P.E. Games – Inspired by Students

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Have you ever observed your students while at recess? I mean really taken the time to walk around and soak in all the different areas of the playground to get a feel for how students are taking advantage of their precious free time.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post called, Recess: Lessons from the Playground, “From a teacher’s perspective, recess duty is an opportunity to watch students grow physically, emotionally, and socially, in an unstructured environment.  It’s a time when we put the plan book away and allow PLAY to provide the lesson.”

Kids are constantly adapting rules, making teams, problem solving, exploring, and creating new games and activities.  In my opinion, students learn valuable skills in this type of unstructured, self-guided environment.

How can I take advantage of this powerful learning tool as a physical education teacher? 

Within my curriculum, I set aside days where students have the opportunity to explore and create.  I’ll set up seven stations, each with its own set of equipment.  I’ll divide the class into small groups, then send each group to one of the stations.  For three minutes per rotation, students work collaboratively to develop an activity using the given equipment.

On many occasions, groups will come up with the obvious ideas for games. For example, if a station has a pile of hoops, students will individually spin the hoop on various body parts.  This is fine, since they are using the hoop, they are moving, and most likely, their wheels are turning, thinking of something else to try.  Other groups may dig deeper into their cognition and build an elaborate hula hoop fortress with an accompanying story, while other students use the hoops as stepping stones to cross a toxic river.

The Magic of Floor Ball

Recently, as one of the exploration stations, I spread out three cones in a row, each connected with jump ropes.  Along the wall I placed a gator skin ball, three foam paddles, and a foam tennis ball.  I figured each group would use the paddles and the foam tennis ball to volley over the net.  To my surprise, the very first group developed what they called Floor Ball in just three minutes.  The rules were so simple.  The object of the game was to strike the ball under the rope, past the opposing player to receive a point.  Brilliant!

The next group must have been intrigued by the first group, as they decided to build on the rules. In doing so, they added the “two touch” rule.  A player could block the ball (one touch) then strike it (second touch) under the net.  They also added a special rule for games of two players versus one.  If playing as a single player, you can strike the ball to the left or the right of the center cone.  Teams of two had to stand side by side and could only strike the ball through their side of the center cone.  What a great way to balance the two player advantage!  Again, genius!

Floor ball continued to evolve throughout the class, with each group devising their own set of unique rules.

Scoop Shoes – another 1st grade creation enjoyed by all our students.

Another exploration station consisted of a three plastic scoops, three yarn balls, a plastic pool, and several hula hoops.  Again, in only three minutes, a group of 1st grade students created Scoop Shoes.  Based on horse shoes, the three students set up their hoops in a triangle.  Each player stood behind their own hoop.  One player at a time would underhand toss the yarn ball with the scoop to the hoop to their right.  Two points are scored when a ball lands inside the hula hoop and one point is scored when the ball stops less than a scoops length away from the hoop.  Beautiful!  Yet another student-created game I can share with the rest of my students!

So next time you are on the playground, walk around and watch the creative, young minds at work.  You’ll be sure to witness the pervasive benefits unstructured play provides for children, and the amazing value it will add to your curriculum.

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8 Group Games Using SCOOPS in PE


Plastic Scoops.  They sit in our equipment closet year after year waiting patiently for their turn, their shot at a lesson plan titled:  SCOOP SKILLS!  Yet, there they remain with very limited use. Occasionally, I will take them out, blow the dust off of them, and practice some basic throwing and catching challenges.  Soon after, I place them back on the shelf with a little guilt, (think Toy Story) and move on to the next unit.

Recently, I was scrolling through social media and stumbled across a post requesting ideas for scoops.  Many of the teachers commented that they too were searching for scoop lessons, while others shared creative ideas and challenges.  Inspired by this post, I decided to brainstorm, tweak, and implement some group activities using this underutilized manipulative.  Here are a few of the games we’ve enjoyed the last couple of weeks.  I hope you too are able to look beyond the basketballs and hula hoops in your equipment room, pull the scoops off of your shelves, and give them a chance to play!

