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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)
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.
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.
In 5th and 6th grade we have been working on the volleyball skills of bump and set. At the end of each class period we played this game with a beach ball to practice the skills in a fun way.
Divide gym space into 4 squares. I did this using poly-spots. Class is divided into 4 equal teams (about 8 students per team) and each team positions themselves in one of the squares. I serve a beach ball into the playing area. Teams try and keep the ball from hitting the ground in their square using sets and bumps. We also practice a couple of volleyball rules: no double hits and no carrying the ball. Anytime the ball hits the ground the team in that square gets a point (least points wins) and the ball returns to the side to be served in. By serving the ball in myself I can vary the area the ball begins in to maximize keeping all students involved. My students have gotten quite good at keeping the ball in the air and loved playing this game. We played it for just five minutes at the end of each class. It is quick to set up and clean up as well as lots of fun.
I also tried it with multiple balls in the air — doesn’t work as good, too confusing
Could potentially try it using a real volleyball
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.
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!