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!

Straddle Ball

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Here is a quick and easy game that doesn’t require a lot of equipment.  It also can be done in small spaces so it works well for classroom teachers that want to get kids moving a bit.

Students get in groups of 5-6.  They form a big circle facing in and take a wide stance with the side edges of their feet touching.  Place a playground ball in the center of the circle.  Players try to score a “goal” by rolling the ball between someone else’s legs.  They can block with their hands, but cannot move their feet.  They should try and keep the ball rolling, not bouncing in the air (for safety).

My students had a lot of fun with this once they got the ball rolling fast.  You can add movement by having the student who lets a goal get by run a lap, etc.  Scoring is optional depending on the level of competition you want to have.  Quick and easy games like this are great to have in your head when you need a quick filler.

Noodle Ninja

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This game is a favorite with my classes and is especially effective with 3rd and 4th grades.  It is good for cardio exercise and to get the class mixing together and playing with lots of different friends.  It is also a fun use of new equipment.

I use pool noodles for this game.  I buy them on clearance at the end of the summer and then cut them in half. For less than $20 I have a class set.

Game:  Give each student 1 noodle.  Students meet with a partner and tap their noodles 3 times together.  They then try and bop their partner’s ankle or foot.  Each time a foot is hit, start a new round.  At the end of three rounds students must find a new partner.  When they need a new partner, I have them go to the center of the room and hold their noodle in the air as a signal.  Since the rounds go so fast, they are constantly mixing and finding new partners.

Management:  When teaching the game, I demonstrate what is an appropriate hit and what is not.  Be specific on rules!  I also spend some time on the method for finding a new partner.  I stress that they duel with the first person to become available.  Once these things have been taught, you can throw out the noodles and have a quick 3 minute game whenever needed.

Notes:  I have found that 1st and 2nd graders have a hard time holding on to the noodles; their hands are too small.  The game has also worked well with my 5th graders.  My 6th graders tend to get aggressive fast so keep the time played short.  The game is fun outside or in.  As always, fun music adds to the energy.

Multiplication Pyramid

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IMG_1370Combining movement with brain work is a great way to improve learning and I am trying to do more of this in my classes.  This week I tried this fun game that combines practice on multiplication skills with cardio movement.  My classes loved it!  The novelty of the obstacle course made it lots of fun.

Set up:  5 rows of hula hoops that decrease in number.  The first row has 5 hoops, the second 4, etc.  In each hula hoop place 2 dice.  Around the borders of the hoop set-up, make an obstacle course.  I used cones with jump ropes stretched across to make hurdles and foam  noodles and cones to create tunnels.  Along one side of the course, I just had the students side-slide.

Game:  Players begin at the row of 5 hoops.  2 players begin at each hoop (10 kids starting and the rest are waiting in line so I have them stretch until their turn, it moves fast).  Each player takes a turn rolling the dice.  They multiply the 2 numbers together.  The player with the largest product advances to the next row of hoops.  The losing player must complete the obstacle course and then start over at the beginning level.  As they rotate levels, they just find another waiting player to roll against.  If they advance (and win) all the way to the top hoop, I tape a “hall of fame” paper on the floor for them to sign their name on.  Any time they lose, they must run the obstacle course and begin again at the first level.  The fun thing about the game is that they love running the obstacle course so win or lose, they are all having fun!


I played fun music while they played which added to the energy.

Adaptations could easily be made to practice different math skills:  add or subtract numbers, add another dice, etc

One of my favorite games of the year — so energetic and fun!

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.

Merry Go Round Parachute Game

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Here is another fun parachute activity that my students love . . .

I begin by having them pull the parachute tight.  Tell them to lean backwards and let the parachute hold them up. Then walk in a circle together keeping the speed consistent and the chute tight.  Now your students are prepped for the game.

