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home | Sport-Specific Topics | Outdoor Education: The Use of Perfor . . .

Outdoor Education: The Use of Performance Cues When Teaching Bouldering in Middle School Physical Education Classes
Derek Fuglsang

Performance cues can be beneficial when teaching indoor rock climbing or bouldering. Bouldering is traversing across a wall instead of up and down like regular climbing.

Having learners focus on these short phrases allows them to think about specific movements while performing the skill. But in order for learners to receive these appropriate cues, the teacher needs to know what cues will make them successful.

As educators, one of our roles is to find out what teaching strategies work the best in teaching skills. Educators all know the way information and performance cues are presented can greatly affect the way the skill is learned.

Bouldering Study
In a recent study that I conducted, nine climbing instructors were asked to rank 12 performance cues developed from McNamee and Steffen in 2007.

They were also asked to come up with the appropriate number of cues a middle school student should receive during a bouldering unit. The climbing instructors involved had taught outdoor or indoor rock climbing for at least two years.

How Many Cues Should Be Used in a Bouldering Unit?
Here are the results of the survey on the number of cues that should be used in a middle school bouldering unit.

So, approximately six teaching cues would be the appropriate number to use over the course of a middle school bouldering unit.

The Best Cues
The following cues were ranked from most to least effective by the bouldering instructors:

Definition of Top Six Cues
Here are the teaching points these cues represent.

  1. Weight over Feet- Majority of a person's body weight is over their balls of their feet. Keep your body in a straight line.
  2. Three Points of Contact- Any combination of your arms and legs being in contact with the wall simultaneously. Two arm and one leg or one arm and two legs
  3. Center of Gravity - Be aware of where your center of gravity is during a climb. Keep your nose over your toes.
  4. Push with Legs- using your legs to push your body weight up the wall instead of pulling with your arms. What is bigger, your legs or arms? The legs are for power and the arms for balance.
  5. Place Weight on Skeletal System- Learning how to use your skeletal system to relieve stress on the muscular system. Keep your arms straight and swing like a monkey. Good use when arms and legs are straight.
  6. Feet First- Solving climbing problems by repositioning your feet rather than looking for new hand holds. When you get stuck look at your feet first. Student repositions feet first when stuck.

Contributor: Derek Fuglsang is a Masters student at the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse. He completed this study with the assistance of committee members Jeff Steffen, Jeff McNamee, James Batesky and Greg Walsko.


  1. Fuglsang, D.A. The effects of verbal cueing on beginner middle school students' bouldering performance, MS in Exercise and Sport Science: Physical Education, August 2008, 76pp. (J. Steffen).
  2. Landin, D. (1994). The role of verbal cues in skill learning. Quest, 46, 299-313.
  3. McNamee, J., & Steffen, J. (2007). The effect of performance cues on
  4. Siedentop, D. (1991). Developing teaching skills in physical education. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.
  5. David Flanagan and Johnny Dawes, Bouldering Essentials: The Complete Guide To Bouldering,Three Rock Books, 2013

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© 2016, Physical Education Update,

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