I teach over 800 students every week, 30 minute classes, about 30 students per class. I need efficient ways to divide my students into different size groups for different activities. Sometimes I want like abilities together and sometimes I like to mix skill levels. Here are a couple ideas I use to divide classes up into teams:
1. Play music and have the students just walk or dance around the room. When the music stops they stand toe to toe with # (designate size of group by holding up number of fingers) of people. I sometimes add restrictions such as wearing the same color, #boys#girls, etc. Sometimes I repeat 2 or 3 times, telling them each time that they can’t have someone in their group who was in it the last round (good way to mix up friends)
2. For outside, as the class arrives I give them a fitness task to complete. As each child finishes I hand them a jersey to put on. I have all my colors out and pre-counted so that as I hand them a jersey, I can mix up who is wearing what color. Since my most athletic kids tend to finish the fitness task first, I can give each one a new color and have them evenly distributed. Same idea with my slow students. I end up with teams evenly divided and marked. I sometimes have them do an activity with a partner wearing a different color jersey to keep them guessing!
These are my favorite and easiest team divisors. How do you divide classes?
I like games that disguise that we are working on fitness. In other words, I like to get them moving in a fun way so that they don’t realize they are working out. This is a fun and easy game that targets core fitness.
Divide class up into teams of about 5. Teams lie down on their backs in a line with shoulders touching. I use a rubber pig or chicken (1 per team). My students love any game where they get to use these — they are just fun! Beginning player puts the pig in between his/her feet and passes it to the next person. No hands are allowed! If the pig gets dropped, it must be picked up with feet. Once a player has passed the pig, they get up and run to the end of the line so that the line keeps rotating centipede style. I play music and see how far down the gym each team can get their pig before the music stops. If they get to the end, they must start the pig coming back.
It is a quick 5-minute game that my students really like.
This is a commonly played game with many different names, including “wreck-it-ralph”. If you haven’t tried it, the game is very active and always a favorite with my littlest students.
Set-up cones and/or bowling pins randomly around the play space. Assign about one-third of the class to be “bulldozers”. The bulldozers run around and knock over the pins. They may only use one hand and no kicking is allowed. The rest of the class play the “builders”. The builders set up the cones knocked over by the bulldozers. I use fun music as a start/stop signal. Play several short rounds trading the builders and bulldozers every time. They all love being the bulldozers!
My classes love this game! It really gets the heart rate up too! My dislike is the amount of equipment for just a short game. You need a lot of cones/pins. I usually tie it with another activity where we already have those items out. Have each student grab one or two pins and set them somewhere on the floor to make set-up easy.
Show Me the Money is a fun warm-up game that incorporates a little math. I used fake bills in $1, $5, $10, $20, and $50 denominations. Each bill had and exercise written on the back such as “complete 20 jumping jacks” or ” do a wall sit for 60 seconds”, etc. Higher value bills equal harder exercises. I laminated mine for extra durability and multiple uses.
I divided the class into groups of 4-5 students per group. An easy way to do this is to space cones around the gym. As the students arrive, I instruct them to sit by a cone with no more than 4 people at a cone. On my signal, one person from each group runs to the money pile and chooses a bill. They return to their group and the entire group completes the listed exercise. Another group member then runs to the pile for another bill. At the end of the designated time, the groups add up their money and see which group has the largest amount.
This was a fun and engaging warm-up activity for my 3rd and 4th grade classes.
This is a fun indoor game idea that my students absolutely loved! It is a take-off from traditional 4 square and made use of the large stability exercise ball that I bought last year. You need stability balls for each player and one beach ball per grid.
I made 3 9-square game boards on the gym floor using floor tape. Each individual square was 4 feet by 4 feet in a 3×3 grid. Each square holds a player sitting on a stability ball. The center square is the “9” or king spot. The king serves a beach ball by tossing it in the air. The goal of the game is to keep the ball in the game grid and in the air. A player is out if they: catch the ball, double hit, spike ball to the ground, let it hit the floor in their square, or hit it out of bounds. When a player gets out, that player moves out of the grid, a waiting player moves into the “1” spot (right corner) and all lower numbers than the out player rotate up. The rotation starts in the right corner and moves around the edge and into the middle. The game is that simple. It is easy to explain and get the students going. My kids voted to have hits with the head legal, but knees and below were out.
