How Does Your #PhysEd Class Begin?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

Our class routine allows every class to start with movement. The students literally enter the gym skipping. Starting each class with immediate movement has been one of the best classroom management tools I have put into action. The format of these first few minutes allows the following things to occur:

  • Each child gets to immediately exercise.
  • Each child gets to socialize with peers.
  • It prevents the first class from sitting and waiting if the second (or third) class is late.
  • It provides structure for the class. This allows me to attend to a student who has a question, greet a new student, briefly talk with a classroom teacher, or quickly scan a doctor’s note.

Once all classes are present, we begin about 3-4 minutes of interval walking and jogging (i.e., the boys walk around the perimeter of the gym while the girls jog around the “track” and then vice versa). In our gym, we designate the area between the outside basketball boundary (solid black line) and the volleyball boundary (broken black line) as our “track.”

Original Floor

The purpose of completing the intervals in this manner is to allow for easier identification of a child who may be “slacking.” I have also found that most children love the opportunity to instantly move, jog, and socialize. After 4-6 intervals, everyone walks for about 30 seconds.

All of the students then execute a crab walk (or other animal movement) in order to engage their upper body muscles. After completing this portion, the students participate in a variety of instant fitness activities (a different one each day). Since I see the students every other day, we rotate through 5 instant fitness activities. This rotation is frequent enough to be familiar even though they only complete each one two times a month. This may include student or teacher-led activities, partner activities, and/or large group/instant activities.  Each one has a consistent introduction/transition to inform the students what they will be doing. Here are some examples:

  • Line Leader Fitness** – After completing the crab walk, I simply state, “Head to your paw prints and follow your leader.” The students quickly transition to their assigned paw print and copy whatever exercise their line leader is performing. After thirty seconds, I say, “Switch.” The leader moves to the end of the line so that everyone can scoot up one paw print. When it is their turn to be the leader, they get to choose their favorite exercise to perform and have the others follow. This one allows a student to show their personality!
  • Partner Run – After completing the crab walk, I simply state, “Find a partner and sit at an orange letter or blue number.” These floor markings (LINK???) are just outside of the basketball boundary line. I remind them that when the music starts, partner #1 will jog a lap while partner #2 completes their favorite exercise. When #1 returns, they carefully switch places. At the beginning of the year or with the younger grades, I may prescribe which exercise they should complete. As the year progresses, I allow them to choose.
  • Group Leaders** – After completing the crab walk, I simply state, “Head to your fitness spots.” This spreads the students out around the gym (I allow the students to select their own fitness spot at the beginning of the year). I walk around and call the names of several students to the middle of the gym. Each one of them can perform their favorite exercise, dance, or movement. The others choose one leader from that small group to follow. If you need to, you can call a certain group of students to be the leaders (e.g., Miss Jackson’s boys).
  • Fitness Tag – After completing the crab walk, I simply pause the music and begin talking (they will stop and sit). I quickly tell them which version of tag we are using today (see below). I remind them to move safely through the gym. As I am talking, I pass out taggers (half pool noodles) to 8-12 students (4 per class). I remind everyone that after tagging three people, they must hand their tagger to someone that is frozen. This keeps the activity moving! I also encourage them not to tag someone who has stopped to help unfreeze a peer. With the kindergartners, I stop and change the taggers for the first half of the school year.
    • Suggested Tag Activities:
      • Tunnel Tag – If tagged, the students stand with their hands up and feet wide apart and wait for a peer to crawl through their tunnel to unfreeze them. We typically have boys unfreeze boys and girls unfreeze girls with the older grades.
      • Alligator Tag – If tagged, the students go down on their knees and stick their arms out like an alligator mouth and wait for someone to come by to “feed” and unfreeze them.
      • Teapot Tag – If tagged, the students stand like a teapot and wait for someone to come by and tap the nozzle of their teapot.
      • Zombie Tag – If tagged, the students go down on their knees like a zombie and wait for someone to tap one of their hands.
      • 1 Knee Tag – If tagged, the students go down on one knee, raise one hand, and wait for someone to give them a high five.
  • Fitness Friday – After completing the crab walk, I quickly remind the students that they get to choose whether they walk around the perimeter of the gym, complete extra credit jogging, or dance in the middle of the gym.

**As I get older, I find it more difficult to remember 750 student names. As a result, I purposely use one of these two activities on Monday & Tuesday of each week. They provide a good opportunity for me to walk around and practice student names while monitoring their participation in the fitness activity.

At this point, the students should have been moving for the first 10-12 minutes of class. It is now time to gather and sit near the stage to have a 2-3 minute health/fitness tip. At the conclusion of the health/fitness tip, the focus of the day is then conveyed. We will spend the next 25 minutes on the daily lesson, which may be working through a skills progression or a large group activity (depending on what unit we are currently working on).

The above fitness activities work for me. There are plenty of others out there. When selecting instant fitness activities, I ask myself the following question:

After the initial instruction of the fitness activity, can it be replicated with little to no set up as well as minimal verbal cues?

After all, the goal is to keep the flow of the first few minutes of class going while maximizing movement!

What does the first 5-10 minutes of your class look like?

Do these first few minutes of class set the tone for a structured lesson or a chaotic class?



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