love to learn to spin plates! Although it is a deceptively difficult skill,
students feel greatly rewarded when they succeed. It is also a skill that
can be taught at any grade level, with some modifications for young children.
The best spinning plates for school use are plastic, have a lip on the
bottom surface, and a dimple in the middle. The lip enables the plate to
hang on the stick, while the dimple ensures that it will spin with stability
on a stick or finger.
Here are several techniques for spinning a plate, listed order of difficulty.
1. The Easy Way:
Hold the stick in the middle, with the top of the stick coming to about
chest level. You should be able to look down and see the top of the stick.
Place the plate on
top of the stick, with the stick in the middle. Make a "spider" by
spreading out your fingers. Put your spider on top of the plate. Use your
wrist to give the plate a twist and make it spin!
2. The Hard Way
- Using the Stick to Spin the Plate: Hold the stick softly at the very
bottom, and point it straight up. Using the lip on the bottom of the plate,
hang the plate on the stick (it will look like a big lollipop), and check
to see that the stick is straight up.
to help students if the teacher is proficient, is to hold the student’s
hand and spin their plate for them. To do this, have the student hold the
stick at the bottom and place your hand on top of theirs. Have them relax
their arm and shoulder muscles to feel your spin technique.
RELAX the arm and shoulder,
and make sure you are not squeezing the stick. “If your knuckles are white,
you’re holding too tight!”
Slowly begin turning the
top of the stick in a circle. Gradually speed up, and try to make the stick
move along with the plate.
When the plate moves quickly
enough to level out, QUICKLY stop the stick in the middle. The stick will
(hopefully) go in the dimple, and the plate will continue spinning on the
Another teaching aid is to show that the stick makes a cone shape when
you spin a plate. The top of the stick makes a circle, but the bottom mostly
PROBLEM 1: Student
holds the stick very tightly and cannot get the plate to move with the
This is the most common problem people experience when learning to spin.
PROBLEM 2: The plate flies
off the stick.
Frequently remind students
to hold the stick as loosely as possible: “If your knuckles are white,
you’re holding too tight!” It also helps to drop the shoulder and relax
the whole arm.
Using just the wrist,
practice turning the top of the stick in a circle. Remind them that the
stick should make a cone shape when they spin.
PROBLEM 3: Student
has a good spin, but cannot stop in the middle.
Again, probably holding
too tight. They might also be pointing the stick forward instead of straight
up. Correct these errors, and check for tight arm muscles.
The student may also be
starting too fast. Coach them to begin their spin slowly, and gradually
build up speed.
III. The Toss Start
Once a good spin has been
established, the stick must be stopped quickly. Some students will allow
the plate to slow down before stopping. The correct technique is to quickly
“hit the brakes” when the plate is going its fastest. This takes practice.
Students may try to stop
in the middle too soon, before they have established their spin. Tell the
student to spin their plate, but not stop until you tell them. Wait until
they have made a good spin for a few seconds, then abruptly tell them to
Hold the stick
straight up in one hand, and hold the plate on the bottom with the other
hand. Use the wrist to toss and spin the plate in one motion, and then
catch it spinning on the stick.
the stick as you catch so the plate won’t bounce off.
SPINNING PLATE TRICKS
1. Throw & Catch:
While the plate is spinning on the stick, toss it up a short distance.
To catch, aim for the middle of the plate, and cushion it as it comes down.
The throw should be straight up so you can get underneath it.
2. Turning the Stick
Over: Throw the plate up and turn the stick over to catch on the other
end of the stick. There are two techniques for this move:
Students usually have
little trouble with the throw, but may not “give” enough when catching.
This provides an opportunity to explain the concept of absorbing force.
A. Hold the stick with
the hand upside down. After the throw, turn the stick over to catch with
the hand now right side up.
B. Use one hand to
throw and the other hand to turn over the stick and catch.
3. Spinning on a
Finger: Spin the plate on the stick. Point the index finger, gently
slide it up the stick, and pick up the plate. The plate will spin longer
if you use the fingernail.
4. Arm Curls: A
challenging, but impressive move.
Children enjoy this trick,
and will want to experiment with using different fingers, and throwing
and catching back and forth with the stick.
5. Balancing: To
balance a spinning plate on your hand, watch the TOP of the plate and move
your hand to stay underneath it. (See the Balancing
section for more information on this skill).
After getting a fairly
fast spin, take the plate off the stick with your fingernail.
Bend at the waist and
begin to curl your wrist down and behind you so it begins to pass under
your arm. BE SURE TO KEEP THE PLATE FACING UP.
When the plate is curled
all the way behind your arm, bring it up and around while beginning to
stand straight up. When done correctly, you will finish back where you
Have students practice
this move with a plate that is not spinning. Hold it from the bottom, and
be sure that it is facing up during the move.
6. Stack Poles:
These are sticks which fit together at the ends. They make it possible
to spin a plate on one stick and attach it to other sticks to make a long
pole with the plate on the very top.
FOR THE SPINNING PLATE
Spin your plate on the
first stick, and be sure to give it some speed - you’ll need the plate
to keep going for a while as you add more sticks.
Quickly attach the next
stick to the bottom of the first stick, making sure to keep them pointed
up so the plate does not fall off.
The plate will eventually
slow down and fall off, so be ready! With practice, you will be able to
build up and take down the stack poles before the plate slows down.
It is spectacular, and
not too difficult, to perform a balance with the stack poles assembled
and the plate still spinning (See the Balancing
section for more information on this skill).
& Catching with a Partner: Begin with just one plate for two students,
each of whom has a handstick. The partners should stand close together
and face each other. Have them point their handsticks straight up. The
thrower tosses the plate upwards, but with very little forward motion.
The catcher aims for the middle of the plate and “gives” with it as it
comes down on her stick.
2. Throwing & Catching
Two Plates: Two partners face each other, both with spinning plates
on sticks. Each partner should cheat over about 12” to their respective
right sides to allow the two plates to pass SIDE BY SIDE when they are
tossed. Count to three, and throw at the same time.
Be sure the thrower tosses
up, and not AT the catcher.
Throws and catches can
also be done side by side, or even back to back.
3. Group Throws
& Catches: Any number of students can stand in a circle, all holding
a spinning plate on a stick. On signal, everyone tosses their plate up
and to the right, and then catches the plate that is coming to them from
© Copyright 2009 by Jason
Catanzariti, all rights reserved