February 7, 2019

Jump Rope Deli: Developing Performance Confidence In Physical Education

In 2016, I was invited to speak at the 2016 CAHPERD conference in Santa Clara, California. It was at that conference that I got to meet Dean Kriellaars who gave an amazing keynote on physical literacy.

In one of Dean’s breakout sessions, he talked about the role of developing confidence in performance as part of one’s overall physical literacy development. As he said, active people are constantly performing. The second you are active in a public place, you are performing for others. Playing in a soccer game? Performing. Going for a swim at the local pool? Performing. Working out at the gym? Performing. When we are not taught how to be confident performers, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to enjoy being active in as many ways as possible.

Dean then went on to share a performance progression for juggling in which we got to practice and then showcase skills to larger and larger audiences.

This idea of teaching students how to become confident performers combined with the understanding of the role of performance confidence in physical literacy development always stuck with me. Over the years, I’ve taken what I learned from Dean (and many others) and have applied it to one of my favourite units of the year: my grade 3 jump rope unit.

Before we get into that, let’s take a deeper look at performance confidence:

Performance Confidence

As a physical educator, I see how students experience the weight of performance anxiety whenever we being a performance-focused unit (e.g. juggling, jump rope, gymnastics, dance). For some, this anxiety can be crippling. That is why I want to make sure that I equip them with the skills, knowledge, and understandings they need to develop their performance confidence.

I like to think of performance confidence as the belief that one that perform for others despite feelings of anxiety. It’s not a lack of performance anxiety, but rather an understanding that one’s performance anxiety can be managed and/or utilized.

In her book chapter on the subject, performance psychologist Dr. Margaret Osborne talks about optimal performance as the intersection between three main components:

  1. Competence: “e.g. adequate skill level, practice, mastery”;
  2. Physical Well-Being: “e.g. adequate nutrition, sleep, fitness”; and
  3. Psychological Well-Being: “ e.g. positive and realistic self-statements and realistic self-appraisal of performance quality”

Although I’m pretty confident that I’ve focused on helping my students develop their physical competence and well-being, learning more about this intersection just confirmed the need to explicitly teach students how to make sure that –  as performers – they are taking care of themselves on a psychological level.

Lucky for me, Dr. Osborne goes on to share key understandings for teachers/parents to share with their students in order to support their psychological well-being:

  1. Optimal/peak performances are not perfect. Mistakes happen. It’s just that the number of mistakes is small and great performers are able to recover from them quickly (oftentimes without anyone having noticed the mistake in the first place!) Mistakes happening in a performance do not necessarily mean that the performance was a failure.
  2. Poor performances provide performers with important information that can help them learn and improve before the performer’s next performance.
  3. Feeling anxious before, during, or after a performance is a natural response from our nervous system that is just trying to prime us to be able to face challenging situations.
  4. Anxiety can actually help boost performance!

With this knowledge in hand, I decided to start baking some of these performance confidence understandings into my jump rope unit. Here’s how it turned out:

Jump Rope Unit

My grade three jump rope unit focuses on three grade-level outcomes:

You may notice that the way I unpacked these GLOs might seem a bit odd, but it was done so with the key understandings of performance confidence in mind. Basically, I went through my unpacking process while looking at the outcomes through the lens of performance confidence.

If you would like to learn more about backwards design and the process of unpacking standards, be sure to check out my #PhysEdU course on Standards-Based Instructional Design!

With the unpacking process complete, I then went on to determine my evidence of learning, select my assessment tools, and design my learning activities. I’ll share all of that in the following lesson outlines:

Lesson One: What Makes a Great Performance Great?

With the following learning targets guiding my students’ learning, we kicked our jump rope unit off!

  1. I can discuss what great performances have in common.
  2. I can identify a variety (3-4) of intermediate jump rope skills.
  3. I can make progress towards mastering a couple (1-2) intermediate jump rope skills.

To start the class, we began by watching a high-level jump rope performance:

After having watched the performance, I sent the students out on a walk & talk to discuss what it was about the performance that made it so great. When the students came back from their paired talks, we had a class discussion in which I invited each group to share some of the elements of great performances. Here’s what they came up with:

After having identified the elements of a great performance, we took a look at another (very different kind of) performance to see if we could find the same elements.

