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.
This is a fun indoor game idea that my students absolutely loved! It is a take-off from traditional 4 square and made use of the large stability exercise ball that I bought last year. You need stability balls for each player and one beach ball per grid.
I made 3 9-square game boards on the gym floor using floor tape. Each individual square was 4 feet by 4 feet in a 3×3 grid. Each square holds a player sitting on a stability ball. The center square is the “9” or king spot. The king serves a beach ball by tossing it in the air. The goal of the game is to keep the ball in the game grid and in the air. A player is out if they: catch the ball, double hit, spike ball to the ground, let it hit the floor in their square, or hit it out of bounds. When a player gets out, that player moves out of the grid, a waiting player moves into the “1” spot (right corner) and all lower numbers than the out player rotate up. The rotation starts in the right corner and moves around the edge and into the middle. The game is that simple. It is easy to explain and get the students going. My kids voted to have hits with the head legal, but knees and below were out.
I made 3 grids in my gym so 27 students are playing at a time. I usually have 1 player per group that is “out”. The rotations happen fast so no one is sitting out for long. They loved the game just for the novelty of bouncing on the stability ball while they played. Now that the marking is done and the game familiar, it is a favorite go-to game when we have a few extra minutes. Even my most reluctant players had fun with the game. The beach ball is a non-threatening piece of equipment for those that are timid around balls. I actually have a student with a ball-phobia who played the game with no stress. 9-square is a new favorite in my gym!
This is a just-for-fun type game I used to round up my basketball unit. My 5th and 6th grade students had fun with it and it scaled the competitiveness down for my more timid students.
Each team had 2 lists, 6 types of balls, and two die. One list had 6 possible choices of where to shoot the ball. The other had 6 possible types of ball they could use. Person 1 rolled the first die and selected the matching ball. Then they rolled the second die to find where they would be shooting the ball. They would then attempt to make that shot. If they missed, the same shot/ball selection went to the next person on the team. Repeat until the shot was made. Once a team member made the shot, the next person up would roll again and the team began attempting the next shot. I had a scoreboard in the middle where they would run and add their points as shots where made. Shots were worth 2 points except for the 3 point option that was worth 3 points.
Example of lists:
1. pig 1. corner shot
2. basketball 2. free throw line
3. small foam ball 3. middle lane (inside key)
4. mini kick ball 4. 3 point line
5. football 5. lay-up
6. dodgeball 6. free choice
*note: “pig” referred to some rubber pigs that I have. My students always love mixing them into a game; they are just funny. However, we ended up taking them out of this game because they just kept getting stuck in the net. I changed #1 to “free choice”.
Review: I liked that the game reinforced some of the court positions. Some of my students still didn’t know what a lay-up was, so it gave me a chance to do some re-teaching where it had been missed. I also liked the team factor as the students worked well together and had fun. The negative was that it didn’t get them moving as much as I usually like to do and it encouraged some bad shooting form when using alternate types of balls.
We have started a basketball unit in 5th and 6th grades. I wanted a fun way for them to work on the skills before we jumped into games. I have my classes previously divided up into 4 groups (see this post). I made four sets of game cards. Each card had a skill to work on, a points value, and how I wanted the group to work on it (either individually, partners, or as a team). Each of my teams has a basketball captain and a team captain. I chose basketball captains who had previous basketball experience. The basketball captain would select a card, read it and demonstrate the skill. The team then followed the directions on the card to practice the skill. The team captain recorded the points earned from completing the card.
Some examples of cards:
Partners: practice chest passes with a partner for 2 minutes. (the captains had timers so they could time the group)
Team: score 20 points as a team, use correct shooting form, each person on the team must complete at least one basket
Individual: dribble a basketball waist high to the music trailer and back
I also included cards that were fitness based like running around the field, doing wall push-ups with a basketball in your hands, curl-ups, etc.
The activity was very successful. The teams all worked hard and the students responded well to learning from each other. I circled the groups and gave help as needed. My principal even walked by one day and commented on how productive and organized the class was. She asked me later to explain the system to her. I was also impressed with how the students interacted with each other. I teach a boy who is deaf and handicapped. His team captains worked together to make sure he stayed involved and was part of the group. It was impressive!
We did this activity for two weeks (each class has 30 minutes per week). Then we began small 3 on 3 games. All the students were ready to play and had some understanding and comfort with the game so they could all be involved. Ideally, I would have stayed with the skills activity for another 2 weeks. However, time constraints permit me from staying on one unit for too long.
I divide my 5th and 6th grade classes into 4 teams or squads (about 8 students per team). I assign each team a captain. I have found this to be helpful in so many ways. I live in a very active sports-oriented community. By 5th grade many of my students have been playing organized sports for years and are very skilled. Some of these highly skilled students can be a behavior problem for me. They can be cocky, intimidating to others, like to show-off or goof off, etc. This is not always the case, but it is a common management problem I have faced. Giving some of these kids an important job makes a world of difference. I spend a bit of time at the first of the year talking about the importance of teamwork and what I will see a good team doing. I talk about how important the captain is and how much extra work I give them and how I need their help. The following week, I divided up my groups and announce the captains. It literally changes how these kids act and work in class. They become wonderful leaders! The job focuses them on helping other students and helping their team succeed.
Some of the things I have my captains do:
Teach skills: I will demonstrate a new skill and then have each team shadow their captain a certain number of times to practice. Or, have the captain work with their team to practice something we are learning.
Score keep: If we are playing a game, I give the captain a notebook and have him/her keep score.
Timers: For an activity that requires a timer, I will give my captain a timer and have him/her be in charge of keeping time for their team.
Clean-up: I leave a note in their notebooks about what their teams’ clean-up job is. They pass the info onto their team and lead the clean-up.
Assigning others: If it seems as if the captain is doing too much, I just ask him/her to give the job to someone else. “choose someone on your team who has been working hard and have them be in charge of the timer”
I rotate captains about every 2 months so that many get a chance during the year to have the job. My students will work hard for the honor of being the captain. I don’t always just choose skilled students, but look for those that can lead and are good team players.
Other class jobs are warm-up leaders, and skill-specific captains.
My students have really responded to this system. I love to see the leadership emerge!
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.