Sharks and Lifeguards

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Sharks and Lifeguards is a classic parachute game.  I have been hesitant to play it in the past due to the potential roughness of the game.  I decided to give it a try this year with some added caution.  It was very successful and a favorite for my students.

Students sit in a circle around the parachute with their legs straight out in front of them.  Their legs are underneath the parachute.  A few students (I started with 3) are “sharks” and swim underneath the parachute. The sharks try and pull beach dwellers under the chute by grabbing their legs.  A few students (equal in number to starting sharks) are “lifeguards”.  The lifeguards circle the parachute on foot and rescue those being pulled under.  I instructed my students that if they felt themselves being pulled under, they must let go of the parachute and raise both hands and call to a lifeguard for help.  They cannot kick at the shark or hold on to anything, but they can try to scoot away and get extra help from the lifeguards.   The lifeguards help by grabbing the victim’s arms and pulling.  Once a player is pulled under, they become a shark.  If they are saved, they stay in position with legs under the chute.  As the game goes on more and more players become sharks.  When 90% of the group is under the chute, I blow my whistle for everyone to come out and we start a new round.

Safety tips:

Play outside on the grass versus inside on a hard gym floor

Instruct sharks that they may initially only grab one leg — this way the person being pulled will not get yanked too hard and bump their head on the ground

Have those sitting around the parachute wave it up and down slightly to keep air moving underneath — it gets hot under there!


I played the game with 2nd thru 5th grade and they all had a blast!

Scoops and Balls

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We have some fun new equipment at our school this year:  plastic scoops and wiffle balls.  I used the equipment in two separate lessons with my youngest classes.

Lesson 1:

Each person has a scoop and their own ball.  I start by having them roll the ball on the floor and try and scoop it up without using their hands.  I demonstrate that they need to scoop the opposite direction from where the ball is rolling.  That way it rolls into their scoop.  Next we toss the ball out of our scoop, let it bounce once or twice on the floor and then catch.  For those that get comfortable with that, I show them how to toss, spin around, and then catch off the 2nd or 3rd bounce.  Finally, we move into tossing and catching without a bounce.  We start with low tosses (head high), then move to medium (high as you can reach), and then high tosses.  This lesson works best indoors on a gym floor.

Lesson 2:

This lesson moves the students into using the scoops and balls with a partner.  I start by having them all choose a scoop.  Then I have them find a partner that has a different color scoop (good way to mix them up!).  You can then move the students through a sequence of activities.  Vary your sequence depending on time, ability, and interest.

1. roll the ball to your partner — scoop it up without using hands

2.  low toss the ball to your partner; if you catch it take a baby step farther away and try again

3.  repeat #2 with higher tosses

4.  stand back to back with your partner, each take a giant step away from each other, the partner without the ball turns and faces their partner’s back, the partner with the ball tosses the ball over head for their partner to catch

5.  try jogging slowly and tossing the ball back and forth

I did this lesson outside on the grass.  My students especially like #4.  Fun for a spring day!

“UNO” warm-up game

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I pulled out an old set of “UNO” cards this week and used them for a quick and easy warm-up with my K, 1, and 2 classes.

Give each child an UNO card.  Assign each color a locomotor movement.  For example:


green = slither like a snake


blue=swim (arm motion)

wild=your choice

Start some fun music and the children perform the locomotor movement associated with their card.  When the music stops, they must trade cards with someone.  Repeat about every 30 seconds.  Not only was this a good warm-up, but a chance for me to assess locomotor skills.  I focused on the skip and watched those students only.  If someone was having a hard time with it, I could step in and help them out and the rest of the class was still busy and active.

“Frozen” tag

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Does anyone else have young classes that are obsessed with the movie Frozen?  My students love it when I put on Frozen music for them to listen to while we are doing our activities.  We have danced with ribbon wands to Frozen, learned to scarf juggle to Frozen, rolled balls, etc, etc.  They can’t get enough of that soundtrack!  And while I am getting sick of it, I love it when they are all engaged in a physical activity while singing at the top of their lungs a Frozen song!  So, here is an old game with a new Frozen twist . . .

The game is usually called “stuck in the mud”.  I changed it to “frozen tag” and we listen to “Frozen Heart” while we play.  Choose 3-4 children to be taggers.  I use a yarn ball for them to tag with.  When the music begins, they try and tag other students.  When you are tagged you must freeze with your legs spread apart into a bridge.  To get “unfrozen”  another student must crawl under your legs.  Play for a few minutes and then change-up who your taggers are.  You can also designate the movement used — instead of running you must fast-walk, skip, gallop, etc.

I usually play tag games only outdoors, not in the gym, to avoid injuries on the hard floor.  I found that using this music, which has a slow beat, slows the game down enough to keep the movement at a safe level for indoors.

Rob the Cookie Jar Scooter Style

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Scooter games are one of my kids favorite activities.  This one was fun with soccer balls so I adapted it for a scooter version that my classes just loved.

