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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!