Rotating fitness challenge

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I have some fitness testing coming up for my 5th and 6th grade classes.  I wanted to do something today to give them a good workout and help them prepare.  This lesson turned out great!

I have my classes divided into 4 groups of 7-8 students.  (read about my method here).  I had the students sit in their groups and assigned them each to write a fitness circuit.  Their circuit was to have 2 cardio and 2 strength activities.  We talked about what the word cardio means and some examples of both kinds of activities.  The circuit was to rotate in a cardio-strength-cardio-strength sequence.  They did not have to assign a number of reps because we would be timing the rotations for 1 minute.  I also told them that if they wanted equipment for their exercises I would get it out for them (jump ropes, yoga balls, etc).  I gave them half sheets of cardstock, a marker, and a cone to attach it to when done.

Once the circuits were written, groups began with their own.  I played music that paused every minute which signaled them to move on to the next exercise.  When they had finished their four exercises they moved to the next cone and started on that group’s circuit.  They continued to rotate around until they had completed all four circuits sets.  I rewarded them for working hard about halfway through by dropping the intervals to 30 seconds (they were getting tired!)

What made it great:

The kids loved writing their own circuits!   They were so proud of them and worked harder.

And they really did work super hard!  I’m not sure if it was the ownership that did it, but even my hardest to motivate put in a full effort.

Using a timer instead of a set number of reps allowed students to work at their own level and pace.

Easy!  I didn’t have to spend hours writing up exercises, cutting, laminating, etc.

Good for promoting teamwork.  I put the “warm-up captain” in charge and they love having a job to do.

As my students left class, they were commenting on how much fun it was and asking if we could do it again.  I love it when fitness turns fun!


Aerobic Challenge

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I try to plan all my PE lessons so that my students are moving a lot and getting aerobic exercise while having fun.  Every once in a while, especially as they get older, I like to teach more pointedly about aerobic health.  I tried this lesson today with my 3rd and 4th grade and it went great!

Start with a warm-up that gives a lot of aerobic activity.  I used this game which my kids love.  I followed the warm-up by having the kids sit down and telling them that today we were going to do an aerobic challenge.  We talked about the word “aerobic” and what it means.  They knew that it meant some kind of exercise, but not that it was referring to exercise of the heart and lungs. We had a good mini discussion.  Then I gave them all a written aerobic challenge of about 10 activities. Instructions were to work on their own, to do the activities in a random order (to help space them out and share equipment), do exercises correctly, and to move clockwise for anything that asked them to move around the perimeter of the gym. I handed out the papers and let them work.  They worked really hard and had a great time.  I instructed them to pay attention to their heart and lungs working as well.

You can make-up your own aerobic challenge.  Mix in some fun activities that involve favorite equipment.  Here are some ideas:

jog around the perimeter of the gym 3 times

jump rope for 100 jumps

dribble a soccer ball (or deck ring) around the gym perimeter

toss and catch a yarn ball while moving around the perimeter

work on a trick with a hula hoop for 2 minutes

side slide around the gym

complete 35 jumping jacks

give 10 people a high five

hold a plank for 1 minute

grapevine around the perimeter 2 times

For fast finishers:  For fourth grade and up I gave them a piece of scratch paper and pencil.  They were told to write down their own exercise routine of 5 exercises that they could do at home.  I challenged them to do their routine every night.  If they had time, they could do their routine now.  For my third graders, I let them have free time with any equipment we had out (my fastest finishers had about 5 minutes of time left).

My students really dived into these activities and we had a fun and productive class.  Hopefully it will help them remember  the meaning of the word “aerobic”.


Mixing math and movement

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Math and movement are easily combined to make cross-curricular games that reinforce principles learned and give skill practice in a fun way.  A math movement game works best when a math concept has been taught, is mainly understood, and just needs some more practice time.  I sometimes reinforce what is being learned in the classroom by adding some math to PE class.  These types of games also work well in the classroom.

My 3rd graders have been learning about comparing fractions in class.  I used this game to reinforce the learning.