Scoop Shoes

Scoop Shoes is based on the backyard game horseshoes.  Place two hula hoops at least ten feet apart.  Opposing players stand behind their hoop.  Each player takes turns tossing a yarn ball into the opposing hoop.  I encourage students to use the underhand throwing motion.  If the ball stops inside the hoop, the player is awarded two points. One point is awarded for a ball that stops less than a scoop length away from the hoop. Players use the scoop to measure the distance.  With larger groups, we play games of two versus two.

Sink the Ship/Walk the Plank


Four ships are set up in each of the four corners of your space with the following equipment: 4 smokestacks (foam cylinders), cannon (scoops) for each pirate, rowboat (scooter), and a plank (foam beam).  The above picture shows the initial set-up.

The goal of the game is to knock out each of the opposing teams’ smokestacks in order to sink their ship.  Each ship’s crew uses the scoops to fire cannonballs (foam and yarn balls) at the other ships. Crew members must stay on the ship.  If a crew member falls into the water, he swims (runs) one lap around the perimeter. One crew member is designated to use the rowboat.  This player’s only duty is to retrieve cannonballs that are floating in the ocean and return them to their ship. The crew can also use their plank to retrieve cannonballs.  The plank can be dropped into the water anywhere around the ship.  If a pirate catches a cannonball shot by another ship, she can stand up one of her fallen smokestacks.  As soon as one of the four ships loses all of its smokestacks, the round is over.  The ship with the most remaining smokestacks wins the round.  Each crew then rotates clockwise to the next ship, and the next round begins.

When Mars Attacks

Two teams each set up three swimming pools (UFOs) at different distances and heights. Each UFO has 4 battery cells (foam cylinders) for its energy source to travel through the galaxy.  Each player uses scoops and yarn balls/foam tennis balls as lasers in an attempt to knock down the opposing team’s battery cells.  If a battery cell is knocked over, the student can cross the midline into the other team’s galaxy to retrieve the battery. That battery cell can be placed on one of their ships, making them stronger.  If a student catches a ball thrown by an opposing player, he earns the right to retrieve a battery cell from the other team.


One Bounce Ultimate has similar rules to traditional Ultimate.  The goal of the game is for the offensive team to advance a plastic ball into their end zone by catching and throwing with plastic scoops.  To increase the excitement and level of success, I allow the ball to bounce once.  Therefore, a ball must be caught in the air or on one bounce in order for the offense to maintain possession. If the ball is dropped and bounces more than once, the defensive team gains possession. The defense may not knock the ball out of an offensive player’s scoop. When the offense catches the ball in the end zone, they receive one point.  The defensive team immediately runs the ball to midfield to continue the game.

Quadrant Bucket Ball

Divide the playing area into quadrants. Place a smaller bucket inside a larger bucket in the back corner of each quadrant.  In the video you’ll see that I place a plastic tub inside a larger swimming pool.  Divide your class into four teams. Each team reports to a different quadrant.  The goal of the game is to toss balls (yarn balls, foam tennis balls, small stuffed animals) into ANY of the opposing team’s buckets.  Each team can defend their buckets by blocking balls thrown by the opposing teams. Any ball that lands in a bucket MUST stay in the bucket until the end of the round.  If a player catches a ball thrown from another team, he may deliver it to any one of the opposing team’s bucket. At the end of a round, I stop the music and yell, “STOP and DROP!” On this signal all students must immediately sit without throwing another ball.  Any ball thrown after the signal is added to the bucket of the team who threw the ball.  Balls in the large bucket equal one point while balls in the smaller bucket equal two points. The team with the FEWEST balls in their buckets WIN the round.

Jai Alai lead up game

My students love this scaled-down version of the world’s fastest game, Jai Alai.  Arrange students in groups of three.  Each group finds a section of the wall to throw the ball against using their Cesta (scoop).  Two of the three players play first while the third player waits and referees.  The player who begins with the ball, throws it against the wall.  The ball must strike the wall above the six feet line on gymnasium wall.  You can use tape to mark this height.  The ball must be caught on the fly or on the first bounce by the opposing player.  If successful, this player immediately throws the ball against the wall.  If a player is unable to catch a serve, he steps off the court to become referee.  The third players now enters the game and play continues.  The first of the three payers to score seven points wins the round. Be sure to click the link above to learn more about Jai Alai.

