Moving Automatically

It can be very important for students to both attend to feedback and to self-monitor performance when first learning a motor activity. Self-monitoring involves comparing how they are doing to what they want to be doing. This allows a student to make adjustments in the ways she is moving her muscles, and to practice coordinating the different muscle movements.

For most activities that involve large muscles, or gross motor skills, students must practice to be able to move automatically. Moving automatically frees the student to focus on other elements of sports activities. For example, a basketball player needs to dribble the ball automatically so he can think about whom to pass to, and hikers must automatize walking and climbing skills to more easily take in the view while hiking. Automatic movement facilitates many of the motor activities which students undertake, from walking down the hall to playing tennis or riding a bicycle.


Helpful Hints

  • Be sensitive to students’ feelings in group situations. For example, if a student is having difficulty with a particular gross motor skill, do not ask him to perform that skill in front of his peers. Avoiding public humiliation is crucial, a high priority in management.  
  • Allow students to work on the different sub-skills of an activity before combining the skills. For example, when learning to dribble a soccer ball, a student can first practice pulling his foot back and kicking the ball lightly, next practice walking up to the ball and kicking it, and finally, progress to running and dribbling the ball.  
  • Consider whether a student might benefit more from self-paced activities in which the student initiates the action (e.g., golf, running, or art), or from externally-paced activities where the student responds to motor demands (e.g., tennis or soccer). Students who are not as skilled at motor activities might prefer self-pacing, while students who excel often enjoy responsive activities.  
  • Provide students with a checklist of sub-skills or a written prompt card to use when performing a challenging motor act. Encourage each student to monitor and reflect upon his/her own progress.  
  • Use visual cues such as color coding or numbering to provide directional assistance, and help a student practice the different steps to an activity. For example, color-coding or numbering the bases can help baseball players, while coding shot locations can help basketball players.  
  • Promote gross motor abilities with games that target specific skill areas such as balance and coordination, spatial awareness, eye-hand coordination, body image, and body rhythm. For example, Play Simon Says in which different movements are specified for different parts of the body, e.g. "Simon Says touch your left knee with your right hand," etc. Simon Says can also be a creative and imaginative game: "Simon Says be a tree on a windy day, popcorn popping, a person walking through mud," etc.  
  • Have students practice walking, running and jumping in ways that you call out to them, including: sideways, in a circle, in the shape of a box, on their heels, on their toes. To increase the challenge, call out different combinations, e.g., walk on your toes to make a box, etc.