I made about 40 cards with numbers on them, including fractions.  I made sure to include equivalent numbers and fractions and have a good variety applicable to the skill level.  My cards went from 1-10 with numbers such as 1/2, 2/1, 3/4, 3/3, 3/1, 5 5/5, 6, 6 1/2, etc.  I spread the cards upside down all over the gym floor.  I told the students we were going to make a human number line.  They were to choose a card and then find their place on the line.  I designated one side of our center line as zero and one side as 10.  I gave some instruction as to moving if someone joined the line that was less than your card.  If they had a card that was equivalent to another card, they were to give that card to the first person and either find another card or help someone else.  There was lots of thinking and discussion as the students arranged their human number line.

Here are some points that make this work well:

*If a student is not sure where their number goes, pre-instruct them that they can work together and ask a friend.  I also tell them they can ask me.  That gives me a chance to do a little teaching if a child is not sure about their number.  I carried a whiteboard so I could draw a visual to help students understand a number.

*Leftover students who have given their card to an equivalent partner, helped me check the number line to see if it was correct.  We ended up with a little group checking the line and discussing problems.

*Your brightest students are going to naturally take on a leadership role, telling others where to fit in.  Let them do this to an extent.  They are learning from each other.  Step in and pause the situation if you want another student to stop and think about where he/she fits in the line.

Problems:

*Even though I tried to talk through it as I checked the number line for accuracy, not all students can see the final result.  In a classroom, I would solve this by having them line the numbers up on a board and then sit back down so all could see and participate at the end.

Adaptability:

This game can easily be adapted to fit any grade level.  Upper grades can include cards that have both fractions, decimals, negative numbers, etc.  Younger grades could have just whole numbers.  Fit your curriculum.


Noodles and Fitness

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Foam pool noodles are great for many games and activities.  They are also fun for mixing rhythm and movement.  Cut pool noodles in half to make them the right size for your students and try some of these cardio/rhythm activities.  These moves really get your heart rate up!

Jumping Jacks:  Think of a regular jumping jack.  When hands are down, tap the floor.  Then click noodles overhead.  Students can match the beat of a song with the taps.  They love making a loud noise as the noodle hits the floor.

Partner Click:  Tap both noodles on the floor, then click your right noodle with the right noodle of a partner facing you.  Tap both noodles again and follow by clicking left noodles with your partner.  Repeat.

Rainbow:  Tap both noodles on the floor to your right, then swoosh the noodles overhead and tap on the left.  This looks really cool if everyone does this together.

Encourage big  exaggerated movements for extra cardio work.  Play fun music and have students match the beat with the noodle taps.  We  Will Rock You is a great song for these moves.

Now add some strength moves and you will have a very physical class period.

Push ups:  Lay a noodle on the ground and get in push up position with the noodle under your chest.  Touch your chest to the noodle on the down part of the push up.

Leg lift:  Sit on the floor with legs straight out in front of you.  Hold the noodle in between your feet with about 6 inches of the noodle sticking out from the sole of your shoe.  Lean back into a V position.  Raise and lower legs just touching the noodle to the floor and your legs go down.

Lunges:  Set the noodle on the floor and take a big step forward.  Lunge down and touch the noodle with your knee.  Switch legs and repeat.

Superman:  Lay on your stomach on the floor.  Hold your arms straight out in front of you and hold a noodle in your hands.  Raise chest and legs off the floor.  While holding this position pass the noodle hand to hand going around your back and then across the front.

This lesson is guaranteed to get your students working hard in a fun way!  Warning:  you’ll work hard too — this lesson leaves me exhausted!


Create interest by adding a talent show to your lesson

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Do you want your students to deeply engage in a new skill?  Or want to encourage them to work harder and longer?  Try adding a “talent show” portion to your PE class.  I tried this last week with fun results.  I set out jump ropes and hula hoops in the gym.  I told my 3rd and 4th graders that I wanted them to become an expert at one trick.  They were to choose a piece of equipment and practice with it for about 18 minutes.  Their trick could be on their own or with a partner.  I saved about 10 minutes at the end of class for a “talent show”.  At talent show time I had them sit on the floor with hands off equipment.  We used the stage and had volunteers come up one or two at a time and show their trick.  Almost everyone volunteered.  We had some really fun and creative tricks!  The students loved showing their stuff and really worked hard during class time.  It also stopped the constant stream of kids trying to get me to come watch them during class.  You could try this with other types of equipment too.  Basketball dribbling tricks, tossing and catching tricks, etc.


