One way we have a ball during back-to-school time is to use tennis balls for a fun passing song. Every year, I do a theme for the year, so I start with an introduction to the theme. I have done tons of various themes and have used a variety of ideas to introduce them. I end the class with this fun back-to-school activity using Tennis balls.
Read Books on Friendship
I love incorporating books in my teaching, even if my time is limited. Here are a couple of good books on friendship.
For younger students, ages K-3rd grade, read this book about friendship.
For students aged 8-12 read tips a little at a time on making and keeping friends.
Pass the ball on the Beat
In my classes, we work on keeping a steady beat from the time students are in Kindergarten. It is a skill that we must work on continually. I put students in a circle, especially in the younger grades. I have every student put out their left hand with their palm up. Surprisingly, even some students in the 6th grade don’t know which is their left hand, so be sure to check that each student has the correct hand out. I ask the other students to help their neighbors.
Once everyone has their right hand out, I ask them to use their right hand to “touch and pass” touching the left hand, then pretend to pass to the person on the right. We do this for a bit until we all get in the rhythm of it.
Sing “Make New Friends”
Once we have a good rhythm (pretty slowly but steady), I sing the song, Make New Friends” while they continue to touch and pass. I tell them to focus on keeping their touch and pass steady. I ask students who are pretty good at a steady touch and pass to sing with me. To start, I would stick to only the first verse until students are very comfortable passing and singing.
Add Tennis Balls
Once we have our singing and passing down pretty good (it doesn’t have to be perfect), we add Tennis balls. When we first do this, there is a lot of giggling and dropping at first. The one rule I have is that besides trying their best, students are not to pick up any dropped balls.
After our first round of passing, usually with a lot of dropped balls, we stop and I challenge them to see if they can pass with limited drops. At this point, it always gets much better.
You will always have one or a couple of kids who goof off and keep dropping the balls. There are two things I do to limit the silliness. First, I have the silly student stand next to me. I will first remind them to not be silly and tell them that if they continue, they will be moved by me. That often will stop the behavior. If they continue to be silly, I will ask them to move. Secondly, if someone has more difficult behaviors, I will ask them to sit out for a short time. They want to be part of the group, so this will often fix it.
Where to Get Tennis Balls
When I first started teaching, I would borrow my tennis balls from the PE teacher. After a while, I asked if anyone had tennis balls on a Facebook marketplace page and got a donation. Now, my daughter lives by a tennis court and gets tennis balls in her yard, so she saves them for me to give to other teachers.
Have fun with your students! You can use tennis balls for tons of activities. Let me know if you have other favorite tennis ball activities!