For the month of April, our students will discuss and participate in isometric fitness.
See below for an editable copy of April’s Macaroni Isometric Fitness Challenge.
What are isometrics?
Isometrics are also known as static exercises. It’s a type of training where the body performs little or no movement while contracting muscle fibers. In other words, during isometric training, the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. They are done in static positions, rather than through a range of motion like while performing concentric exercises.
Blueprint Fitness has listed 4 key benefits to isometric training as
My goal is to introduce students and families to a variety of training methods in the ongoing process of promoting lifelong fitness. Isometric fitness is another way to add variety to our healthy habits. It takes up a limited amount of our precious time while using limited or no equipment.
In my classes, I’ve incorporated the macaroni timer. This is a substitute for the traditional Mississippi count or the “one one-thousand, two one-thousand cadences. I remember playing American football as a child. The defense could only rush the quarterback after a 5 Mississippi count. The problem was Mississippi inevitably would lose a syllable or two resulting in a Missippi or a Missip or even a Sippi count. “1 Missippi, 2 Missippi, 3 Missip..” (Oh, how I miss those days).
Often in class, our workouts challenge students to hold a static pose for a given amount of time. For example, “Complet a low plank for 15 seconds.” Without a second hand on our clock, we neede a way to count seconds independently. With the help of my first-grade students, we brainstormed words that could replace Mississippi. We finally agree on MACARONI for the following reasons.
Ever since we’ve been using what we call, the macaroni timer. Here are my first graders in action using the macaroni count.
The Isometric Macaroni Fitness Challenge includes a fitness bank with twelve different isometric exercises. Participants taking the challenge must first cut out each of the exercises into twelve separate cards. Each day turn the cards over and spread them out so you cannot see the exercises. Randomly choose at least five cards. Complete each of the chosen exercises. Hold each exercise for the “macaroni count” listed on the bottom of the card. Count slowly and clearly – “1 macaroni, 2 macaroni, 3 macaroni…” Do not rush through the macaroni count. Feel free to increase the macaroni count for each exercise as the month progresses since you WILL get stronger!
Participants color the noodle on the calendar each day the Isometric Macaroni Challenge is taken. Signed calendars are turned in at the end of the month in order to receive an award certificate and a toe token.
We all have our favorite pieces of equipment used for our physical education classes. I documented mine in a previous post called, My 10 Favorite Pieces of Equipment for Primary PE. My list is growing and I’d like to pay homage to two items I use frequently, Foam Activity Pins, or cylinders as I’ll call them throughout this post, and Lollipop Paddles. Each is extremely versatile, beneficial for students of all ages and useful for a range of activities. Here are ten simple, fun, and adaptable games using foam cylinders and paddles. Each game is easy to set up and uses basic equipment. Enjoy!
Operation Stack’em reminds me of the Hasbro game called Operation. Students need to be very steady in order for success. This cooperative challenge begins in pairs. Partners practice moving their cylinders around the room by pinching them between two swim noodles. Next, I challenge the partners to practice stacking and unstacking their cylinders. I give them two minutes to see how many times they can successfully do this. Then, the students get into a group of four where they are challenged to build a 4-stack. I have them repeat the 4-stack several times, encouraging them to mix up the order so that each student has an opportunity to place the fourth cylinder on top. Once this challenge is successfully completed, I allow each group to attempt a 5-stack, then a 6-stack, etc.
Divide the gym in half with cones. Evenly space 6 poly spots behind each team’s baseline. Each spot is the foundation for each of the pillars.
Place 2 bins of cylinders (foam activity pins) on each sideline.
Put at least 2 pools or buckets in each of the 2 play areas. Sometimes I substitute basketball hoops or laundry baskets set a different height for each of the pools.
Players try to accumulate as many tiers (cylinders) as possible to build their PILLARS OF POWER!
A complete pillar consists of 3 vertically stacked tiers.
2 ways to earn a tier:
– toss a ball into a pool
– catch a ball thrown by the opposing team
Any stacked tiers or completed pillars can be destroyed by the opposition. If this happens, any tier that is knocked on its side MUST be returned to the bins on the sideline. The round ends when a team successfully builds 6 PILLARS OF POWER or when the time expires.
Rules and set-up thoroughly discussed in the video.
Activity Procedures created by Chance Condran (@MrCondranHPE).
How to Score Points:
Divide the gym into quadrants. I always have a discussion on the prefix quad while explaining the game. Each quadrant houses one of four teams. Each team lines up 4 foam cylinders across the back of their quadrant. When the game begins, students use foam paddles to strike foam balls, attempting to knock over any of the opposing teams’ cylinders. The balls must be stuck in any one of the following ways:
Balls cannot be kicked or thrown. When a team loses all of its cylinders, they immediately join the team to their right. The last team with cylinders wins the round.
Using foam paddles as candle holders and foam cylinders as candles, students explore a dark cave in search of artifacts and secret messages on the walls. The goal is to keep the candle lit while completing a variety of tasks. If the candle falls off the holder, the student must walk to the teacher or a student holding a torch (noodle) to relight her candle. This is a great opportunity for students to use their imagination while working on balance and body control.
