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Throughout my 20 years of teaching, I’ve steadily grown as a PE teacher through trial and error. I remember my earlier days when each class was kicked off with a warm-up lap and a stretching routine followed by 3-7 more minutes of jogging around the playground. Day in and day out, it was much of the same. Eventually, my students would lose motivation with this mundane routine. Their once steady pace would inevitably slow down before ending up as a slow walk. Frustration would ensue! It didn’t take long to realize that the students were just bored – unmotivated and unchallenged. As mentioned in an earlier blog post titled, Keeping Fitness Fresh in PE Class, diversity is what today’s students crave in regard to fitness. When exercise is viewed by students as challenging, varied, and ultimately FUN, the more positive their experience will be.
Here are my Top 5 Motivating Exercise Routines for elementary school students. They incorporate a range of exercises that drive the students while incorporating the three elements of fitness: endurance, flexibility, and strength. Please feel free to share what works for you, I’d love to add to my repertoire. (BTW – Check out my follow-up post called 6 More Fitness Ideas for PE for more motivating fitness routines).
1. 5-Minute Lap Challenge (Class versus Class)
Prior to the challenge, there’s a discussion on teamwork and how each student has to maximize his/her effort in order for the class to be successful. Each PE class jogs around our small track for 5 minutes. I tally the total number of laps the class completes as a team. After 5 minutes, I take the total number of laps and divide it by the total number of students. This quotient is the average number of laps per students. Each of my classes per grade level complete this same challenge. Following the challenge, I post the results in the gym.
The 5-minute lap challenge is repeated 4 times per year.
2. As Many Rounds as Possible (AMRAP)
Our PE team uses this type of workout often due to it versatility. We simply list 4-8 exercises focusing on different muscle groups. Each exercise is given a certain number of repetitions. The students have to complete the list of exercises as many times as possible in a given amount of time. Often we’ll include skills from the present unit into our list of exercises. We’ll also add a lap around the gym which includes obstacles for further motivation. You’ll see this in the video below.
3. High Energy Tag Games (No Elimination)
Often, you don’t think of tag as an exercise routine. However, there’s no better way to get your heart rate up and activate all the muscles in your body. Just try playing with you students and you’ll quickly find out first-hand. Whichever tag game you choose there should NEVER be elimination. In other words, if a player is tagged, there should always be a quick way to reenter the game.
4. The Race to 500
Do you want to see your students practically fly around the gym? This is another class versus class challenge. Set up a timer so it’s visible to the students. On the coaches command, the entire class runs around the perimeter of the gym. The coach stands at the starting line and tallies each student as they pass. When the class runs their 500th lap, stop the timer. This is their score. Once again we post the scores on our white board to motivate other classes. Depending on the age and number of students and the size of your gym, you can increase or decrease the total number of laps. For example, with a small class of 20 students in a large gym, you might have The Race to 250 Laps.
5. High Intensity Interval Workouts/Tabata
Our students respond well to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts. I feel this is mainly due to the variety of movements and exercises you can add to the list. This type of workout is sure to get your students sweating and their heart rates up. Simply create a list of 4-8 exercises. Using a Tabata Timer, students perform each exercise for 20-30 seconds with 10-second breaks in between. Below are a couple of examples.
Finding creative ways to motivate our students is an ongoing challenge. We need to work together to share ideas. These are my top 5. Now I’d like to learn about yours. Please post your motivating exercise routines in the comments section! Let’s work together to keep our students fit and motivated!
Read Part 2 of this post called 6 More Fitness Ideas for PE.
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I love the way you challenge your students through healthy competition! Another motivating exercise for my students is having four different movements for each side of the gymnasium. For example, jogging, skipping, grape-vine, and crab walk. I also like to incorporate jumping rope while the kids run around the gym, plus give them a goal for their total laps completed in a certain time frame. Children have to really focus to both jump rope and run around the gym, plus they want to meet and exceed the goal I have for the day. Thanks again for a great post!
Justin your Fitness Activities/Exercise Routines are FANTASTIC!! I have seen from your videos that you post on Facebook and Tweet on Twitter that your students are always so “engaged” and “fitness focused”! They also look like they are having the time of their lives while they are engrossed in their movement. I really like the “Top 5” Motivating Exercise Routines that you listed in this Blog and I look forward to trying some of them out in the next few weeks.
