5-Minute Challenge – WOW your students!

download.pngWhat works?

I am always searching for new and exciting ways to motivate my students through fitness. After all, as a physical education teacher, promoting lifelong fitness is one of the most important lessons I MUST instill in each and every student I teach.

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Here’s the HOW! Variety is Key

In order for students to buy into our lessons, it is imperative exercises are challenging AND enjoyable. Repeating the same old routines is a sure-fire recipe for stagnation and disinterest. Students will inevitably lose motivation and ultimately tune out any message you’re attempting to instill.

Bright Ideas – that work!

  • Tabata-style workouts
  • AMRAP routines
  • Boot camps using a variety of equipment
  • Interval training
  • Hill repeats
  • Cross country running through the wooded trails
  • Short and long jump rope

Our list of exercises and routines continues to grow!

Here comes the WOW!

Presenting…the all-time favorite running activity EVER…or maybe just at our school.

Related imageThe 5-Minute Challenge!

The 5-Minute Challenge came about five years ago when I was trying to motivate my 1st-grade students to complete a 5-minute run around a coned off 1/10 of a mile oval measured on our field. I could see my students weren’t giving their best effort – you know the “defeated before they even start” look? Even the best runners in the class were walking after only a couple of laps. To make the situation worse, the higher the grade level, the less motivation I witnessed. Now what?

After brainstorming various ideas, I decided to make the 5-Minute Challenge an assessment tool to track each classes overall growth throughout the year.  A secondary outcome is the friendly grade-level competition between classes. How will each class compare to each other?

I connected to the tug-of-war dilemma…each class had a different number of students. Therefore, some classes would have an advantage. A class of twenty would likely run more laps than a class of eighteen. Students of all grade levels would quickly discover the flaw in this system. Now what?


Here’s the formula that transformed the 5-Minute Challenge:

Total # of laps ÷ # of runners = average # of laps per person

The above formula worked like magic. I took the total number of laps completed by the students in a five minute period and divided that number by the number of students. This gave me the average number of laps per runner.

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Editable 5-Minute Challenge template below


I announce the 5-Minute Challenge about one week in advance of starting. During this time, I mentally prepare the students to do the best they can.

Prepare their minds first:

  1. Discuss what it takes to be a good teammate.
  2. Talk about reliability and how they are each depending on each other to do their best.
  3. Remind students that each member of the class has their own unique running ability and the need to respect and applaud their extraordinary effort.

On the day of the run, we have one final pep talk prior to hitting the track. Then I divide the class into two groups. One group will run first, while the other group encourages them from the sideline. You can have the whole group run at once, however, I discovered that my runners respond better with a cheering squad. I blow the whistle for the first group to begin.

I promise you, you won’t believe the enthusiasm exhibited by each cheering squad during the five-minute run. Throughout the run, I stand on the sideline and tally the laps with a pencil and paper. I realize there are tally apps for smartphones but I prefer good-old-fashioned pencil and paper. 


After each group completes their run, we meet one final time to plug the data into the formula. I report the number of laps completed and divide it by the number of students in the class on my calculator. Once I have the average number of laps per student, in my best ESPN reporting voice, I report the score. Finally, as a group, we reflect on the challenge. Students enjoy sharing what they experienced during their run. I encourage them to think about what they might do differently next time as an individual and a team to increase their level of success.

Then what?

The 5-Minute Challenge occurs 4 times throughout the school year. This allows me and the students to track their class growth. After each round, I post the scores on a bulletin board outside the gymnasium. I never stress the competitive side of the challenge. I encourage the students to compare their score with other classes in their own grade level and even other classes in different grade levels. I want them to use this as motivation for future rounds of the challenge.

Below, you’ll see an example of the first round of the challenge with our 2nd-grade classes. You’ll also see the same grade level’s growth over the course of the year.

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I highly recommend presenting the 5-Minute Challenge to your students. Our 1st-6th graders have been highly motivated for several years taking this simple challenge. I truly believe middle school and high school students would be equally motivated. It just takes a little work from the teacher. How you present it is key. Follow-up is a must.

Click 5-minute challenge for an editable template of the 5-minute challenge.

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6 Comments on “5-Minute Challenge – WOW your students!

    • Haha, I’ve been doing this for 15 years or so. I call it the Clicker Run; each time a student runs by me I click the clicker! It’s a great way to teach the concept of average and also to run the perimeter of all 4 cones so all laps are equal.

      • I love the conversations we have about teamwork before and after the run. I also enjoy the enthusiasm the student express for each other before, during and after the run.

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