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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Combining 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!
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.