Although, probably not as “motivating” as yours, here are 5 effective Instant Activities and Fitness Warm Ups that I like to use:
1. Four Corner Fitness: I place locomotor and Health-Related fitness Component Activities in each corner of the gym. As students enter or after a teacher cue, they immediately begin the first locomotor
movement to the first corner. At the corner(s), the students read from the list of 2 exercises and perform the exercise for 30 seconds. After performing the listed exercise, the students then read the locomotor sign and perform it to the next corner. The students continue for a specified time (i.e. 5 to 10 minutes). Sometimes I theme the signs (i.e. cardiovascular fitness, balance, strength, etc.) or sometimes a diversify the fitness movement.
2. “Shuttle Line” – Power Fitness: Students get in groups of 3 and put 2 on 1 side of a court sideline and 1 on the other. On cue (preferably music), the first student in line (from the 2 group) performs a teacher directed locomotor movement to the middle exercise line, then performs an exercise/movement and continues on to the opposite line where they give their teammate a high 5. The teammate that was given 5 then repeats (in the opposite direction) what the first student did and gives 5 to the next teammate (continue this process).
3. Partner “Meet in the Middle”- Student are grouped in partners, facing each other on opposite
side lines with a middle line between (created with cones or an existing gym line). On cue (preferably music), students run to a middle line where they each tell the other an exercise to do. After hearing the exercise chosen by their partner, the students return to their starting line and perform the exercise a set number of times (must be age appropriate).
4. “3 Ring Circuit”- Teacher splits students into 3 equal groups and sends them to 1 of the 3
circuit stations. Students perform at 1 of 3 stations: 1(locomotor movements around the
perimeter of the gym, 2) scooting on scooter boards inside perimeter and 3) jumping rope in the middle. Teacher initiates students movement on a cue (preferably music) in a counter clockwise motion around the room with a directed locomotor movement, clockwise for scooter boards and gives
suggestions for jump rope maneuvers
5. “What’s on your Plate?”. Students move around the gym performing exercise tasks on and around laminated plates with preset exercises on each plate. On cue (preferably music), students
move to a plate and perform the cardio, muscular strength, muscular endurance, agility, balance or flexibility exercise listed on the plate. Every 30 to 60 seconds, have the students rotate plates either in a set direction or randomly around the room.
Thanks for your great motivating fitness activities and for initiating this conversation in your blog!
Roy Masters Head of PE Charters Ancaster School, we invented a new game at school last week called ” Charters Ball” it is a net game and is 3v3, two of the children in each team start on a centre line there side of the court and the third person on each side starts from the side of their court and is called the server. The server has to throw the ball into either of two large squares situated in the back corners of the opposing side of the net. As soon as the server serves the two other players can move to defend the squares.
Developed by my year 2 class
Very creative. Never underestimate the minds of our students. I always enjoy observing and learning the games they invent. I’ll give a shot. We’re in the middle of our volleyball unit. Thanks for sharing.
hope the lesson went well, have just used the game with one of my year 4 classes and let them make adaptions etc.
hope the net games sessions went ok, which school are you at?
We played a similar version of the game and it was very successful.
Reblogged this on The Curious Teacher Candidate and commented:
PE – Top 5 Motivating Exercise Routines for Students by Justin Cahill
My year 5 classes are loving the 5 minute lap challenge – I created a chart for them to have a ‘friendly’ competition between the three classes. We do the challenge once a month, and each class gets a trophy depending on their ranking for that month. At the end of the year, I’ll award a class prize to the class with the highest overall average. Thanks for sharing this idea – I normally have secondary classes and they definitely wouldn’t get as excited by this activity!
That’s so great to hear. My kids as well as teachers get so excited for the challenge. I just completed the 3rd of the year and see vast improvements in the averages. Thanks for sharing.
love the tabata and the Burpie sandwich
Awesome ideas and execution! Seems like you truly grasp how to disguise fitness into fun, interactive, and meaningful lessons. Our country needs more PE teachers like you! Here are a few that I have in my bag of tricks. Thanks for the great post and for starting an engaging dialogue for others to share!
1. Exercise While I Spell- I set up A-Z letters scattered on one side of the gym. Students are performing skill/activity on other side. During an activity on the other side of the gym, tagged players would report to spelling zone and spell words touching letters with various body parts. Example- jumping rope on one side and dribbling a basketball while spelling words by touching the ball to letters. Or tagged players report to spelling zone and have to spell a set list of Health and PE related words.
2.Connect 4 Fitness- Students use deck of cards and 1 Connect 4 Sheet. The sheets have a card suite and an exercise that they will perform and the card drawn represents the number. Partner students up and provide them with 1 sheet and tokens. One student draws a card and performs exercise and number on card. If they do it successfully, they place a token on the Connect 4 sheet. First student that gets 4 in a row wins. Clear card and play again.
3. Chance- Chance is a great activity to play with students as a warm-up, bonus/closing activity or as a quick way to review exercises. 1. Have the students line up and I pick 1 quiet student to come up to pick a Chance Card (the 25 cards) 2. The student selects the card without looking at it and they hand it back to you as they make a decision. 3. Look at the card and give them another option that the rest of the class would have to perform without telling them what the card says. The card is still a mystery! Example: The entire class has to do 12 Burpees or you can Take a Chance and do what it says on the card (The card might say everyone do 6 burpees) 4. The student has the choice to do the challenge made or they can Take a Chance and select what the card says. 5. Choose another student and repeat the process. 6. The chance cards focus on various exercises, challenges or rewards.
4. Rotational Fitness-Place the numbers 1-6 on the wall using floor tape. Place students in 6 separate lines facing one of the numbers on the wall. (Squad formation) Project/post any of these charts up for them to see. On your signal they begin, each line performing s different exercise that corresponds to the number on the wall. On your whistle, students rotate over to the next number on the wall and perform a new exercise. Once they get to number 6, and the whistle is blown they jog in front all the way to the line that corresponds to the 1 on the wall. Rotate students through as often as you like and monitor to make sure exercises and movements are being performed correctly!
5. Cone to Cone Fitness- Place 4 cones in each corner of the gym. On each cone hang a Cone to Cone fitness sheet in laminated folder sleeve or with string that will have the numbers 1-8 on them. Next to each number there will be a movement or exercise that the students will have to perform as they travel from cone to cone. Once they complete all the number 1’s they then move onto all the number 2’s and so on. The goal is to complete all 8 numbers before the time is up or as many rounds before the activity is over. Each cone has a different movement/exercise next to each number.
3. Power Walk
Adam – Thank you so much for taking the time to write out all these great ideas. We’ll be sure to incorporate them into our program. It’s all about keeping PE classes fresh. Your school is so fortunate to have such a motivated educator. Keep up the amazing work.
Thanks and have a great rest of the school year!
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Thanks for the ideas. I often find that a little competition between classes can be quite motivating… Next time we do a 5 minute run challenge, I will incorporate the average lap per student and post results.
My classes often warm up with a fun game. Survivor tag (also called everybody’s it) is a favourite with my year 4 classes at the moment.
In a defined area, everyone is “it” in a tag game. If you are tagged you sit down and watch the person who tagged you…When they sit down, you are back in. If two people tag each other at the same time, they do scissors, paper, rock to decide who stays up.
Thanks for your comment Kerry! I’ll definitely be adding survivor tag to my list instant activities. I always appreciate tag games with limited down time.
Pingback: 6 More Motivating Fitness Ideas for PE – Part 2 – Keeping Kids in Motion
This is great. I love the race to 500. I do something a little different but with more or less the same activity. I call it the “Mile Club”. I have calculated that 20 laps around the gym is around 1 Mile. I give my KG and 1st graders 8 minutes, and 2nd graders 9 minutes. They need to run as many laps as they can. Each time they pass by me I give them a popsicle stick. This how they know how many laps they ran. I keep a file on my computer and add every week the laps they ran. Each time they get to a mile, they get a special sticker “Iran 1 Mile”. When they get to 10 Miles they get a medal, 20 miles a trophy (small one), 30 miles a ribbon. Of course they run to the music. THE KIDS LOVE IT. They are really looking forward for the day, and can’t get enough of it. I have kids keeping their stickers and trophies at home on the wall. How great it is 🙂
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