Equipment:  hula hoop for every 4-5 students, lots of bean bags, 2 scooters per team

Divide the class into teams of 4-5 students each team.  Each team has 2 scooters and 1 hula hoop that is their “cookie jar”.  Place equal number of teams on opposite sides of the gym.  In the center of the gym place a hula hoop and fill it with bean bags.  This is the “bakery”.  Two students from each team can scooter in to the center and steal a “cookie”  (bean bag) from the bakery and take it back to their own cookie jar.  They then pass the scooter to the next team mate.  They may only take one at a time and it must be placed not thrown into their cookie jar.  I let them ride their scooters anyway they want, as long as they follow our safety rules.  Once the bakery cookie jar is empty, they may steal from each others’ cookie jars.  Again, one at a time and no throwing.  I also tell them they can’t steal from neighbors on the same side of the street as them, they must go to the houses across the gym.  Once they get to this part of the game, it really gets moving!  At ending time, I have them count up how many cookies they have.  I downplay the competitive side by saying “wow, big numbers” or something like that instead of declaring a winner.

Adaptations:  For 1st grade I eliminated the steal from the neighbor step and had smaller teams with only one scooter for team.  It simplified the game and the instruction time and they still loved playing.

Cat and Mouse Parachute Game

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Parachute activities are a favorite with all my students.  They always cheer when I bring out the parachute!  This is our very favorite game:

Cat and Mouse

Class sits in a circle with the parachute covering their legs.

One child is the mouse and crawls under the parachute.

Another child is the cat and crawls on top of the parachute.

The rest of the class makes small waves with the parachute to hide the mouse.

The cat has to try and find the mouse and tag him/her.

Switch parts for cat and mouse and repeat.


The downside is that all the children want a turn to be the cat/mouse.  It does move fairly quickly and I can give most of my class a turn in about 10 minutes playing time.


Animal movement warm-up idea

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Last week in class, I taught my animal movement lesson plan (see here).  Today I wanted to do something new with my warm-ups so I tried this:

Set up 6 cones spaced apart in the gym

Label each cone with an animal movement:  crab walk, frog hop, puppy run, etc

Let students choose a cone to start at (I limit the number of how many can start at the same cone)

Play fun music

Students move from cone to cone matching the animal movements on the cone.  Each time they reach a new cone, they change their movement.

It was a very successful warm-up.  Their favorite animal movement was the 3-legged dog!


Scarf Juggling

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My first and second graders really loved playing with scarves this week.  They are a colorful and fun manipulative to try.  I first passed them out and we played “freeze dance” while holding the scarf.  They loved dancing around with a scarf in hand.  We then did some beginning juggling:

1.  Hold the scarf by the corner.  Toss across your body and catch with the opposite hand.

2.  Stand across from a partner.  Both toss scarves at the same time and catch your partner’s scarf.

3.  Give each student a second scarf.  Scarves are tossed across the body, making an ‘x’.  Follow this pattern:  toss, toss, catch, catch.  I have them repeat with me “toss, toss, catch, catch”.  (they tend to want to toss, catch, toss, catch).

4.  Play fun music while students practice.  They love it!

Double Tag

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My classes love to play tag games and this one adds a little extra fitness:

Divide playing area in half using cones to mark dividing line.  Use 2 cones in each area to mark a “door”.  There is a tag game going on in each area.  If a person is tagged, they go out of the door in the gym-half they have been playing in.  They complete 10 jumping jacks (or any fitness task you designate) then enter in the door of the adjoining game and play in that game.  I designate 3-4 children per game to be “it”.  They use a yarn ball to tag.  Every few minutes, I blow a whistle (students freeze) and trade students who are “it”.

Most tag games work better outside, but this one seems to work well in a gym space.  We were driven inside today due to wind and my students loved playing this game.


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We have been working on throwing and catching in 1st and 2nd grade.  This creative story and game made practicing the skills fun.


Make a big rectangle using cones or poly spots.  This is the ship.

Throw 8-10 hula hoops around the ship — about 4 paces away.

Place a bin of soft yarn or foam balls on the “ship”.

I had all the students sit in the cone box for a story.  I told them they were on a ship, but in a minute a big storm was going to hit and most of them would be knocked off.  They would need to swim quickly and climb on an iceberg (hula hoop) because the water around them was full of hungry sharks.  I demonstrated that those sailors still on the ship would need to save their friends by throwing them a life preserver (yarn ball).  If the ball is caught you can reel your friend in with the imaginary rope tied to the life preserver.  If the ball is not caught, it must remain in the water.  I note that the water also has some friendly and brave dolphins who will retrieve the lost life preservers and bring them back to the ship.

I then send all the students to stand in a hoop (several can stand in the same one).  I then designate 3-4 children to stay on the ship and be rescue sailors and 3-4 to be dolphins.  The sailors then begin tossing balls to their friends in the hoops.  Once these students are pulled on board they can help with the rescuing.  The dolphins run around and retrieve lost balls so the ship doesn’t run out.  You can add a timer, if wanted, and see if all our friends can be rescued in one minute before their ice berg melts.

The children love the imagination of the game as well as getting lots of throwing and catching practice.  A round just takes about a minute, then I scattered them in hoops again and start over.  They loved it!