Discussion Penalties: Use Football in the Classroom

If your students are anything like my 5th graders, then they hate to have fun in the classroom and call it learning. No wait, THEY LOVE IT! As a coach for our high school, I have the privilege of a stock of stopwatches, whistles, penalty flags, marker bean bags, etc. All of these things help me, but it is the knowledge I have gained as a coach that makes them useful. In this series, I am trying to pass on some of the more effective ideas that I have and use.

Bring Sports into Class

I have found that kids relate to sports. Even the young ones have an idea of how great life would be if it could all be sports. They think this way, because as kids, sports are fun. If life can all be fun, then it is great. By 5th grade most kids have figured out that to do well in sports they have to work, but because it is sports, they are willing to apply themselves.

What if we could bring the sports INTO the classroom, instead of making it always extra-curricular? Here is an idea for teaching turn-taking when in a discussion setting. Even by the ripe old age of 12 most kids have not learned this skill. This is not a full lesson plan, but an idea to integrate into existing lesson plans.

Materials: Discussion topic (your choice, if you are teaching the art of discussion), Coaches Whistle, Penalty Flag (sporting goods stores should have these items).

Basic Method: Come up with a list of possible penalties (talking-out of turn, talking over someone else, not responding to the question (irrelevance), not being succinct, etc.) and assign yardage lost. I also have a list of point makers that will move the students “Down the field”. I draw a football field on the board and start everyone at one end-zone with 5, 10 or 15 yard gains for appropriate discussion behavior. This way students can advance or lose yardage. I use the penalty flag to call “fouls” and I actually throw it at the feet of the violating party. I also use the whistle quietly. Beyond that it is just a matter of keeping track of the students and their progress on the board.

Objectives: Turn-taking, staying on subject, responding succinctly.

My students loved it when we would do this. The penalty flag is a great visual to remind them of their behavior, without bringing the house down on their head. They have learned to keep their discussions very on subject and let everyone have a turn. It is truly a lot of fun.

This post is part of the series: Coaching in the Classroom

Athletics and Physical Training is seen often and labeled as “Extra-Curricular,” and thus coaching is seen as separate from teaching. Coaching IS teaching, but coaching goes beyond. Implementing coaching techniques in the classroom can have a great benefit to your effectiveness.
  1. A Day in the Life of a Football Coach
  2. Discussion Penalities: Classroom Game