep it off the ground - SIMPLE.

I thought students would enjoy the novelty of this, but I didn’t think it would work so well. Students were laughing, jumping around, and walking over to me, completely red in the face and sweating profusely, asking if they could get a drink after about 5 minutes of a lesson. I watched on as Year 6 students let their ‘cool kid’ persona down for a moment, and simply played like the young child that they are.

Based upon the success of using the balloons over the course of this introductory week, the balloons have been there to stay and involved within lessons from Foundation to Six.

It’s not only the fun & engagement element that makes them great, the other great benefit that balloons provide to students is ‘time’. Based upon the ‘time’ a balloon floats in the air, students have time to track the ball with their eyes, get their bodies into a correct position to catch or strike it, and don’t need to rush as if it were a ball. The balloons, therefore, provide a level of differentiation that I hadn’t really thought about when I first grabbed them for the Instant Activity. I just got them for the fun element, but they have provided so much more substance than that.

Based upon this, Year 6 students started to use the balloons in Badminton. As a Net & Wall sport, students were exploring the skills of Badminton, but most students fell short of playing a game as they struggled to maintain a rally with their partner, even when using a modified shuttlecock. Enter, the Balloon. While the balloon allows more than enough time for these older students to play the game, it allowed them to explore using a badminton racquet more freely and led to more laughs, success, and gameplay than what the shuttlecock had.

With the younger students, they have been pumped to play ‘Keepy Uppy’, a game made famous by the ‘Bluey’ cartoon show. However, the fun doesn’t stop there, as touched on previously, they can also use the balloons for striking, for working on ‘tracking’ with their eyes, or can be used to provide a stimulus for cooperative gameplay.

The balloons have also been a hit with Year 3 students, who I find are often really keen to play games, but lack the skills to play a full-blown match. Based upon this, modified ‘Volleyball’, with the use of a balloon, has been a great tool to have the students experience a game, use and gain a greater understanding of tactics and strategies and develop their skills, in a friendly and differentiated manner.

I must say though, something that must be considered when throwing balloons into your program is some due diligence on allergies within your school. Obviously, balloons can be an allergen for some students and therefore I strongly encourage anyone that is considering the use of balloons within their program, ensure that there are no students within the school that may have an allergic reaction to them.

Similarly to the above, I have found that there are some students that are very apprehensive about the use of balloons. Based upon this, it is essential to ensure that you make all students feel safe within the environment, which may be done by cautioning all students on the appropriate use of balloons around others (eg. not deliberately popping them) or offering a different activity or piece of equipment in order to complete the same activity.

While keeping the above in mind, I believe balloons can be an absolute asset to your lessons and program. After discovering this for myself, I decided to share my success on Twitter, which led to even more great suggestions about alternative pieces of equipment that can be used within PE. If you check out the Twitter thread below, there are some wonderful ideas that you can also use.

I know I am running the risk here of being late to a party that everyone else arrived at long ago, however, if you’re like me and just discovering the use of balloons in PE, you’re set to have some fun!