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.
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!
Have you ever seen jump bands? They are a new piece of equipment I have been trying out. They are long, stretchy bands with a handle on each end. Two players stand across from each other and hook the handles of 2 bands over their feet (kind-of like chinese jump rope). Those two players then jump in rhythm — in, in, out, out, in , in, out, out (feet together, feet apart). The jumper(s) jump opposite the band holders — feet apart for 2 beats then together for 2 beats. It is a very active activity for both jumpers and holders. After my students got the basic rhythm down, I let them get creative. Some did cartwheels or break dancing moves through the moving bands. Other crossed four bands into an “x” and got a group going around in a circular motion. We ended by lining up 8-10 sets of bands on the gym floor. All holders jumped the rhythm together. The rest of the class lined up and went down the row with this rhythm — one foot in, 2nd foot in, 1st foot out, 2nd foot out. It was a lot of fun and great exercise.
This week we did a fun fitness-themed lesson in first and second grade. We started out reading the book, Just A Minute. Then we had a discussion about how long a minute was. I had all the kids close their eyes and put their heads down, then raise their hand when they thought it had been a minute. Some lasted 4 seconds! Then I told them that to have a healthy body they should be able to do some activities for 1 minute without stopping. We discussed that our bodies would have to work hard to do this and the students suggested some ways we could tell if our bodies were working hard (sweating, heart beating faster, breathing hard, etc.) We then tried several activities which I timed for 1 minute on my watch. These included: jumping jacks, holding a stretch, and running in place. Then I passed out hula hoops and had them play with the hoops for one minute. We discussed how that minute went fast and finding an activity they liked for exercise was important. I then set up an obstacle course and encouraged them to work their body hard for the minutes it took to complete the obstacle course.
The lesson went especially well with 2nd graders. We had some good discussions about working our bodies hard and it led to some other teaching such as breathing deeply to increase a stretch, how to breathe to recover from a side ache, and how to have fun exercising. I felt like the children learned something about fitness from this lesson.
I have been working on ideas for an indoor fitness program for my 5th and 6th graders. During the outside months we could run laps, lunges up and down the field, etc. Winter brings a challenge because our gym is so small and my classes so big that running activities are just not going to work. I decided to do some circuit training and I think it is going to be a good thing. Circuit training provides a lot of variety and can compact a lot of fitness into just a few minutes. I’m also hoping my kids will see it as something they can work on at home to improve their fitness level and establish good habits.
I introduced the program by spending a class period just teaching exercises. I emphasized doing the exercise correctly and pushing themselves, not comparing to others. Here is the list we are working off of:
jump rope in place
run in place
squats (prisoner & wide leg)
planks with leg lifts (bent & straight)
one leg hip up
push-up toe walk
iso push up
Spending a day going thru the exercises was a little boring (or as one fifth grader told me: Extremely boring with a capital E), but I feel like it has paid off as we started the real thing this week. The fitness section of our class lasted 10 minutes (plus stretch time) and looked liked this:
After stretching, the kids chose a fitness station to start at. I let them choose their own groups, but no more than 5-6 in a group. I timed them at the first station for 1 minute (ex. push-ups for one minute, jumping jacks for one minute). Then gave them 30 seconds to rest/rotate. They moved clock-wise to the next station. I alternated the exercises with a cardio-strength-cardio-strength. In ten minutes they had completed 7 stations and worked hard. Most of the kids stayed on task and put in a great effort. Grouping themselves, they tended to be with kids of their own ability and felt comfortable. Set-up was setting out some mats (for crunches and superman) and labeling the stations with laminated 3×5 cards.