(Ok, so I was listening to a lot of Daft Punk at the time and I freaking love this performance. Shoot me.)

After watching the Grammys video, we went back to our elements of great performances to see if we could find the same components that we found in the original jump rope video:

  • Fun: “Everyone is smiling and/or dancing”, “The song is really catchy”, “Pharrell’s hat is funny”.
  • Challenge: “Having so many people performing together is tough”, “Performing in front of so many people would be scary”, “Stevie Wonder is blind and playing instruments!”
  • Flow: “Each song fit in perfectly with the next”, “Pharrell and Stevie Wonder took turns singing”.
  • Style:  “Everyone looks so stylish”, “I liked Pharrell’s hat”, “Daft Punk look so cool!”
  • Surprise: “Daft Punk appearing out of nowhere!”, “Everyone singing ‘Le Freak’ together” (shout out to my student who knew the song title/Le Chic).

Once we confirmed our elements of a great performance, it was time to get jumping!

Using our trusty Jump Rope Ladder and QR Jump Rope Cards, students set out to get warmed up and revisit some of the skills that they have worked on in the past (in grade 2, the focus was on being able to perform a few different beginner skills).

Although the Jump Rope Ladder – once filled in – provides students with a target number of repetitions that can serve as an indicator of mastery, I’ll break down what mastery can look/feel like on the white board:

As students revisit their beginner jump rope skills, I’ll begin to introduce the intermediate jump rope skills from the ladder. As I do so, I’ll make each skill’s QR Jump Rope Card available to the students so that they can check it out and/or watch its video should they need a reminder or further clarification of what the skill is. This provides the students with additional independence within the lesson, freeing me up to work more closely with the students that need more support.

As the students practice their skills, I walk around and ask students what it is they are working towards. I do this to make sure that students are breaking the skills down into their important keys and setting clear goals for mastery.

At the end of the lesson, I’ll invite the students to go to the whiteboard and do a final reflection on their progress towards the lesson’s learning targets using their Plickers Assessment Magnets.

Lesson Two: Are Great Performances Perfect Ones?

The learning targets for our second lesson are the following:

  1. I can explain the role that mistakes play in learning something new & challenging.
  2. I can design and perform a three-part jump rope routine.

Following the class warm up, the class will come together for a group discussion that will be built around the question of “is a great performance a perfect performance?”

The purpose of the discussion is to help students better understand the role of failure in learning and to help change their mindset in regards to how they perceive the mistakes they are sure to make in their learning. To help with this understanding, we will review two key visuals that are displayed in our gym: the “Fail Then Sail” poster and the “Yeti” poster.

To help students reach the lesson’s second learning target, I will introduce them to what I like to call “Joey’s Jump Rope Deli”!

The Jump Rope Sandwich Posters are available as part of the Jump Rope Deli Teacher Pack.

Ok, side note: I have this weird obsession with Reuben sandwiches. Whenever I travel somewhere new, I always have a Reuben and keep a mental standings of the cities with the best Reuben’s. I like the idea that there is this template for a sandwich that every chef puts their own spin on. That, combined with the facts that a) I live in the smoked meat capital of the world and b) I wanted to create a fun and accessible way to introduce my grade three students to the idea of create jump rope sequences, was the inspiration for the Jump Rope Deli!

The purpose of the Jump Rope Deli is to provide students with choice in regards to how they begin to string different jump rope skills together into a sequence. Each jump rope sandwich template has three components (aside from the Jump Club which has five): a top bun (first skill), the filling (second skill), and a bottom bun (third skill).

Using post it notes to write their recipes, students are invited to design their own takes on the different jump rope sandwiches in the deli. For example, if a student wants to create a “#1 Special”, they could combine the following skills (which, according to the Jump Rope Ladder, are all identified as beginner skills):

Once a student has designed, practiced, and mastered their sandwich recipe, the next step is to show it to a friend. If the student successfully performs the recipe sequence for a friend, they get to go place their recipe post it on the board underneath the appropriate sandwich template.