Catch 3

Catch three is a great game to teach movement without the ball and quick decision making.  Make teams of three to five players.  Smaller teams increase the number of touches per player.  The goal of the game is for each team to make three consecutive catches without dropping the ball (I allow the ball to bounce once).  When a team is able to do this, they receive one point.  The opposing team then receives the ball. Any time a ball bounces more than once or the offensive team is unable to make a catch, it is considered a turnover and the defense immediately gains possession.  The defense may NOT knock the ball out of an offensive player’s scoop.

Hooper Scooper

Divide the class into two teams.  Spread out 8-10 hula hoops on each side.  The goal of the game is to underhand toss beanbags into the opposing team’s hoops.  If a beanbag lands inside a hoop, it can NOT be removed.  The only exception is if a player catches a beanbag that has been tossed by the opposing team.  The player making the catch is rewarded by being able to remove one beanbag from any hoop.  When the teacher calls “BASELINE!”, all students must race to their end line and take a seat. One point is subtracted from a team’s score for every beanbag tossed after the signal.   I sometimes grant a bonus point for the first team seated at their baseline.

Please share some of your favorite ideas for scoops in the comment section!

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April’s “Eat for Hydration” Challenge

With the warmer weather approaching, I’ve been taking some time during class to speak with my students about the benefits of drinking water.  We’ve discussed why water is the best option for hydration, and why some juices, soft drinks, and sports drinks can be more harmful than good if consumed in excess.  I also encouraged my students to identify and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables which are high in water content. Along with assisting in the hydration process, fruits and vegetable also provide us with needed vitamins and minerals.  These discussions inspired me to create April’s “Eat for Hydration” Challenge.  I hope you can use the challenge with your students and families.

Click April’s Eat for Hydration Challenge for an editable copy of this challenge and the “Eat for Hydration” calendar.

Hydration is the process of replacing water in the body. You do this by drinking water throughout each day. The amount of water you need depends on your age, size, how active you are, and the temperature outside. For example, if you play soccer on a warm summer day, your body will need even more water to replace the water you lose from sweating.

Benefits of drinking water

Recommended Daily Amount of Water

Age Range Total Water (Cup/Day)
4-8 years 5 cups
9-13 years 7-8 cups
14-18 years 8-11 cups

Source:  Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.


You can also “Eat Your Hydration.” Many of the fruits and vegetables we eat daily contain over 85% water! This means we can eat to help our bodies stay hydrated. Fruits and vegetables also have the bonus of providing our bodies with essential vitamins and minerals. Check out this list of healthy snacks made up of more than 85% water, and read on for the challenge.

Fruit/Vegetable % Water by Weight
Apple 85%
Bell Pepper 92%
Blueberries 85%
Cabbage 93%
Cantaloupe 90%
Carrots 87%
Cauliflower 92%
Celery 96%
Cucumber 96%
Mixed Greens 94%
Orange/Grapefruit 87%
Pear 87%
Pineapple 87%
Radishes 95%
Raspberries 87%
Raw Broccoli 91%
Spinach 91%
Star Fruit 91%
Strawberries 92%
Tomato 95%
Watermelon 92%
Zucchini 95%

The “Eat for Hydration” Challenge

  1. Refer to the recommended daily amount of water table above.
  2. Drink the recommended number of cups of water for your age each day.
  3. Eat at least one serving of vegetables and at least one serving of fruit from the list of fruits and vegetable consisting of more than 85% water. This will help you stay hydrated while also providing you with needed vitamins and minerals. Please note that kids need about 6-7  total servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  4. Log your total cups of water and hydrating fruits and vegetables consumed daily on your “Eat for Hydration” calendar.
  5. Turn in your calendar at the end of the month to receive your award certificate and toe token.


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Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

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