Active coding: STEM in PE

Here is an integrated warm-up activity that ties in with computer coding. I made a poster that assigned an activity to a color spot. The color spots on the poster coordinated with small poly-spots that the students could place on the ground. We use these colored poly-spots for many activities. I had my students in small groups of 3-4. Each group designed a warm-up sequence by choosing 5-6 color spots and laying them in a row. They then went through the room completing the activities in each groups “code”. They really enjoyed figuring out the codes and were also very active.

As a follow-up, I have made smaller “code” cards for each student. I plan to lay out a big code in the gym and then let the students follow the code as they walk through they gym.

Music in PE and playlist idea

I’ve found that playing music adds a wonderful dimension to a PE class. I can use it to energize or calm down a class, or just add some fun. I love it when just the right song comes on and all the kids are singing along as they work on their skill or play a game. I often see, or get asked for requests, for song ideas for a PE playlist, so here are some ideas:

Current Disney or other movie hits are always great with little ones (K-2). Especially if there is a current movie out with a really great soundtrack. Frozen is a good example of this. When that movie came out, I could put the soundtrack on and the whole class would be singing along. It was adorable. (Now I get groans for Frozen songs so there is a definite time table)

Write down songs you hear at sporting events in your area. Chances are you have students that are attending those events and they will get excited to hear those songs.

Ask your older students for ideas. You’ll need to carefully screen and I scratch a lot (because I’m the one that hears them all day), but I do get a few good ones.

Make separate playlists for holidays and other special events. For example I have a playlist that has songs I only play for certain activities like Star Wars songs, Mission Impossible, swamp music, etc. I also have a Christmas playlist, Halloween playlist, and a tabata playlist that I use for warm-ups.

Here is my current (and always changing) PE playlist:

High Hopes/Panic at the Disco

Natural/Imagine Dragons

Life Changes/Thomas Rhett

Better When I’m Dancin’/Megan Trainor

Only Wanna Be With You/Hootie and the Blowfish

Connection/One Republic

Hall of Fame/The Script

Wake Me Up/Avicli

Glad You Came/The Wanted

Maps/Maroon 5


Lift Me Up/One Republic

Out of My League/Fitz and The Tantrums

Baby Shark/Pinkfong

Immigrant Song/Led Zepplin

Dynamite/China Anne McClain

Pump Up the Jam/Crazy Frog

Fireflies/Owl City

La La La/Shakira

Can’t Stop The Feeling/Justin Timberlake

Keep Your Head Up/Andy Grammar

Different Colors/Walk The Moon

Hula Hoop/OMI

Whatever It Takes/Imagine Dragons

Mom/Meghan Trainor

Old Town Road/Lil Nas X (student request and favorite)


Zero/Imagine Dragons

Have It All/Jason Mraz

One Minute More/Capital Cities

Play That Song/Train

Wasted Time/Keith Urban

Walk Me Home/Pink

Rescue Me/One Republic (current favorite)

Shine/Collective Soul

Welcome to The Jungle/Guns N Roses

Hey, Soul Sister/Train

Grenade/Bruno Mars (student request)

Cake By The Ocean/DNCE (clean version)

Heaven/One Republic

Fine By Me/Andy Grammar

Try Everything/Shakira

Wonders/The Script

One Less Day/Rob Thomas

Take On Me/A-ha

Best Day of My Life/American Authors

Believer/American Authors

Superheroes/The Script

Brave/Sara Bareilles


Because We Can/Bon Jovi

It’s Time/Imagine Dragons

Good Time/Owl City & Carly Rae Jeppson

The Middle/Jimmy Eats World

On Top of The World/Imagine Dragons

Funkytown/Lipps, Inc

Cool Kids/Echosmith

Viva La Vida/Coldplay

I Lived/One Republic

Sugar/Maroon 5

Don’t Stop/5 Seconds of Summer

Animal/Neon Trees

You’re My Best Friend/Queen

Life Is A Highway/Rascal Flatts

Ho Hey/Lumineers

Centuries/Fall Out Boy

Don’t Stop Believin’/Journey

House of Gold/Twenty One Pilots

Kernkraft 400/Zombie Nation (radio edit)

Rise/ Katy Perry

Luck/American Authors

I Like To Move It/Madagascar 5

One Thing/One Direction

Eye of The Tiger (many versions)

I Was Born/Hanson

Something Just Like This/Chainsmokers and Coldplay

Hopefully, this list will give some ideas of music that might be right for your class. Comment with your favorites because I always need new songs to keep things fresh!

Halloween scooter game


Halloween is just around the corner and we like to celebrate a bit in PE.  My younger classes absolutely love this scooter game we call “ghosts in the graveyard”.  They are already asking if we will be playing it for Halloween this year!

Equipment:  about 6 tall cones to mark teams, 1 scooter per team, 20+ small or rounded cones, 12 “ghosts” (I just copied and laminated a clip art), spooky music

Divide your class into small teams of 4-6 players.  Teams should line up on one side of the play area.  On the opposite side, scatter the round cones.  This is your “graveyard”.  Hide ghosts randomly under the cones or “tombstones”.  On signal (music starting), one person from each team will ride the scooter down and check under ONE cone.  If they find a ghost they bring it back with them.  Otherwise, they just scooter back.  Hand the scooter to the next person and repeat.  I play the length of one song or you can count ghosts as they are found and quit when they have all been collected.  Count up the ghosts, then have a few students help hide them again.  After they have been hidden, I have all my students close their eyes while I mix things up so no one knows where they are.  Repeat and repeat.  You could keep score but I just let them count and declare a winner each round.

