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.

Kindergarten and spatial awareness

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One of my main objectives with my kindergarten classes is to teach them spatial awareness and control.  We do a lot of games that have them moving around the gym in random patterns trying to keep them from “popping bubbles”.  Today while we were playing I told them that if the popped someone’s bubble (ran into someone)  they had to come to a certain location and sit for 5 seconds and then rejoin the game.  I couldn’t believe how well it worked!  They all tried so much harder to stay in their own space.  Their concentration was adorable.  They were also very honest about sitting out for the 5 seconds when contact occured.  Give this idea a try with any of your younger grades!

Fire and Ice Tag game

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My first and second graders love tag games.  This is a fun spin on frozen tag.

4-5 blue yarn balls

3 red yarn balls

The blue yarn balls represent “ice”.  Students with ice are “it” and try and tag others.  If you are tagged by ice you must freeze.  I have them put their arms up so everyone can tell they are frozen.  The red balls represent “fire”.  Students with fire try and save frozen students by unthawing the ice (tagging with red ball).  Stop the game every 3-4 minutes and trade out who is playing fire and ice.

Scoops and Balls

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We have some fun new equipment at our school this year:  plastic scoops and wiffle balls.  I used the equipment in two separate lessons with my youngest classes.

Lesson 1:

Each person has a scoop and their own ball.  I start by having them roll the ball on the floor and try and scoop it up without using their hands.  I demonstrate that they need to scoop the opposite direction from where the ball is rolling.  That way it rolls into their scoop.  Next we toss the ball out of our scoop, let it bounce once or twice on the floor and then catch.  For those that get comfortable with that, I show them how to toss, spin around, and then catch off the 2nd or 3rd bounce.  Finally, we move into tossing and catching without a bounce.  We start with low tosses (head high), then move to medium (high as you can reach), and then high tosses.  This lesson works best indoors on a gym floor.

Lesson 2:

This lesson moves the students into using the scoops and balls with a partner.  I start by having them all choose a scoop.  Then I have them find a partner that has a different color scoop (good way to mix them up!).  You can then move the students through a sequence of activities.  Vary your sequence depending on time, ability, and interest.

1. roll the ball to your partner — scoop it up without using hands

2.  low toss the ball to your partner; if you catch it take a baby step farther away and try again

3.  repeat #2 with higher tosses

4.  stand back to back with your partner, each take a giant step away from each other, the partner without the ball turns and faces their partner’s back, the partner with the ball tosses the ball over head for their partner to catch

5.  try jogging slowly and tossing the ball back and forth

I did this lesson outside on the grass.  My students especially like #4.  Fun for a spring day!

“UNO” warm-up game

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I pulled out an old set of “UNO” cards this week and used them for a quick and easy warm-up with my K, 1, and 2 classes.

Give each child an UNO card.  Assign each color a locomotor movement.  For example:


green = slither like a snake


blue=swim (arm motion)

wild=your choice

Start some fun music and the children perform the locomotor movement associated with their card.  When the music stops, they must trade cards with someone.  Repeat about every 30 seconds.  Not only was this a good warm-up, but a chance for me to assess locomotor skills.  I focused on the skip and watched those students only.  If someone was having a hard time with it, I could step in and help them out and the rest of the class was still busy and active.

“Frozen” tag

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Does anyone else have young classes that are obsessed with the movie Frozen?  My students love it when I put on Frozen music for them to listen to while we are doing our activities.  We have danced with ribbon wands to Frozen, learned to scarf juggle to Frozen, rolled balls, etc, etc.  They can’t get enough of that soundtrack!  And while I am getting sick of it, I love it when they are all engaged in a physical activity while singing at the top of their lungs a Frozen song!  So, here is an old game with a new Frozen twist . . .

The game is usually called “stuck in the mud”.  I changed it to “frozen tag” and we listen to “Frozen Heart” while we play.  Choose 3-4 children to be taggers.  I use a yarn ball for them to tag with.  When the music begins, they try and tag other students.  When you are tagged you must freeze with your legs spread apart into a bridge.  To get “unfrozen”  another student must crawl under your legs.  Play for a few minutes and then change-up who your taggers are.  You can also designate the movement used — instead of running you must fast-walk, skip, gallop, etc.

I usually play tag games only outdoors, not in the gym, to avoid injuries on the hard floor.  I found that using this music, which has a slow beat, slows the game down enough to keep the movement at a safe level for indoors.

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.


Animal movement warm-up idea

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Last week in class, I taught my animal movement lesson plan (see here).  Today I wanted to do something new with my warm-ups so I tried this:

Set up 6 cones spaced apart in the gym

Label each cone with an animal movement:  crab walk, frog hop, puppy run, etc

Let students choose a cone to start at (I limit the number of how many can start at the same cone)

Play fun music

Students move from cone to cone matching the animal movements on the cone.  Each time they reach a new cone, they change their movement.

It was a very successful warm-up.  Their favorite animal movement was the 3-legged dog!


Beginning Toss and Catch Lesson

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I taught some beginning tossing and catching skills to my kindergarten classes this week.  The sequence went smooth and the students had a great time.  I began by placing poly spots around the floor and had them all sit on a spot.  I then demonstrated tossing a bean bag with one hand and catching it with two hands.  I had previously taught them levels for tossing:  low is eye level, medium is as high as you can reach, high is towards the ceiling.  For this activity, I told them to toss at a medium level.  I stressed for them to stay standing on their spot to encourage them to make careful and straight tosses up.  After a few minutes of practice, I showed them how to toss, clap hands once, and then catch.  They loved trying that one.  Next I collected bean bags from every other person and demonstrated tossing underhand to a partner.  The cues I taught were: swinging arm straight back, stepping onto opposite leg, ending with throwing hand pointing at partner.  More practice time.

For an ending activity we put the bean bags and poly-spots away and played a game called “Clean Your Room”.  I have also heard it called “Snowball Fight”.  Divide playing space in half.  Dump soft yarn or foam balls equally on both halves of the room.  I tell the students they are brothers and sisters and the gym is their bedroom that they share.  They all want their half of the room to be clean.  Class is divided in half and assigned a half of the gym to “clean”.  I start some fun music and they try and throw all the balls out of their half of the room.  When the music stops, they freeze and see who has the cleanest room.  It is crazy and fun!  We just played for a couple of minutes, but it was a happy and active way to end the lesson.  All classes asked to play it again next week.  *tip:  I have a rule that they can only touch one ball at a time

The lesson took about 25 minutes.  With a 5 minute warm-up it was perfect for a 30 minute class period.

Balancing Act

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I tried a new lesson last week with my 1st and 2nd graders.  I drew up  balancing tricks on cards to have them work on body control.   Easy stick figures that show arm and leg positioning will work fine.  I tried the lesson 2 different ways:

Day 1:

I held the cards up and explained the move.  We all did the tricks together.  Then I put on some music and had them move like the animal I called out (see previous post).  When the music stopped, they would freeze in the position on the card I was holding up.  They got bored of it pretty quick and I felt like they weren’t trying very hard on the balancing poses.  So, the next day I mixed things up a bit with much better results (different kids, same age group)

Day 2:

I taped the cards to cones and divided the class into 12 small groups (about 3 kids each group).  They then rotated around to each cone and tried the pictured balance.  I would walk quickly around the circle and check each group, making suggestions and challenges as needed.  They loved it!  This day they were really engaged in holding the poses and challenging themselves.  I was able to give help when needed and everyone stayed busy.  With about 5 minutes left at the end of class, I gave them each a beanbag and challenged them to try balancing the bag on their head while walking or trying some of the poses we had just learned.  It was great to seem them remember the poses and try them again with the added challenge of keeping a bean bag in place.

I did the lesson this way the rest of the week and it went great every time.  Here is a list of the poses we tried:

Kimbo Stand:  arms crossed at chest, cross one leg over the other and touch toe to the ground

Front Scale:  lean forward, arms out to the sides, raise one leg straight behind

Backward Balance:  lean back, arms out to sides, raise one leg straight in front

Sideways Balance:  lean to one side, arms out, lift one leg to the side

Knee Raise:  bend knee, raise and hold

Stork:  place foot on opposite thigh, arms straight out to side

Head Touch:  kneel on ground, touch forehead to ground and raise arms above back

Knee Balance:  kneel on both knees, arms out, lift toes off the ground

One-Knee Balance:  same as above on one knee

Shoulder Press:  shoulders and feet on ground, raise hips up

Knee Stand:  on hands and knees, raise one leg straight behind and one arm straight in front

Challenge:  balance on one body part (2 body parts,etc)