Toss 12 had been shared more than any other game I’ve posted on Twitter (@justybubpe). I feel it’s because of its simplicity, basic equipment, and its adaptability for all grade levels.
Here are the simple instructions.
The Loner 1 Point – Ball lands in hoop / Cylinder remains standing
The Deuce – 2 Points – Cylinder falls / Ball stops outside hoop
The Ultimate – 3 Points – Cylinder falls and the ball stops inside hoop
To win, a player must score exactly 12.
This is a simple relay race that can be adapted for any grade level.
Rolling, tossing, catching, and hustle all rolled up into one game.
How many points can you score in two minutes?
The video pretty much explains the activity. I find this to be a great way to work on the underhand serving motion. Students are challenged to stabilize the non-dominant hand while striking the bottom of the cylinder. Students must then attempt to catch the cylinder.
I’m always searching for ways for my students to use manipulatives to enhance their patience and body control. The paddle pin relay does just that. In pairs, students take turns carrying a cylinder across the floor by pinching it between two paddles, then carefully placing it on a spot. For increased difficulty, add a beanbag to the top of the cylinder. Students tally the number of times they place the cylinder on the spot in a certain amount of time.
Do you use lollipop paddles and/or foam activity pins? If so, I’d love to learn some of your favorite games. Please feel free to post them in the comments section.
In an effort to bolster my goals as a physical education teacher and serve the needs of my students, I deliberately introduce various ways to keep kids’ minds and bodies healthy. Naturally, the monthly Keeping Kids in Motion Fitness and Nutrition Challenges help me accomplish that goal.
This month’s Embrace the Strides of March challenge teaches our students that even something as simple as playing outside or going for a walk with their family is an important means of staying physically and emotionally fit.
So this month EMBRACE your everyday, routine activities such as riding a bike, walking your dog, or hiking and take more purposeful STRIDES toward lifelong fitness.
In one of my latest posts, Master the Minute; 14 Active 1-Minute Challenges for PE. I included 14 simple, partner challenges for physical education classes using minimal equipment. Since the post, I’ve used several of the challenges in a station format. For example, with a class of 40 students, I set up ten stations around the gym. While some of the stations include specific tossing, catching, striking, and team building tasks, others include several of the original 14 Master the Minute challenges. The Master the Minute challenges add an extra element of excitement and necessary reinforcement of teamwork and sportsmanship.
Recently, I brought home some equipment from school and gathered a few basic household items. I then charged my own kids to assist me in developing a new set of Master the Minute challenges. We immediately entered our “Creation Lab” to brainstorm possibilities. Through trial and error, we developed eight challenges I feel would work in any PE program OR as quick brain breaks in classrooms or at home! Insert a few of these activities plus the original 14 Master the Minute challenges into your stations. Let me know what you think!
Challenge: Stack four on top of each other using two pool noodles in one minute or less.
The player holds a swim noodle in each hand. Each noodle is marked with a circle about 15 inches from the top. This represents the highest point the noodle can be held. On the signal to begin, the player uses the noodles to grasp an activity pin, then stands it up on a predetermined spot. I use a deck ring the spot. The ultimate goal is to stack the four activity pins on top of each other in one minute or less.
1 deck ring
Challenge: Balance as many noodle bits as possible on a partner who is holding a wall-sit pose in one minute.
Noodle Bits and Walls Sits is a partner activity. Set up a pile of noodle bits about twenty feet away from a wall, where one partner will perform a wall-sit pose. The second partner, the runner, begins the challenge near the pile of noodle bits. Once given the signal to begin, the runner takes one noodle bit at a time and attempts to balance it anywhere on the body of the partner who is performing the wall-sit. The runner repeats this process throughout the one minute. You could reduce the time to 30 seconds according to the level of your students.
*You may choose to have partners switch roles and play a second round.
Challenge: Each partner attempts to catch four noodle bits in four receptacles of varying sizes.
Mark two lines about 6-10 feet apart, depending on the skill level. Along one line, set up four receptacles of varying sizes. Dump a pile of noodle bits on the opposite line. One partner begins as the popper and the second partner is the receiver. Once given the signal to begin, the popper pinches a noodle bit between his thumb and fingers until it pops toward the receiver. The receiver attempts to catch one noodle bit in each of the four receptacles. If this happens, and time permits, the popper and receiver switch roles. The ultimate goal is for each partner to catch four noodle bits in each of the four receptacles in one minute or less.
*I’ve also done this challenge with one receptacle rather than four different ones.
Equipment: 20+ noodle bits, 4 receptacles of varying sizes. I used a cone, 1 coffee can, and 2 oatmeal containers (small and large)
Challenge: Pick up a ping pong ball using a cardboard spatula, then drop it on a cone in one minute or less.
Place a ping pong ball on the floor about five feet away from a cone. When given the signal to begin, the player must scoop the ball onto the spatula, then carry it to the cone. Once at the cone, the player must drop the ball on top of the cone. If the ball hits the ground either while transferring it to the cone or while attempting to place it on the cone, the player simply scoops the ball and continues to try and place on top of the cone.
