Steal the Flag – “football”

The school year is coming to an end and I am trying out some new games with my classes — just some fun, active stuff to end the year. Today my 5th and 6th grade classes played this game of steal the flag with a twist:
1. Nerf footballs were used instead of flags
2. Divide the class into two equal teams and give each team different color flag belts
3. Set up field into a large rectangle with 4 cones then mark a middle line with another two cones. place a football near one corner cone and another in the opposite corner. The other two corner cones will act as a “jail”.
4. Team #1 tries to steal the football from team #2 by crossing over to their side of the field and grabbing the ball without getting their flag pulled. They can run the football back or pass it to another team player.
5. If a player has his/her flag pulled while holding the ball, the ball is placed where the flag was pulled.
6. If a pass is made that is not caught, the ball goes back to its home spot at the corner cone.
7. When a player has his/her flag pulled they go to jail on the opposite team’s field. They can be rescued by another team mate touching their hand and walking them back.
8. If the football makes it to the opposing team’s field without a flag pull it is a point for that team and both footballs go back to the starting position.

The kids had a lot of fun playing and most stayed involved. The passing gave the traditional game a new twist. There was a lot of running and activity.

I set the rule that the kids can’t “puppy-guard” the ball. They must stay at least 5 feet away. Still I always have a lot of arguing about this rule and one team thinking the other is too close, etc.

Modified Volleyball

Playing volleyball with 36+ students in one small gym mandates some modifications. More than two teams are needed and I don’t like a lot of down time for waiting students. I am using rotations similar to what we did a couple of weeks ago with handball. I modified the rules to simplify things and involve as many students as possible.

I formed 4 teams of 9. Two teams are on the court with 3 rows of 3. Team 1 serves & when that ball hits the floor, Team 2 serves. Then, team 1 moves to team 2 side; team 2 goes out; team 3 comes in. Each team serves again. Team 1 rotates out, team 3 moves to the other court side; team 4 comes in. Repeat each 2 serves forming circle rotation. It goes quickly and smoothly once the kids get the hang of it.

1. Server gets 3 attempts. He/she can move closer to the net as needed. Cannot change servers in the middle of a turn.
2. A new person must serve each turn. The same person cannot serve twice until everyone has served once.
3. Play begins after a successful serve. Either team can score, not just the serving team. When the ball goes down, a point is scored.
4. Out-of-bounds is simply the walls, ceiling, steps. If it hits one of those things, it is a point for the opposing team. If the serve goes out, they get a re-try.
5. No double hits — same person cannot hit the ball twice in a row.

I start each team with 5 sportsmanship points. These points are lost if derogatory comments are made about a person’s team or teammate. This helps a lot to keep the atmosphere positive, especially when someone is unable to successfully serve the ball. I also remove a point if kids go on the court when their team is not up to play, etc.

Team captains are responsible for the rotation of players and making sure everyone has a chance to serve. I also encourage them to inspire sportsmanship within their team.

This turned out to be a lot of fun! I loved watching the kids help each other on their serves and cheering for each other. It moved really fast and as the rounds continued, they got better at hitting back and forth.


I have a lot of volleyball fans in my 6th grade classes. I wanted to work on the sport, but we really don’t have enough room for games; nor do we have very many volleyballs (only 1 real one!) I am planning on trying some modified games next week, but decided to do some skill work first. I divided the class into groups and had them rotate thru 5 stations. Each group had a leader that was experienced in volleyball so they could help out along the way. I like giving the kids leadership opportunities whenever possible. Here are the 5 stations we used:
#1: serve: underhand serve to the wall
#2: sets: one partner lay on their back on the floor. The other would drop the ball and they floor person would return it with a set. Repeat about 10 times then trade places
#3: bumps against the wall back and forth with a partner
#4: bumps: group in a big circle, bump the ball back and forth, call “mine”, try and keep the ball in the air
#5: workout: list of fitness activities to do (their workout for the day)

I rotated the stations every 5 minutes. I rotated through the room helping where needed, mainly with the “sets” as they had a hard time with these.

Cons of this lesson: There are always a few kids who goof off rather than following instructions at each station. As I mentioned, we are short volleyballs so we had to use blow-up beach balls for some stations and had trouble with those losing air. Short amount of time to work on skill

Pros of this lesson: Most of the kids stayed engaged. Group leaders could help with the skills. Gave the kids a touch of the sport in a fun way. A lot of movement, so those that weren’t interested in volleyball stayed involved.

All in all, this lesson doesn’t go too far with the sport; but for the setting I have it worked really well. I will follow it up with some modified volleyball games in the next weeks to practice the skills some more.


My 3rd and 4th graders wanted to learn how to double-dutch jump rope. I knew that to really master this skill it was going to take more instruction than one teacher could give. I arranged with the 6th grade teachers for small groups of 6th graders to come in during my younger classes and help out. This arrangement has been great for many reasons:
1. The 6th graders are better at jump rope than I am and are really necessary to help teach this skill.
2. Using these older kids as role models has increased interest with the young students. This is especially true with the boys. I make sure each set of mentors has at least one boy to spark interest with the 4th grade boys, who sometimes consider jump rope as a girl-thing.
3. 6th graders are learning important life skills on this end of a PE class. I talk to them before about how this experience will be frustrating at times because the skill is so new to these younger kids. They have handled things so well and are doing a great job as teachers. The 3rd and 4th graders have made huge progress in just one day.
4. It is fun to see the older and younger kids interact.
5. Behavior — the 6th grade students aren’t allowed to come help if things are up to par in their regular classroom. One of their teachers expressed to me how motivating it had been for a couple of her students.
6. Improved teacher-student ratio. Each of the 3rd and 4th graders is getting more attention and help.

This has definitely been a win-win experience! I am so proud of my 6th graders for the good work they are doing.

