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”.

Pass the Pig

I like games that disguise that we are working on fitness.  In other words, I like to get them moving in a fun way so that they don’t realize they are working out.  This is a fun and easy game that targets core fitness.

Divide class up into teams of about 5.  Teams lie down on their backs in a line with shoulders touching.  I use a rubber pig or chicken (1 per team).  My students love any game where they get to use these — they are just fun!  Beginning player puts the pig in between his/her feet and passes it to the next person.  No hands are allowed!  If the pig gets dropped, it must be picked up with feet.  Once a player has passed the pig, they get up and run to the end of the line so that the line keeps rotating centipede style.  I play music and see how far down the gym each team can get their pig before the music stops.  If they get to the end, they must start the pig coming back.

It is a quick 5-minute game that my students really like.

“Mission Possible” fitness tasks

Today was one of those days where everything went perfect!  My students responded to this game with such enthusiasm and it was really fun.  It was our “mission possible” fitness day.  Here is what we did:

I divided the class into groups of 4-5.  Each group had a cone that was their “home base”.  I gave them 30 seconds to appoint a team captain, then had the team captain come up and get an envelope with their “mission”.  Each envelope had slips of paper with different fitness tasks on them (for a total of 10 tasks).  They had to complete the tasks as a group.  I play the theme from Mission Impossible while they worked.  The music was key to making it fun!  I told them when they finished, they could come to me for an extra challenge.  That kept the fast groups busy. (challenge was to repeat task cards, but double all numbers)  You can use any exercise on the task cards.  Here are the ones I used:  gallop 1 lap, 30 jumping jacks, curl-ups for 60 seconds, 10 super mans, 20 high jumps, grapevine 1 lap, 20 step jumps, 10 push-ups, plank for 60 seconds,    wall sit for 60 seconds.  They all laughed and had fun while working hard.

Our second activity was a relay activity.  When we finished our first mission, I had them move their cones into a row and line their groups up behind them.  Each group had 3 bean bags.  In front of each line I put 3 dome-style cones spaced across the gym floor.  The first person in line ran to the first cone, turned it over and put a bean bag inside.  They then run back and pick up a second bean bag and run to the 2nd cone, turn it over, put the bean bag in.  Repeat for 3rd cone then run back to the group and high five the next person.  That team-mate reverses the action by bringing the bean bag back and turning the cone back to “mountain” position.  Because of the ladder-style running, the students got a lot of cardio exercise.  I played the Mission Impossible music again and the groups kept going until the music stopped.  I told them it wasn’t a race, just to try and see how many rounds their group could do.  They loved this activity as well.  It was a super fun and active PE class!


Jump Bands

Have you ever seen jump bands?  They are a new piece of equipment I have been trying out.  They are long, stretchy bands with a handle on each end.  Two players stand across from each other and hook the handles of 2 bands over their feet (kind-of like chinese jump rope).  Those two players then jump in rhythm — in, in, out, out, in , in, out, out (feet together, feet apart).  The jumper(s)  jump opposite the band holders — feet apart for 2 beats then together for 2 beats.  It is a very active activity for both jumpers and holders.  After my students got the basic rhythm down, I let them get creative.  Some did cartwheels or break dancing moves through the moving bands.  Other crossed four bands into an “x” and got a group going around in a circular motion. We ended by lining up 8-10 sets of bands on the gym floor.  All holders jumped the rhythm together.  The rest of the class lined up and went down the row with this rhythm —  one foot in, 2nd foot in, 1st foot out, 2nd foot out.  It was a lot of fun and great exercise.

Just A Minute

This week we did a fun fitness-themed lesson in first and second grade. We started out reading the book, Just A Minute. Then we had a discussion about how long a minute was. I had all the kids close their eyes and put their heads down, then raise their hand when they thought it had been a minute. Some lasted 4 seconds! Then I told them that to have a healthy body they should be able to do some activities for 1 minute without stopping. We discussed that our bodies would have to work hard to do this and the students suggested some ways we could tell if our bodies were working hard (sweating, heart beating faster, breathing hard, etc.) We then tried several activities which I timed for 1 minute on my watch. These included: jumping jacks, holding a stretch, and running in place. Then I passed out hula hoops and had them play with the hoops for one minute. We discussed how that minute went fast and finding an activity they liked for exercise was important. I then set up an obstacle course and encouraged them to work their body hard for the minutes it took to complete the obstacle course.

The lesson went especially well with 2nd graders. We had some good discussions about working our bodies hard and it led to some other teaching such as breathing deeply to increase a stretch, how to breathe to recover from a side ache, and how to have fun exercising. I felt like the children learned something about fitness from this lesson.

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.