Equipment: 1 cone with a hole at the top to hold the ping pong ball, 1 ping pong ball, 1 homemade spatula consisting of a 3-inch x 4-inch piece of cardboard and a clothespin.
Challenge: Bounce a ping pong ball off the ground, then into the wall and into a cup as many times as possible in one minute.
Set up a plastic cup about one foot away from the wall. Secure the cup with a weight to prevent it from falling over. I placed the cup in a roll of duct tape rather than adding weight. On the signal to begin, the player attempts to bounce the ball off the floor, into the wall, then into the cup.
Equipment: 1-3 ping pong balls, 1 plastic cup, a weight to place in the cup or a roll of duct tape to prevent the cup from falling over.
Challenge: Pop as many noodle bits as possible into a bucket in one minute.
PLAY WITH 2-4 PLAYERS. Divide the noodle bits evenly for each player. If the match is 1 versus 1, one player gets all the blue and green bits and the 2nd player gets the red and yellow bits. Players arrange themselves about 3-4 feet from a common bucket, placed in the center. On the signal to begin, players begin popping the bits into the bucket. Play continues for one minute. If either player pops all bits in less than a minute, they can retrieve any bits NOT in the bucket, as long as they don’t interfere with other poppers. The player with the most bits in the bucket wins the round.
Equipment: Noodle bits or a *deck of playing cards, 1 bucket
*If using playing cards, divide the cards by color for two players or by suit for four players.
Challenge: Bounce a ping pong ball off the ground and into a bucket held on top of your head as many times as possible in on minute.
The player stands on a spot holding a coffee can or bucket on top of his head. On the signal to begin, he bounces the ball off the ground and attempts to catch it in the bucket. The bucket MUST be touching his head while making a catch. After each bounce, the player must return to his original spot before bouncing the ball again.
1 large coffee can or small plastic bucket
Challenge: Bounce a SKLZ Reaction ball off the ground and successfully catch it as many times as possible in one minute.
The player begins by holding a SKLZ Reaction Ball away from their body at chest level. On the signal to begin, the player drops the ball then tries to catch it. This process is repeated and the student tries to catch the ball as many times as possible in one minute.
Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.
Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!
Subscribe to my Youtube Channel for over 100 useful games for physical education!
“What it means is that you have the power to change your brain. All you have to do is lace up your running shoes.”
― John J. Ratey, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
This is the name of the program a colleague and I spearheaded two years ago to give our students an opportunity to walk, jog, and/or run on our track before school. Inspired by the book Spark, by John Ratey, which describes how the brain is nourished by exercise, we wanted to provide an outlet for our students to exercise before school.
Prior to Every Lap Counts, students who arrived early to school would go to the media center and read, or sit quietly and socialize with their peers. Given the research regarding physical activity and its ability to enhance students’ academics, we decided to SPARK a morning running program. Now, before school, students have the opportunity to elevate their heart rates while they run or walk, helping the brain reach its peak performance.
Every Lap Counts – Influential Factors:
The program is simple. Any students in 1st–6th Grades who arrives between 7:30 and 7:40 are allowed to drop off their backpacks in their classrooms and head directly to the track. Students in pre-k and kindergarten are allowed to join us as long as a parent accompanies them. In an effort to foster lifelong fitness, we encourage parents of all students to participate. From 7:30-7:50 students can walk, jog and/or run on the track. On some days students have the option to do baton relays and sprints.
***As an added challenge, I recently implemented the optional 1-mile challenge. Students can come out and run a mile each morning. I promised that each week I’d post every student’s name that completed at least one mile in the hallway outside our gymnasium. Honestly, I only expected a handful of takers for the challenge. On Monday, out of the 46 students on the track, 14 of them ran the mile. I was blown away. Amazingly, the number of milers more than doubled on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. By the end of the week, 68 different runners ran 133 total miles. More impressive to me was the breakdown.
Students of all ages were motivated to take the 1-mile challenge. Some were inclined to run 2 miles. At the same time, students who came out to the track who didn’t take the challenge were still celebrated for starting their day with exercise.
Students receive a toe token for every 5 miles they run. I also hand out toe tokens once a month for all students who participate in the program.
Every Lap Counts is about movement, a simple opportunity for students to stimulate their bodies and brains through exercise, and a chance to socialize with friends prior to the rigor of the normal school routine.
Every Lap Counts has become a favorite part of my day. I am in awe and overcome with pride each morning as an average of 60 students join me on the track for this supplement to recess and physical education.
Perhaps some of you already have successful morning movement programs and can relate to the pride I exude for students at my school. If so, please let me know! Maybe together, we can inspire other schools to do the same.
***Update: It has now been 6 months since I implemented the 1-mile challenge. Our students have logged almost 1,500 miles. Some runners have posted over 50 miles on their own. Each Friday, I post the student and class mileage totals outside our gymnasium. Often, there will be a crowd gathered with students proudly searching for their names.
Griffin, R. Morgan. “Exercise: Good for Your Kid’s Brain.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.
If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.
Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion