November’s GIVING THANKS and DOING PLANKS Fitness Challenge

Are you ready to Flourish with Fitness throughout the month of November? If so, then it’s time for GIVING THANKS and DOING PLANKS! 

Why plank exercises?

Plank exercises strengthen the core. Core muscles help to support the body and allow us to use our arms and legs strongly and effectively. Strong core muscles form the foundation for good posture, coordination and balance. All gross and fine motor skills rely on a stable core.

Remember to practice and encourage proper form with your students. Now lets take a look at the challenge.

Part 1 of the challenge:

Choose 1 Timed Plank Exercise and 3 Counted Plank Exercises each day from the list of 10 plank variations below!

TIMED PLANK EXERCISES Hold for at least 20 seconds. Increase time each day for your personal best.

  • High Plank (on hands)
  • Low Plank (on elbows)


  • Plank with Shoulder Touch – 10 repetitions each shoulder
  • Up Down Plank –10 repetitions
  • Alternating Arm Raise – 5 repetitions each arm
  • Plank Jacks – 10 repetitions
  • Knee to Outside Elbow Plank – 5 repetitions each leg
  • Alternating Toe Tap Plank – 10 repetitions each side
  • Plank Leg Raise – 10 repetitions each leg
  • Knee Tap Plank (Low plank) – 10 repetitions each knee

Thank you Jedd Austin (@jeddaustin) for your incredible videography/editing talent.

Part 2 of the challenge:

Think of something or someone you’re thankful for, and write it on the calendar each day. If your thankful for a person, go above and beyond by telling the person or writing them a note.

Using the linked fitness calendar, write your initials for each day you complete the routine. At the end of the month, add up the total number of days completed, have your parents sign the bottom of the sheet, and return it to your PE teacher. Students completing at least 10 days will receive an award certificate and toe token.

For an editable copy of the November Flourish with Fitness Challenge, click Giving Thanks and Doing Planks 2018.

For a PDF copy of the November Flourish with Fitness Challenge (in case font does not work on editable version) click Giving Thanks and Doing Planks 2018.

For an editable copy of the Award Certificate, click Thanks and Planks Certificate Final.

“Strong Core Muscles Create Confident Kids!” Clamber Club, 25 Feb. 2017,

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October’s PUMPKIN DICE LATTE Fitness Challenge

It’s time to Flourish with Fitness by taking the Pumpkin Dice Latte fitness challenge. In order to take this sweet challenge students, parents, teachers, and staff will need the following:

  • Pumpkin – With the help of an adult, find a pumpkin you can safely lift off the ground and over your head. You should be able to hold the pumpkin with extended arms in front of you for at least 10 seconds.


  • Dice – Go to your game closet to find a single dice.dice
  • A desire to get fit!

Once a pumpkin has been selected, it’s time to get pumped using the pumpkin as a weight.

Check out this awesome video for a demonstration of each exercise!

Thank you Jedd Austin (@jeddaustin) for your incredible videography/editing talent. This video will, without a doubt, be a useful resource for everyone who takes the challenge.

  • Spooky Squats – Hold your pumpkin by your chest. Slowly complete a squat. Remember to keep your shoulders back and push off your heels.
  • Jack-o-Lantern Jacks – Complete jumping jacks holding the pumpkin over your head.
  • Pumpkin Press – Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Push your pumpkin above your head then down to your chest for one repetition.
  • Pumpkin Seed Sit-ups – Lie flat on your back holding the pumpkin on the ground with extended arms over your head. Lifting one leg, curl up and touch your toe with the pumpkin. Repeat this move while alternating legs.
  • Boogedy Boogedy Burpees – Complete a burpee while holding your pumpkin with two hands.
  • Frankenstein Kicks – Hold the pumpkin out in front of you with extended arms. Alternating legs, gently kick the pumpkin with your toes.

I spend the week prior to the challenge introducing the workout and practicing each of the exercises during PE class. This allows me to help students with form before setting them off to do the workout at home. I’ve incorporated rest days this year as well. Students need to know that giving your body a break is an important part of any workout regiment. At the end of the month, participants turn in their calendars. Anyone who completes ten days or more receives an award certificate with a two-inch gold sticker and a plastic shoe token.


For an editable copy of the October Flourish with Fitness Challenge, click Pumpkin Dice Latte.

For a copy of the Pumpkin Dice Latte certificate, click Dice Latte Certificate .

BTW – Don’t forget about the yummy pumpkin seeds when the challenge is over. They make a super, yummy, healthy snack. Click PUMPKIN SEED RECIPE for directions on how to roast them. I like to make several batches, each with a different seasoning. Here are a few of my favorites (season prior to roasting):

  • Salt and Pepper
  • Salt and Vinegar
  • Barbecue
  • Ranch – Envelope Hidden Valley ranch seasoning
  • Cheddar or Parmesan – use packets of powdered cheese from a macaroni and cheese box

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Subscribe to my Youtube Channel for over 100 useful games for physical education!

Teaching Team Building is Easy as 1-2-3…4!

No matter the age, the skill set for students today should include tools for team building and greater communication skills.