I made 3 grids in my gym so 27 students are playing at a time. I usually have 1 player per group that is “out”. The rotations happen fast so no one is sitting out for long. They loved the game just for the novelty of bouncing on the stability ball while they played. Now that the marking is done and the game familiar, it is a favorite go-to game when we have a few extra minutes. Even my most reluctant players had fun with the game. The beach ball is a non-threatening piece of equipment for those that are timid around balls. I actually have a student with a ball-phobia who played the game with no stress. 9-square is a new favorite in my gym!
This is a just-for-fun type game I used to round up my basketball unit. My 5th and 6th grade students had fun with it and it scaled the competitiveness down for my more timid students.
Each team had 2 lists, 6 types of balls, and two die. One list had 6 possible choices of where to shoot the ball. The other had 6 possible types of ball they could use. Person 1 rolled the first die and selected the matching ball. Then they rolled the second die to find where they would be shooting the ball. They would then attempt to make that shot. If they missed, the same shot/ball selection went to the next person on the team. Repeat until the shot was made. Once a team member made the shot, the next person up would roll again and the team began attempting the next shot. I had a scoreboard in the middle where they would run and add their points as shots where made. Shots were worth 2 points except for the 3 point option that was worth 3 points.
Example of lists:
1. pig 1. corner shot
2. basketball 2. free throw line
3. small foam ball 3. middle lane (inside key)
4. mini kick ball 4. 3 point line
5. football 5. lay-up
6. dodgeball 6. free choice
*note: “pig” referred to some rubber pigs that I have. My students always love mixing them into a game; they are just funny. However, we ended up taking them out of this game because they just kept getting stuck in the net. I changed #1 to “free choice”.
Review: I liked that the game reinforced some of the court positions. Some of my students still didn’t know what a lay-up was, so it gave me a chance to do some re-teaching where it had been missed. I also liked the team factor as the students worked well together and had fun. The negative was that it didn’t get them moving as much as I usually like to do and it encouraged some bad shooting form when using alternate types of balls.
I called this game “frisbee baseball” and I think it is my new favorite frisbee game. I have been using it with 3rd and 4th graders, but I also think it would work with 5/6.
Prior to this game, we spent 2 weeks working on basic throwing and catching with a frisbee. They are getting good at the throws, but we still need more work on the catch!
Divide the class into teams of 5. Each team has 2 cones, set about 10 paces apart. The “thrower” stands at the home cone, the “pitcher” stands at the other. The other 3 players are the “outfield” and spread out about 10 paces behind the pitcher. The thrower give the frisbee a big throw towards the outfield. The closest outfielder tries to catch it (if he/she does not catch, they just run and get it and continue) and then passes it to the next outfielder who passes it to the third outfielder who passes it to the pitcher. Once the pitcher has the frisbee, he/she touches their cone and calls “stop”. Meanwhile, the thrower runs circles around the two cones. Each time the thrower passes the home cone it is a point. The thrower’s goal is to see how many points he/she can get before the frisbee is back with the pitcher. The players then rotate places and repeat.
What I love about this game:
It is active! The kids do a lot of running.
It is engaging! All of my students stayed involved and had fun.
It is easy! Set up and clean up are a breeze. It takes a few minutes to explain it the first time.
What I didn’t love:
Skill practice is questionable. Although I stressed making good throws and catches, most of the groups were in too big of a hurry to pay attention to the throwing and catching form we had been working on.
Overall, a positive. My students left commenting on how fun it was and they all got some good movement in.
We have started a basketball unit in 5th and 6th grades. I wanted a fun way for them to work on the skills before we jumped into games. I have my classes previously divided up into 4 groups (see this post). I made four sets of game cards. Each card had a skill to work on, a points value, and how I wanted the group to work on it (either individually, partners, or as a team). Each of my teams has a basketball captain and a team captain. I chose basketball captains who had previous basketball experience. The basketball captain would select a card, read it and demonstrate the skill. The team then followed the directions on the card to practice the skill. The team captain recorded the points earned from completing the card.
