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Movement Framework for Developmental Gymnastics

This is an excerpt from Developmental Physical Education for All Children 5th Edition With Web Resource by Frances Cleland-Donnelly,Suzanne S. Mueller & David Gallahue.

The Active Child illustration (figure 21.1) depicts the developmental gymnastics movement-framework categories, which include gymnastics actions (balance, rolling, step-like action, and flight) and the movement concepts (body, space, effort, and relationship). The framework is used to determine how actions and concepts can be combined to vary skills and design sequences. Teachers and students can each experiment with endless blends - both within and between the gymnastics actions and the movement concepts - to provide a range of challenges and novelty in skill performance in the gymnastics environment.


Figure 21.1 The Active Child: gymnastics.
The Active Child: gymnastics.


For instance, think about the possible blends of movement-concept categories with the gymnastics action of static balance, as depicted in table 21.1. Balances can be created and performed using one or more of the movement concept variables of body or space. For example, balance 1 might involve finding ways to balance on two hands and one foot with the front, back, or side facing the floor and with different positioning of the nonsupport leg. Balance 2 might involve balancing on one's seat in different shapes and trying different arm positions. Students could then perform balances created by blending the movement concepts of body and shape, as in the following examples:

  • In relationship to equipment
    • Balance 1: with support foot on low equipment and hands on floor or different piece of equipment
    • Balance 2: on top of, beside, or under different pieces of equipment
  • In relationship to others
    • Balance 1: with nonsupport foot touching partner's
    • Balance 2: facing, back to back, or side to side
  • In relationship to equipment and others
  • Combining balances into sequences with other gymnastics actions on mats (e.g., balance 1 to balance 2 to backward roll; forward roll to balance 2 to balance 1) and apparatus



As described in chapter 5 and reviewed in chapter 18, children in grades 3 through 5 are at the intermediate level of movement skill learning. At this level, they have gained a better kinesthetic feel for the position of their body parts and the timing of their movements. This sense is especially useful as they build on the stability and locomotor skills (developed in kindergarten through grade 2) to learn the form-based, closed-skill gymnastics actions and movement sequences involved in combination and application progressions. In developmental gymnastics, students increase the difficulty of skills, vary skills using the movement concepts, combine skills in sequences, and perform skills and sequences with partners. These four areas - skills, variations, combinations, and partners - form the categories for the developmental gymnastics learning goal blueprint (see table 21.2)


The combination-level skill progressions increase the difficulty of balancing and step-like actions through inverted movements (e.g., headstands, cartwheels); challenge students to combine movements in short, smooth movement sequences on mats and apparatus; and work with partners in countertension and counterbalancing. The application-level skill progressions include more difficult inverted combinations (e.g., handstand roll, roundoff roll), vaults, sequencing of movements into routines on mats and apparatus, and work with partner supports. Both the combination and the application skill progressions provide affordances through the scaling of equipment and conditions to fit the performers (see chapter 6). These developmentally appropriate skill progressions gradually help children gain the body management skills to perform gymnastics actions and develop muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility.


The inclusion of gymnastics in the developmental physical education curriculum helps children achieve the following goals:

  • Becoming skilled and versatile movers in the gymnastics environment
  • Using the movement framework to create gymnastics skills and sequences
  • Increasing their movement confidence and personal safety by developing the ability to manage their body weight
  • Increasing their core and upper-body muscular strength and endurance, and their total-body joint flexibility
  • Using movement skill criteria to understand correct performance and help others improve skills
  • Understanding how to practice closed skills
  • Working cooperatively with others to perform and create partner and small-group balances and gymnastics sequences


Learn more about Developmental Physical Education for All Children, Fifth Edition.