As in most Physical Education Programs, it has been tradition for my team and I to kick off the school year with two weeks of team building and cooperative activities. Not only is it the perfect way to get to know students, it also encourages them to communicate (talk to each other – a dying art!) and problem solve in small, medium, and large sized groups. Through these cooperative activities, we are able to determine which students work well in group settings, and those who may have difficulties within this dynamic.

Team building with students improves productivity, boosts motivation, increases collaboration, encourages creativity, and enriches communication.


Step 1: DEFINE and REMIND:

“What is a good group member?”

This is one of the first questions we ask our students before we delve into the heart of the unit. No matter what the age or grade level, students need to be reminded of common expectations when working in a group. This helps define the goal of team building and expectations. During a recent brainstorming session on effective group member characteristics, our third grade students devised the following list:

  1. Make compromises
  2. Listen to your teammates
  3. Takes turns speaking
  4. Stay on task
  5. Don’t give up – if a plan doesn’t work, try another
  6. Everyone participate
  7. Be nice to each other
  8. Be willing to work with anyone

Similar lists will crop up across grade levels. In fact, verbalizing expected etiquette while working in a group comes easily to the students, however, when presented with a group task, our shared ideas are frequently forgotten by a many, validating the need to DEFINE and REMIND.

STEP 2: Start small

When teaching team building, initially form groups of 2-3 students. Beginning with small teams will increase students’ comfort level, and empower them to freely bounce ideas back and forth.

Think about your next staff meeting. Would you be more likely to share your ideas or answer questions in a small or large group? As adults and children, we fear the prospect of “being wrong” in front of the WHOLE group, causing us to remain quiet.

Breaking into small groups allows all members to have a voice, and may increase the quantity and quality of ideas shared.

As the unit progresses we will gradually introduce more complex activities with larger groups.

STEP 3: TMI (too much information) – Avoid information overload

I’ve been guilty of this on many occasions. Too often, we forget our students are extremely creative, and can discover multiple solutions to a task or complex team building activity. Therefore, when presenting a challenge, don’t give away any possible solutions in your explanation. Be careful not to OVER DEMONSTRATE!

Below is a perfect example of a time when I gave too much information in the written description of an activity and over demonstrated while presenting the task. Notice how each group in the video is completing the task identically, just as I demonstrated it. Also notice the differences in the slide I presented to each class.

The result: limited solutions and stifled student creativity.

Noodle Stepping Stones

In this second video, I was less specific with the description. There was also no demonstration prior to the challenge. Notice the variety of solutions each group was able to present.


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Step 4: Processing and debriefing questions

Once the groups are formed and the task is presented, it is time for planning and implementation. It is imperative that the teacher is present and observing each group’s interactions throughout the process.

This processing or debriefing step is where communication, group dynamics, leadership, problem solving strategies, perseverance and other skills can be observed and discussed following the activity.

Unfortunately, too often, this necessary step is rushed or completely neglected during and after a cooperative activity.

Without debriefing, team building loses is effectiveness. Students need processing time to share what worked well and what did not, granting them stock in the methodology.

Processing as a group allows students to share strategies and offer useful insight to groups who may have struggled. Here are a few of the many question a teacher can ask during this step:

  • Did you have to try different ideas?
  • Did your team devise a plan?
  • How did you support your team?
  • What did a fellow teammate do to support the group?
  • How can you connect what you’ve learned from this activity to your life?
  • Was there a clear leader in your group? What does good leadership look like?
  • Do you feel your group communicated well?
  • Did anyone feel left out?


On some occasions, you may also need to do “check point” processing. Check point processing occurs midway through an activity. There are times when a large percentage of students may be experiencing difficulty with the presented task. Or maybe you notice there are several groups having a tough time communicating and sharing responsibility and ideas. If this occurs, briefly stop the task and gather the students for a group discussion. During this time the instructor can steer the discussion toward the sticky points witnessed.

Whether it’s building a hula hut in P.E., passing a ball on a field, or completing a team project in class, team building skills are indispensable tools for children to possess. Like any lesson, we can teach our students the benefits of sharing ideas, communicating thoughts, and working as a group, but ultimately it is the children that will connect and use those skills in the real world.

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Flourish with Fitness – September’s Back to School Fitness Challenge


Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 3.35.07 PM

I’ll be referring to the year’s take-home fitness challenges as FLOURISH WITH FITNESS challenges. As you see in the above definition, the word flourish refers to growing and developing in a healthy way, especially as the result of a favorable environment. We the parents, teachers, and guardians provide the opportunity for our kids to grow. What better environment for exercise than home, either by yourself or better yet, with family and friends.

The goal of each FLOURISH WITH FITNESS challenges is to introduce a variety of exercises, healthy habits, and routines that are quick, easy, and fun to perform, yet challenging enough to increase heart rates and help build strength. Ultimately, promoting lifelong fitness and its countless health related benefits will hopefully be a main take away for our students and families.