Animal warm-up

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Add some fun and creativity to your warm-ups with this animal warm-up.   It is perfect for your youngest students!

Set up 4 or more cones around the perimeter of your space.  As children enter, instruct them to choose a cone and sit next to it.  Choose an animal for the students to imitate.  For example, I started with a seal.  I had the students lay on their bellies and stretch their “flippers” behind their back.  Then they seal-walked by pulling themselves with their flippers to the next closest cone.  We repeated with a new animal.  “Stand up and stretch your quadricep.  Now use your quadriceps to jump like a frog to the next cone.”  Once we had done 4 animals (or as many as you have cones set up) as a group, I placed a label on each cone that matched the animals we had just practiced.  One cone was labeled “seal”, one was “frog”, “bear”, and “crab”.  I played music and starting at their current cone the students would move like that animal until they got to the next cone.  They then read the label and switched their movement to a different animal.  We continued for about 3 minutes in this fashion.  Total time  equals about 8 minutes and the students were warmed up and ready to go.  My students love to use their imagination with movement!


Warm-up dance for Christmastime

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I am very insecure when it comes to teaching dances.  However, this particular dance is so cute and easy that even I can remember and teach it.  I used it as a warm-up activity because it gets your heart rate going and is simple to teach.

Use the song Trepak from the Nutcracker.  It is just over 2 minutes long.  Movement starts right at the first note.

one arm up in the air

2nd arm up in the air

Walk in a circle for 8 counts, ending facing front

Repeat 4 times

4 heel kicks on each foot (total 8 counts)

8 straight jumps

4 heel kicks on each foot

8 straight jumps

4 heel kicks per foot

2 heel kicks per foot

single heel kicks (total of 4 on each foot, going back and forth)

one arm up

2nd arm up

walk in a circle 8 counts

one arm up

2nd arm up

walk in a circle 32 counts (as the song ends, I have the students raise both hands and bow)

That’s it.  I go through each movement beforehand without telling them it is a dance.  Then just start the music and begin.  They immediately smile and get into it.  Repeat 2 times so they learn then do.  Kindergarten I did not count the heel kicks — just randomly kick.


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!


Dodge ball alternative

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I never play dodgeball in my PE classes.  I see no point in it as it doesn’t teach any skill or get all the kids moving.  It is also dangerous and can promote bullying behaviors.  However, my students still ask to play it on a regular basis so I like this fun and engaging alternative that I call Hula Ball.

Equipment needed:  18 hula hoops per team; about 12 foam balls; cones, multi-goals, and or buckets,  about 3 per team

Goal of the game is to have 3 “hula huts” standing

Divide the students into 2 teams.  Each team must stay on their side of the gym.  On the dividing line place foam balls.  A few feet behind the dividing line each team should have a few cones, buckets, or goals; or a mixture of these.  On my go signal teams start by aiming foam balls at the opposite teams’ cones and buckets.  Each cone hit equals one hula hoop.  If you have something like a bucket that they can make a basket in, it is worth 2 hula hoops.  Once the team has 6 hula hoops they can begin building a hula hut.  Hula huts are built by placing one hoop on the ground, balancing four hoops leaning in the center, and one hoop on the top holding it all together.  Opposite teams can also aim at the hula huts to keep them from getting three huts standing and winning the game.

What I like:   It is a crazy fun, face paced, and engaging game.  Balls are being thrown at objects not people so I had no injuries occur.  It requires teamwork and strategy.  There are multiple things going on:  earning hula hoops, building the huts (this is not easy), guarding the built huts, knocking down the opposite team’s huts.  Every person had a job and was involved.

What I didn’t like:  Not much, but it is tricky to keep the huts standing and I worried about the kids getting frustrated.  We played for a solid 30 minutes with no winner, though, and I received no negative feedback from my students.

All in all this game is a definite keeper.  My students had a great time and left sweating!