As students practice their jump rope sandwiches, I’ll remind them of the key ingredients for a great performance:

The Jump Rope Sandwich Toppings Poster is available as part of the Jump Rope Deli Teacher Pack.

Once a student has a sandwich on the board, they have a choice:

  1. They can choose to design and perform another sandwich.
  2. They can attempt to master someone else’s sandwich design from the board.

At the end of class, I’ll bring the class in and invite the students to share if they saw anyone being a Yeti during the lesson (i.e. someone who did not give up on their learning despite experiencing a lot of challenge and making mistakes). Finally, I’ll ask the students who are identified as Yetis by their peers to share how their attitude towards mistakes and challenge helped them learn and grow in the lesson.

Lesson Three: What is Confidence?

For this lesson, our learning targets are as follows:

  1. I can provide examples of how anxiety can be a positive thing when learning and/or performing.
  2. I can design and work towards mastering an eight-part jump rope routine.

After the students have warmed up by working on their sandwiches and/or attempting to perform other students’ three-part sequences, the class will be brought in for a discussion on the role of anxiety in learning and performance.

The key ideas I try to bring out of this discussion are that:

  1. Anxiety is a normal physical response to something that is new, exciting, or a little scary (I typically share the story of the time I came face-to-face with a bear in the woods… not my proudest moment).
  2. Anxiety is our nervous system’s way of getting our body primed to overcome any challenge that is presented to us.
  3. Anxiety can therefore be a good thing and something that can help improve our performance!

At this point, I’ll introduce the “Performance Zones” visual that I create for this unit.

The Performance Zones Poster is available as part of the Jump Rope Deli Teacher Pack.

This visual is used to accomplish two things:

First of all, it is used to teach students about the different performance zones, which range from boredom to panic. The goal is to help students realize that – in order to grow – they need to be willing to take on challenges that are outside of their comfort zone. This pushes them into the learning zone in which they can grow as they develop new skills, knowledge, and understandings.

The second objective of the “Performance Zones” visual is to remind students of what we have learned in regards to mistakes, failure, and anxiety in learning and performance. These reminders represent the four tips for teachers that Dr. Osborne shared in the book chapter I mentioned earlier.

Now that my students are armed with this new knowledge, I’ll present them with their next jump rope challenge: to design an eight-part routine that includes intermediate skills and that will be performed in front of their class!

The Jump Rope Performance Planner Sheet is available as part of the Jump Rope Deli Teacher Pack.

At this point in the unit, the idea of designing and performing an eight-part routine can cause a few students to feel pretty anxious. So, before I send them out to begin their work, we go over the four tips from the “Performance Zones” visual and remind ourselves that mistakes aren’t a big deal, challenge means we’re learning, and anxiety can help us be our best!

I also break the task down for them: basically, an eight-part routine is just a starting skill (e.g. basic jump), two jump rope sandwiches, and a finale skill. Getting students to visualize the whole task as just a sum of work they have already done goes a long way in calming their nerves (without full relaxing them!)

I walk around while students are practicing and ask a few key questions to get them to think about how they are developing their performance confidence through the activity.

  1. What makes you proud about your jump rope progress?
  2. What is making you nervous about your performance?
  3. Do you believe those feelings can help you perform better?
  4. What pep talk would you give yourself if you were your own coach?

As students finalize the order of their routine, I invite them to reflect on the degree of challenge for each skill. I want students to be mindful of how they are pushing themselves and to ensure that they are using challenge to create a routine that will lead to a great performance. Also, I want students to reflect on how they are feeling in regards to each skill (i.e. good, excited, determined, or nervous) so that a) they are aware of any elements of their routine that may be causing them to feel anxious and b) they can reframe that anxiety into something positive.

Towards the end of the lesson, I’ll invite the students to share how they were able to overcome any feelings of anxiety they may have felt at the start of the lesson. We’ll talk about how confidence is not a complete lack of anxiety, but rather a belief that you can get a job done by managing and utilizing any anxiety you may feel.

Lesson Four: Performing for Others?