Updated BTS Fitness Screen

For the month of September, students will be challenged with an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible). I will spend the week prior to the challenge discussing the workout and practicing the four exercises that make up the AMRAP during PE class. This allows me to help them with form before setting them off to do the workout at home. I’ve incorporated rest days this year as well. Students need to know that giving your body a break is an important part of any workout regiment. I also encourage the students to teach their parents the workout. Many parents inform me that they too take the monthly challenges!

At the end of the month, students turn in their calendars. Students who complete ten days or more receive an award certificate with a gold sticker a plastic shoe token.

Shoe Tokens are always a hit with students

For an editable copy, click September Challenge 2018

For and editable copy of the award certificate, click Back to School Challenge Certificate.

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The Recess Equipment Dilemma: Part 2 – A plan that works

In The Recess Equipment Dilemma: Part 1 Frustration, I shared the challenges I’ve faced over the years plotting various solutions for student accountability in regard to recess equipment. Simply stated, “Why is all the recess equipment being stranded on the play ground?”

“Personally, I have meticulously developed plans, charts, and strategies to ensure all recess equipment would be retrieved and accounted for following each recess session. Initially, the designs worked flawlessly, however, much like the not-put-away shoes we trip over, forgotten equipment was strewn across the playground, waterlogged, faded, and over-heated. Ultimately, the playground balls in particular, would be lost, stolen, flattened, or would simply disappear into the playground abyss. Plan after plan after inefficient plan, would end with the same fate. No recess balls, no student accountability.”

Summing up my previous post, I concluded with the following:

Several years ago, my team and I set up a meeting to brainstorm ideas for yet ANOTHER plan. What we devised was a system which included the PE team, the classroom teachers and assistants AND the students all working together.


After poring over the many failed attempts to teach out students accountability, my team and I finally determined the missing ingredient: Us! The Teachers!

As adults, we set alarms to wake up, fitness trackers alert us when we need to move, and our cars remind us when we are low on fuel. Like us, students thrive with reminders. They crave adults leadership to model appropriate behaviors. It’s the same as a math teacher spending extra time on a difficult concept, ensuring that every student understands. The idea parallels the reminders we consistently give students in the lunch room when the noise level exceeds the limit. Even we, the adults, need similar reinforcement and guidance. My point is, we can’t expect to devise a recess plan, explain it to the students one or two times, the expect them to carry it out flawlessly over an extended amount of time.

To that end, here is the plan my team and I developed several years ago. We shared the new plan with our students at an assembly with a thorough explanation and PowerPoint presentation.


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The first thing we did during our presentation was state the dilemma and explain the  goal of the Improved Recess Plan.

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Next, we gave an brief overview of the plan.

Breif Plan Overview

We followed the overview with a more in depth discussion about each of the three points, beginning with the bag. We were fortunate enough to purchase several bags, each a different color for each grade level. Every year the bags are restocked with equipment color coordinated with the bag. Every school has a different budget for equipment so it’s understood that the contents of your recess bag may look different than ours. You can also use laundry baskets as a cost efficient option instead of bags. Regardless, the plan remains the same. 


The Bag
We later realized we were handing out WAY too much equipment at once. We now store some of the equipment for later in the school year.
Bag Continued
Our school has four classes per grade level. Each class takes turns storing the bag.

It’s imperative to include a checklist on the bag. This reminds the students of its contents when it’s time to gather the equipment.

SharpieEQUALLY IMPORTANT: With a sharpie, label each ball with the grade level.  


Bag Labels

Each bag has an inventory tag. This is a MUST!



We instructed the students and teachers to create an additional student job called Recess Equipment Manager. As stated below, the Recess Equipment Manager would have a specific job description. However, this chosen individual would need help.

Teachers on recess duty would have to remind students to collect the equipment using the checklist attached to the bag. They would have to hold not only the managers, but the rest of students accountable for the equipment if it was left behind. Teachers also have to remind students to report any lost or damaged equipment. Find a time to speak to all the teachers regarding this important responsibility. Set up a time during pre-planning if possible.

We later realized that there needed to be a team of Recess Equipment Managers. Therefore, each class would provide one manager for a total of four.  Following a recess session, having more eyes on the equipment proved to be more efficient and less taxing.

Students who are NOT the Recess Equipment Managers need reminders that they too are responsible for the equipment. If a student takes a ball from the bag, then that same student should make sure the ball is returned to the bag at the end of recess or when they are finished using it.

The System


Below is the policy we initially established for damaged equipment. Presently, without hesitation, we will replace any equipment damaged from normal wear and tear. We are not as lenient with lost equipment.



Replacing Equipment
Each school will have a unique plan for replacing equipment depending on budget and philosophy.

The above plan may seem elaborate and perhaps even over-the-top. I’m sure some of you have recess equipment plans which are more simplified and work well for your school. Our color-coded equipment plan has definitely, without a doubt, been the best plan implemented thus far throughout my career.  However, for every successful plan, there needs to be a team effort. Our students are being molded from early on to become responsible and accountable adults. Along with their parents, we the educators, play a significant role in this development. We can and should use recess as another opportunity to enhance student accountability.

*Special thanks to my colleagues Jedd Austin (@jeddaustin), Brian Balocki (@brianbalocki), and Laura English (@PECoachLaura.)


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