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!

Crazy Ball

This is a great go-to game for big classes!  I like it because it keeps all the kids involved in the game and moves quickly.  It’s a good way to practice throwing and kicking skills as well.

Equipment:  kickball, football, frisbee, reaction ball, pinnies to divide teams, cones to mark bases, bucket or container big enough to hold a four tossables

Set-up:  divide the class into two equal teams; one team will start as defense and the other offense; field should be set-up similar to kick-ball with 3 bases and a home base

The offensive team starts with four players up at “bat”.  One player kicks a rolled kickball, next throws or punts a football, 3rd player throws a frisbee, and fourth throws the reaction ball.  This should happen quickly, one right after the other.  Once a player has thrown/kicked his or her tossable he begins running bases.  Do not stop running.  Each time a player passes home plate, a point is scored.  The 4 players continue running until all 4 tossables are returned to the container (kept at the pitcher’s mound).  At that point, 4 new players come up and repeat.  There are no outs.  The offensive team plays until each player has had a turn to throw/kick.

Defensive team cannot walk once they have a tossable in their hand.  They must use teamwork to throw and catch and get all items back in the bucket.  One player will serve as pitcher.  The pitcher will roll the kickball, and serve as the final catcher  placing the items in the bucket.  Players yell “stop”  once all items are in the bucket.  Then offensive players stop running and scoring stops.  Once all of the offensive players have had a turn at bat, the teams switch places.

I love this game because once the kids know the rules, it is easy to start and stop.  Watch time and make sure both teams get equal team as offensive team!  This game works well for field day!

Scooter Cage Ball


1 large ball such as a cage ball, omnikin ball, yoga ball

pinnies to separate teams

6-8 scooters

Divide class into 2 equal teams.  Assign each team member a number, stressing that it is important for them to remember their number.  Teams stand against the wall on opposite sides of the gym with scooters turned upside down in front of them.  Each team will have an equal number of scooters.  (For my classes of about 28, I used 8 scooters total, 4 per team).  The teacher randomly calls out 4 numbers (match number of scooters) and rolls the yoga ball out into the middle.  The students who are assigned those numbers, run out grab a scooter and try to get the yoga ball to hit the wall on the opposite end of the gym.  When the ball hits the wall, that team scores a point, everyone lines back up, scooters are back upside down and 4 new numbers are called.

A few rules:

players can ride scooters any way:  sitting, tummies, kneeling

ball can be kicked, batted, hit, etc. but not caught and thrown

players must remain on their scooters to be legal

team members not on the scooters may not interfere with the ball in any way

I played this game with 3rd thru 6th grades.  They had a blast playing!  It was fast-paced and easy with almost no set-up.  It does take some careful explanations the first time through.  With 8 players on the floor at a time everyone was actively involved and the rounds went fast so no one was waiting long.  My kids came back begging to play it again the next week (especially 6th grade).

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!


Rotating fitness challenge


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


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

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

Untitled design-3

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.