Have a fun and active Halloween!

Motivate families to move with a FUN RUN!


A fun run is a great way to motivate your students to move and to get their families involved.  If planning a fun run seems intimidating, here are some steps to break it down for you:

* Remember that it doesn’t need to be a huge event.  Keep it simple!

*Put a committee together.  Most people don’t mind helping if they just have a small chunk of the job to do.  Break things into smaller pieces and delegate.  Use the list below and give each committee member one assignment.

*Keep your purpose in mind.  This post is written for those wanting to inspire families to move together.  Make adjustments if you are trying to raise money, be competitive, or have other goals.  (fun runs can be multi-purpose)

Committee tasks:

  1.  Choose a date.  You can’t please everyone.  Remember your purpose.  Fall runs are great to kick off a year of activity.  Spring runs can give your students a goal to work for.
  2. Design your route.  For a fun run,  you do not need a certain distance (like a 5K).  Find a route that works and is safe for your area.  Avoid busy streets and too many confusing turns.  For an elementary run it is a good idea to have a short cut route for younger students and a longer, connected route for the older ones.  Check at your local city offices for regulations regarding events like this.  You will probably need approval.
  3. Advertise!  Flyers, pump up the kids at an assembly, posters around town, etc.  Make sure your whole school community is aware of your exciting event.
  4. Volunteers.  Beyond your planning committee you will need volunteers the day of the event.  Passing out any registration materials (if used), manning street corners and crossings, water and snack stations, and the finish line are places that volunteers can be used.  Having some cheerleaders along the route is also great (teachers with noise makers!)  Enlist the help of other teachers at your school, parents, and even older siblings.
  5. Water and snack stations.  Snacks are optional for a short run and do add expense.  You will want to plan one water station midway and one at the end for runners.  If your route has any challenging sections, you may want a boost for that area.  For example, you could give out a couple of pretzels at the top of a hill.
  6. Prizes.  Again, this is not necessary, but kids do love prizes.  Keep your run non-competitive for families by giving a prize to everyone who crosses the finish line.  Our school uses licorice ropes with a gold chocolate coin glued on like a medal.
  7. Timing.  Don’t worry about official timing or individual times.  Post a big timing clock and interested kids can see their time as they finish.  Simple!
  8. Registration.  This can also be eliminated to simplify.  If you want to charge a registration fee, I recommend charging a flat family rate to encourage all to participate.  Fee can include a racing number, coupon donations from local businesses, t-shirt or water bottle, etc.
  9. Make it an event.  Also optional, but it is motivating to have fun things for families to do as they finish the run.  Food trucks, a local band, game areas, stretching station with a local mascot, anything that makes finishing the race a party!

Don’t forget to practice for the fun run by doing some running in PE class.  This can be a great motivator.  Getting families moving together can be life changing for kids!

Hopscotch and Making Recess Better!

One of my goals this year is to improve recess time at my school.  The students are all expected to be outside during recess, but otherwise, they can do whatever they want.  Unfortunately, some do not choose to be active during that time.  So, from my corner of the world as PE teacher I am trying to help encourage activity.  Here are some things I have done:

First, I put together this awesome recess cart!


The school paid for the cart, and I had enough excess equipment to stock it.  I presented it to all my classes during the first week of school and talked about care and expectations with the equipment.  Now it is watched over by an aide at recess and students can check out any equipment.  I told my students it is like a “recess library”.

Next, after any activity we do at PE, I try and point out to them that this is something they could do at recess if they enjoyed it.  I want to expand their thinking on ways to be active.  Even if you don’t want to join in the soccer game, you can still be moving.

And, this week I have been teaching old-fashioned classic games that seem to have died off a bit.  I taught them 4 square.  This one is always popular, I just needed to clarify basic rules.  Then, I taught tetherball.  Our tether balls had been removed because the kids were sitting on them and snapped all the ropes.  Our custodian fixed them for me and I am trying to teach the kids how to play the game properly.  They are very excited about the tether balls joining the recess cart soon.

Finally, I taught them the real rules of hopscotch.  I attended a conference last fall and learned the “big kid” rules.  I couldn’t believe how fun and challenging it was!  I’ve gotten eye rolls from my 5th and 6th graders when I told them we were going to play hopscotch.  Once I teach them the kick-out method, they have loved the challenge and had a blast with it.  And, some of my more difficult, hard-to-move kids have found something they like!  I highly recommend this classic, fun, and challenging game.  You can watch a video of the kick-out method here

Hoppy taws are also available for purchase on the hoppy taws site.

Give it a try!  I bet your students will love these classic games too!


UNO movement

IMG_6385My youngest classes love dancing and moving to music.  I use music on a daily basis to add energy and enthusiasm.  Here is a fun and easy game that is great for a quick warm-up, time filler, or even a small space activity.

I use UNO cards, but any type of cards would do.  Assign each color a movement.  We did:




green=slither like a snake

wild=free choice

Pass each student a card and have them move into their own space.  When the music starts they do the movement assigned to their card color.  When the music stops, they freeze.  I then call out “trade” and they trade cards for a new color.  Repeat.

I used this during the first week of school to practice freezing on signal.  I made sure they were quiet and looking at me before we traded again. This made it a fun way to practice my rule of freezing when the music stops.  My 1st and 2nd graders loved it!


Mixing math and movement

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.


*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.


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

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



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!