Using stations/centers/rotations in PE class

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A popular day in my PE class is when we do “PE centers” (or rotation stations).  As many classroom teachers use centers as a way to teach small groups, the students are familiar with rotating through different stations and like seeing it in a PE setting.  And they love the variety.  I find it a good way to mix in favorites with something new or a skill I want to work on.

Here is an example of how I used centers this week with my first and second grade classes:

We have been working on the skill of dribbling a ball, as well as bouncing and catching.  I had taught lessons the previous 2 weeks focusing on these skills.  Today I began class by teaching them the game of straddle ball.  I let them play the game for about 5 minutes with the class divided into 3 groups.  While they were playing I set up 3 stations.  Our 3 centers were:

  1. Dribbling practice
  2. Straddle ball
  3. Shooting

For station one I threw down about 12 poly spots.  Students had to stand on a spot and dribble 10 times, then move to another spot and repeat.  When they hit 100 dribbles they come and give me a high five and then try to get to 200, etc.   We had played this game the week before so they were familiar with it and needed no explanation.  This was the station where I focused my time to help those that were still struggling with dribbling with one hand only.

Station 2 was just continuing the game I had just taught.  They were loving that game so it gave them more time to play, but also broke things up to keep it from getting too wild (as games often do if they go too long).

Station 3 was very informal.  I set up two small, portable, shorter hoops that I have in the same area and the standard level wall mount hoop.  I gave no formal instruction and just let them experiment.  My students are always begging to use my small hoops so it gave them that opportunity.

I played music and stopped it when it was time to rotate stations.  I was able to focus on the dribbling skill with a small number of students.  They always love it when we do centers.   I use them with all grade levels periodically with as few as 3 centers and as many as 12.  Usually it is a formal rotation as I’ve described, but I also sometimes let them choose and move through stations at their own pace.

Heart rate lesson plan

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My main goal in PE class is to keep the kids moving while they are with me.  In addition, I am trying to fit in some mini lessons this year that help my students gain an understanding of fitness and give them tools to pursue health and fitness on their own.  I keep them short and simple to minimize the time they have to sit and listen.  Today I taught a mini lesson on heart rate to my 3rd and 4th graders.  I went really well.  Here is an outline:

As students arrive I had them lie down on the gym floor and relax.  We call this “hawaii” in my class.  I timed them lying down for 2 minutes while I talked to them about relaxing each muscle, taking deep breaths, etc.  Then I had them sit up slowly and find the pulse in their neck.  I explained that the pulse would tell them how fast or slow their heart was beating.  Some had a hard time finding it, but hopefully that will improve with practice.

Once everyone had found their pulse, I timed them for 6 seconds while they silently counted beats and then had them multiply their number by 10 to find their heartbeats per minute.  I explained the concept of resting heart rate and what it meant.

Then we all stood up and did jumping jacks for one minute.  After the minute we took our heart rate again.  It was much easier to find this time.  We compared the numbers and talked about active heart rate and why we needed to get our hearts there.

I then had them lay down again for 1 minute.  Following that minute we took heart rates and compared numbers again. I talked to them about recovery and how healthy hearts could recover quickly.

This was about a 10 minute lesson.  I plan to follow up by having them take their heart rates more regularly in class now that they have been taught how.  I also talked with them about heart rate as being a way to tell if they were working hard enough (or too hard) during PE.  Hopefully it will be a valuable addition to our class time.

Warm-up circuits

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I have been doing more circuit work this year and the kids really like it.  Warm-up circuits are great because they give my students some autonomy (they choose where to start), are fast paced, and get everyone moving.  When my students enter on circuit day, they see 10-12 cones set up in a big circle.  They can choose where they start, but I give a limit to how many can be at one cone (usually 3-4 students per cone).  Each cone is labeled with an exercise. As students move around the circle they should be alternating between a stretch, a cardio exercise, and a strength exercise.  For example, calf stretch – jumping jacks – plank.  Once the students have chosen their beginning cone, I give a start signal.  Every 30 seconds I give the signal to move to the next cone.  Use a timer or music with interval breaks to keep consistency on the time.  I walk around and correct form as much as I can.  When students have gone all the way around the circle, warm-up is done!  My students look forward to circuit day and they always work hard.

Muscle mini lesson

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This year in PE we are focusing on a different muscle every month.  Since I don’t want to spend any movement time having my students sit and listen, I talk about our muscle as we do our stretches.  Here is an example of a mini lesson I did this week focusing on the calf muscle.

Introduction:  We are starting a new month today so that means we have a new muscle to learn.  What was our muscle last month? (quadricep)  Where is the quadricep? This month we are going to learn about the calf.  When I stand on tip toes you will be able to see my calf muscle.  Stand in front of the group flat footed, and then go to tip toe.  Did you see the calf muscle engage?

Activity:  Everyone stand up right where you are and try standing on your tip toes.  Do you feel you muscle engaging.  Can you see the outline of your calf muscle.

Activity:  Teach a stretch for the calf muscle:  Take a big step back.  Make sure both toes point forward with your body.  Push your back heel to the ground.  Bend your back knee a little if you need to to feel the stretch.  I walk around and correct form.  Talk about the need to keep toes pointing forward to actually stretch the right muscle since this is a common mistake in form I see with my students.

Activity:  Ask for suggestions of motions that use the calf muscle and do some of them such as running or jumping rope.

As the month goes on, we will repeat our calf stretch every class period and emphasize movement activities that engage the calf muscle.

My students are loving this.  They were actually the ones who reminded me that it was a new month and asked what our new muscle would be!

Visual aids for PE

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I am working this year to add some science into my PE classes so I decided to focus on learning the names of major muscle groups.  I made this fun bulletin board to add interest and add a fun visual image to my gym.  As you can see, we are going to focus on a muscle group each month.  As the school year moves along, I will add more labels to my HULK visual.  This popular character not only catches the attention of my young students, but his bulk makes the muscle groups easy to see.  I also showed my students a realistic photo of the muscular system inside a human body as I taught a mini lesson on muscles.  When we do our warm-up session, I focus on some stretches and activities that use the quadricep and talk as we stretch.  It has been a fun way to introduce some vocabulary.

How was your summer?

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School is back in session and at my school PE specialty starts the very first day.  I like to get the kids moving in between some talking about rules and expectations.  This is a game I played on the first day, very first thing as the students walk in my door.

I spread poly spots randomly around the gym.  1 poly spot per student, no extras.

As the students arrive, I instruct them to stand on a spot and freeze.

I start the game by saying something I did during the summer.  For example, “this summer I went swimming”, “this summer I ate a popsicle”.  Then everyone who also did that thing has to move off their spot and quickly find another spot.  The person left without a spot gives the next summer activity and everyone moves again.  I encourage them to use broad statements so that lots of people have to move.

It is a fun, simple game with no “outs”.  The students like sharing their summer activities.  We played for about 5 minutes to get things going this year.

organizing teams

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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?

Pass the Pig

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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.

Show Me the Money

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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.

Another frisbee game!

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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.