Give a scooter to about every fifth student around the parachute.  These students sit on the scooter and hold onto the parachute with one hand.  Tell them if they lose control or start to fall off, they must roll UNDER the parachute.  That keeps them from getting stepped on or tripping someone.  The standing students walk fast in a circle pulling the scooter students along.  After those students ride, stop and pass the scooters forward and repeat.

This activity is a tight squeeze in my small gym, but the kids love it!

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.


Rob the Cookie Jar — Soccer Style

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This game is an adaptation of the traditional “Rob the Cookie Jar”.  I used it for my 3rd and 4th graders to practice their soccer dribbling skills.

Set up a large playing area with hula hoops arranged in a big circle.  Each hoop should be at least 10 paces from another one with a free area in the center.  Students all get their own soccer or kick ball and place it in a hula hoop.  Set up enough hoops so that each hoop has 5-6 balls (vary hoop number according to your class size).  The hoop where their ball starts is their home hoop.  The goal is to get as many balls into your hoop as possible in a set amount of time.  On the start signal, students run to another hoop, lift a ball out, set it on the ground, and then dribble it to their own hoop.   They use their feet to trap the ball in their own hoop.  Then go and “steal” another ball.  At the end of the designated time, students return to their own hoop and count to see which team has the most balls.

Here are a few rules my students came up with as we played the game:

1.  can only steal one ball at a time

2.  you cannot steal from a person kicking, just from the hoops

3.  you cannot rob from your “next door neighbor” (hoop on either side of yours) 2 times in a row

4.  you cannot rob from the same hoop 2 times in a row

5.  no hands after you pick the ball up out of the hoop, kicking only

Fun, active, and good practice!


Soccer Golf

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We have been practicing soccer skills, mainly different kinds of kicks in PE this month.  This game was a fun, quick way to practice.

Students find a partner

Each partnership needs 1 ball and 1 hula hoop

You need a large playing area (perfect for outside fall weather)

Player throws hula hoop into empty space

Partners then take turns kicking the ball and trying to get it to land in the hoop

Count and see how many kicks it takes to get the ball to stay in the hoop (if it rolls out, that counts as 1 kick and play continues)

Throw the hoop again and try to decrease your number of kicks or throw the hoop farther

“Mission Possible” fitness tasks

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Today was one of those days where everything went perfect!  My students responded to this game with such enthusiasm and it was really fun.  It was our “mission possible” fitness day.  Here is what we did:

I divided the class into groups of 4-5.  Each group had a cone that was their “home base”.  I gave them 30 seconds to appoint a team captain, then had the team captain come up and get an envelope with their “mission”.  Each envelope had slips of paper with different fitness tasks on them (for a total of 10 tasks).  They had to complete the tasks as a group.  I play the theme from Mission Impossible while they worked.  The music was key to making it fun!  I told them when they finished, they could come to me for an extra challenge.  That kept the fast groups busy. (challenge was to repeat task cards, but double all numbers)  You can use any exercise on the task cards.  Here are the ones I used:  gallop 1 lap, 30 jumping jacks, curl-ups for 60 seconds, 10 super mans, 20 high jumps, grapevine 1 lap, 20 step jumps, 10 push-ups, plank for 60 seconds,    wall sit for 60 seconds.  They all laughed and had fun while working hard.

Our second activity was a relay activity.  When we finished our first mission, I had them move their cones into a row and line their groups up behind them.  Each group had 3 bean bags.  In front of each line I put 3 dome-style cones spaced across the gym floor.  The first person in line ran to the first cone, turned it over and put a bean bag inside.  They then run back and pick up a second bean bag and run to the 2nd cone, turn it over, put the bean bag in.  Repeat for 3rd cone then run back to the group and high five the next person.  That team-mate reverses the action by bringing the bean bag back and turning the cone back to “mountain” position.  Because of the ladder-style running, the students got a lot of cardio exercise.  I played the Mission Impossible music again and the groups kept going until the music stopped.  I told them it wasn’t a race, just to try and see how many rounds their group could do.  They loved this activity as well.  It was a super fun and active PE class!