Some examples of cards:
Partners: practice chest passes with a partner for 2 minutes. (the captains had timers so they could time the group)
Team: score 20 points as a team, use correct shooting form, each person on the team must complete at least one basket
Individual: dribble a basketball waist high to the music trailer and back
I also included cards that were fitness based like running around the field, doing wall push-ups with a basketball in your hands, curl-ups, etc.
The activity was very successful. The teams all worked hard and the students responded well to learning from each other. I circled the groups and gave help as needed. My principal even walked by one day and commented on how productive and organized the class was. She asked me later to explain the system to her. I was also impressed with how the students interacted with each other. I teach a boy who is deaf and handicapped. His team captains worked together to make sure he stayed involved and was part of the group. It was impressive!
We did this activity for two weeks (each class has 30 minutes per week). Then we began small 3 on 3 games. All the students were ready to play and had some understanding and comfort with the game so they could all be involved. Ideally, I would have stayed with the skills activity for another 2 weeks. However, time constraints permit me from staying on one unit for too long.
I divide my 5th and 6th grade classes into 4 teams or squads (about 8 students per team). I assign each team a captain. I have found this to be helpful in so many ways. I live in a very active sports-oriented community. By 5th grade many of my students have been playing organized sports for years and are very skilled. Some of these highly skilled students can be a behavior problem for me. They can be cocky, intimidating to others, like to show-off or goof off, etc. This is not always the case, but it is a common management problem I have faced. Giving some of these kids an important job makes a world of difference. I spend a bit of time at the first of the year talking about the importance of teamwork and what I will see a good team doing. I talk about how important the captain is and how much extra work I give them and how I need their help. The following week, I divided up my groups and announce the captains. It literally changes how these kids act and work in class. They become wonderful leaders! The job focuses them on helping other students and helping their team succeed.
Some of the things I have my captains do:
Teach skills: I will demonstrate a new skill and then have each team shadow their captain a certain number of times to practice. Or, have the captain work with their team to practice something we are learning.
Score keep: If we are playing a game, I give the captain a notebook and have him/her keep score.
Timers: For an activity that requires a timer, I will give my captain a timer and have him/her be in charge of keeping time for their team.
Clean-up: I leave a note in their notebooks about what their teams’ clean-up job is. They pass the info onto their team and lead the clean-up.
Assigning others: If it seems as if the captain is doing too much, I just ask him/her to give the job to someone else. “choose someone on your team who has been working hard and have them be in charge of the timer”
I rotate captains about every 2 months so that many get a chance during the year to have the job. My students will work hard for the honor of being the captain. I don’t always just choose skilled students, but look for those that can lead and are good team players.
Other class jobs are warm-up leaders, and skill-specific captains.
My students have really responded to this system. I love to see the leadership emerge!
Today was the first day of school. One of the things I like to work on with my students as we begin PE class is finding partners quickly. I also like to mix movement in with learning the rules. This game helped give us some movement today, practice staying in our own space, and practice finding a partner quickly.
Begin by having your class spread out onto your gym space. I talk to them about staying in their own “bubble” and not interfering with anyone else. Play music and have them walk around staying in their space. When the music stops, they freeze toe-to-toe with the closest person. Shake hands with that person while saying “my name is ______ and I like to _________”. The partner then responds with their name and something they like to do. Start the music again and repeat. As partners are found, I teach them to come to the middle if they do not have a partner. As they arrive in the middle, partners can easily be found. I also work with them on inviting someone in to their partnership if there is an odd number and someone left out.
Some things I watch for and comment on as we play:
How are they moving? Some of my students will walk like they are in the hallway with arms folded, slow walk. This is PE! You move your arms in here! By the end they are really moving and laughing.
Are they partnering with only girls-to-girls and boys-to-boys? You can mix things up by requiring students to find a partner with the same color shirt, same height, etc.
Are the following the established guidelines? If I have told them to walk, they must walk and not run.
Are they staying in their own space? Running into walls or onto the stage steps is not acceptable. Arm in arm with another person is not acceptable.
It is a great time to establish some boundaries while having fun and mixing with their new classmates.
Once they learn how to find a partner quickly, dividing them throughout the year becomes easier. Next week we will practice in a similar fashion, but vary the number in the group.