The focus of this lesson is to prepare students for their final performance by scaffolding the performance experience. The learning target for the lesson is:

  1. I can perform my amazing jump rope routine for others.

The first I do in this lesson is divide the class into six squads and assigning each squad to an area within the gym.

Once the class is divided, I’ll share the “Performance Steps-To-Success” visual with the students.

The Performance Steps-To-Success Poster is available as part of the Jump Rope Deli Teacher Pack.

The visual breaks down steps that students can follow to gradually build up their confidence in regards to performing their routine in front of the class.

During the first part of the lesson, students will have time to work their way through steps 1-2 of the progression: beginning with practicing their routine individually, then performing their routine for a close friend (or friends) within their squad.

After each level, the student-spectators will be asked to share “Stars & Stairs” for the performer. A star is something that the performer did really well in their performance. A stair is the next step the performer can take to make their performance even better!

Once each squad has completed step two of the “Performance Steps-To-Success” progression, it is time for step three: performing in front of a small group of classmates.

Working one squad at a time, students will leave their squad area to go perform their routine in front of another squad.

Just as they did with step two, squads will provide the performers with “Stars & Stairs” after they have completed their performance.

The lesson goes on like this with members of each squad having the opportunity to perform in front of other squads and receive feedback.

Once every squad has had a turn, the students will be given extra practice time to put into practice they received during their small-group performances.

At the end of class, squads will have squad-based discussions in which I will ask them to share how they felt performing their routines for others.

Lesson Five: Performing for Others?

In this final lesson, the students will perform their routines in front of the class!

After the class warm-up during which students are given time to practice their performance, we will have a group discussion in which we will go over everything we have done to prepare for the day:

  1. Learning that mistakes are part of learning and can happen during performances without them ruining the show.
  2. Discovering that feeling anxious before a performance in front of others is a natural reaction and can actually help us perform better.
  3. Preparing for our performance by practicing in authentic performance situations.
  4. Working our butt’s off by staying focused on creating an amazing, challenging, fun, stylish, surprising routine that flows from one skill to the next!

After all of that work, it is showtime! Students will gather in a spectator area and watch their classmates performances.

After the show, students will be asked to fill in a “Performance Appreciation” sheet in which they will be invited to share praise for a classmate’s performance as well as how that classmate’s effort and willingness to take on a great challenge left the student-spectator feeling inspired!

The Performance Appreciation Peer-Assessment Sheet is available as part of the Jump Rope Deli Teacher Pack.


Physical literate individuals have the competence and confidence needed to participate in a wide variety of health-enhancing physical activity – in a multitude of environments – throughout their lifetime. We focus on competence in the hopes that it will drive confidence, but confidence – as a construct – needs to also be explicitly taught. Doing so equips our students with the knowledge and understanding that they can then use to transfer their learning in this jump rope unit to other units and experiences both in and beyond physical education.

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you are interested in any of the resources I shared here, you can find them in the #PhysEd Shop:

The Jump Rope Performance Teacher Pack includes several of the resources you saw in this post including:

  1. Jump Rope Ladder
  2. Fail Then Sail Poster
  3. Jump Rope Deli Posters (Sandwich Templates + Toppings List)
  4. Performance Zone Poster
  5. Jump Rope Performance Routine Sheet
  6. Performance Steps-To-Success Poster
  7. Performance Peer Reflection Sheet

The Jump Rope QR Skill Cards, which allow your students to independently explore the skills of the Jump Rope ladder while freeing you up to spend more one-on-one time with your students, include 15 skill cards. Each skill card features artwork and a description of its skill as well as a QR code that links to a video of the skill being performed.

The Yeti Poster is a core component of my approach to helping students develop a growth mindset in physical education. A student never gets to end a sentence that starts with “I can’t…” without including “…yet!” at the end of it. I even have a jar of button pins with Yetis on them that I give out in exceptional situations. The students love it, and they refer to themselves as Yetis almost every class.

If you have any questions about this unit, my approach to helping students develop their performance confidence, or if you just want to share your experience teaching kids how to be confident performers, please feel free to hit me up in the comments below!

Thanks for reading and happy teaching!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of
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