Cooperative Handball

Here is a new game I tried with my 5th and 6th graders. It combines skills from several sports and they had a good time playing it. I like activities that can involve all my students without being threatening and this one did that.
Cooperative Handball:
2 teams of 8-10
one team should wear jerseys
set up a chair at each end of the court and mark a box around with cones
Each team spreads out on their half of the playing area, with one person acting as goalie and sitting on the chair on the opposite end. The offensive team gets 2 balls. They need to get their balls to their goalie by passing. The person holding the ball cannot move their feet or it is a traveling call. They pass the ball to other team members to get it down to the goal. The defensive team tries to intercept or swat the ball on a pass. If this is done or the ball hits the floor it is dead. If the ball reaches the goalie, they score a point. I made 2 defensive rules: can’t go into the goal box (marked by cones), and must stay 2 feet away from offensive players. The goalie cannot come off the chair.

Since my classes are big, I had 4 teams of 9. Each offensive team started with 2 balls. When both balls were “dead” (scored a point or hit the floor) we rotated. The offensive team moved to defense and a sideline team rotated in to offense. The game moved fast so there was a rotation every couple of minutes and everyone stayed involved.

Chinese Jump Rope

Teaching Chinese Jump Rope to 1st graders has been so much fun! A lot of them have never even seen a Chinese Rope so they are so excited about it. I love teaching something that is raw to kids. Here is the sequence I take them thru:
*Show rope and how it is held around the ankles of 2 partners. I emphasize that it is important to be a good “holder” by keeping feet still and in the right position.
*First trick: side to side jumping with one foot in and one foot out of the rope chanting 2,4,6,8. Follow this with IN (both feet in rope) OUT (both feet out) ON (both feet on rope)
Let them practice this in groups of 4 for a few minutes. Then I blow my whistle and have them gather for the next trick
*I repeat the first sequence and add TWIST: both feet on outside of rope, bring ankles together then twist around 180. Jump out of twist and land with both feet out. Repeat and land with both feet in. Practice.
*Next I add the DIAMOND: bring one side of rope across and pull into diamond shape with feet. Jump out and land with both feet out & repeat landing with both feet in. Practice.
*Finally the BUNNY: Jump across the rope catching one side and bringing it across then jump out of it. Repeat going the other direction. Practice the entire sequence.

This is as far as I go with first grade. Some of my second graders have been ready to try it at knee length. 3rd and 4th graders come to class with some strong opinions and skills about how this should be done. I ask who has never done chinese jump rope and then pair those kids up with the experts and let them teach each other. They enjoy it a lot as well, but don’t need the teaching part. I used Chinese Ropes with my 5th and 6th graders as part of jump rope stations, letting them choose single rope, double dutch, or Chinese. The Chinese rope was still very popular with the older kids. A big plus with this style of rope is it can be done indoors and in smaller spaces so I point out to the students that it is a good way to exercise in the winter.

circuit training

I have been working on ideas for an indoor fitness program for my 5th and 6th graders. During the outside months we could run laps, lunges up and down the field, etc. Winter brings a challenge because our gym is so small and my classes so big that running activities are just not going to work. I decided to do some circuit training and I think it is going to be a good thing. Circuit training provides a lot of variety and can compact a lot of fitness into just a few minutes. I’m also hoping my kids will see it as something they can work on at home to improve their fitness level and establish good habits.

I introduced the program by spending a class period just teaching exercises. I emphasized doing the exercise correctly and pushing themselves, not comparing to others. Here is the list we are working off of:
jump rope in place
run in place
jumping jacks
mountain climbers
push ups
tricep dips
wall squats
squats (prisoner & wide leg)
backwards lunge
v sit
toe touch
planks with leg lifts (bent & straight)
one leg hip up
push-up toe walk
back hyper
yoga tree
iso push up

Spending a day going thru the exercises was a little boring (or as one fifth grader told me: Extremely boring with a capital E), but I feel like it has paid off as we started the real thing this week. The fitness section of our class lasted 10 minutes (plus stretch time) and looked liked this:
After stretching, the kids chose a fitness station to start at. I let them choose their own groups, but no more than 5-6 in a group. I timed them at the first station for 1 minute (ex. push-ups for one minute, jumping jacks for one minute). Then gave them 30 seconds to rest/rotate. They moved clock-wise to the next station. I alternated the exercises with a cardio-strength-cardio-strength. In ten minutes they had completed 7 stations and worked hard. Most of the kids stayed on task and put in a great effort. Grouping themselves, they tended to be with kids of their own ability and felt comfortable. Set-up was setting out some mats (for crunches and superman) and labeling the stations with laminated 3×5 cards.

More Jump Rope

I have also been doing jump rope with my 3rd and 4th graders and wanted at least one day with my 5th/6th classes. These older ages love to compete with a jump rope contest of who can jump the longest. I pass out ropes and give them about 5 minutes to practice and make sure they have a rope they are happy with. Then we start the contest. I tell them to begin and if they miss, they are out even if it is on the first jump. Also, I stress when they get out to sit down right where they are and not walk around so that other jumpers don’t get bumped. They love it and always want to do it more than once (I don’t let them!) After the contest, I give them a few minutes to work on a routine/trick and then end the class by letting them show their tricks. Some work individually and some with partners.

I wasn’t sure how 6th graders would like a jump rope class and I know most of them already know how so I tried this game: I divided the class into four groups of about 7 kids each. Each group had a long rope. Two members were turning and one would call out a name of another group member. That person would run in and start jumping. Then another name would be called out and that person would join the jumpers. One group got 4 kids jumping at once. They had fun and worked well as teams.

Also planned, but not enough time to try yet is a jump rope relay: jump down to cone and back, then pass the rope to the next person.