How Do You Select Large Group Activities (i.e., Games)?

By: Mark Banasiak


**This is a revised version of an article originally published in 2016.

What are the large group activities that you cannot wait to teach?  I mean the ones that get you giddy.  You know the feeling…the same excitement you get when you inflate a brand new playground ball.   These are the activities that you have to stop and remind yourself that you are the teacher because you get so involved in participating with the students.

For me, it is an activity called Treasure Island (<– click on it for a free lesson plan).  This is a high energy and invasion type of activity.  It requires the students to work together, get their heart rate up, and have fun.  My students love it!  In fact, my son wanted to do it at his birthday party.

The idea for this activity came from a session I attended at the annual Share the Wealth PE Conference.  This particular session was led by faculty and students from the PE Teacher Education Program at Auburn University and focused on invasion activities.  I saw something during that session that created a spark.  My brain started rolling, and I eventually created this large group activity.  When the students see the scooters placed along the wall and watch me dump the half cones in the center circle, they know they will soon be visiting Treasure Island!

On an interesting side note, I do not get the scooters out until the last PE class in December.  Up until that point, the scooters are stacked in the back of the equipment room.  This withholding of equipment is intentional.  On a day when the students are otherwise wound up and excited, it encourages them to stay on-task if they want to use a scooter (rather than sit in time out).  It also creates excitement at the halfway point of the year because now a new door of large group scooter activities has been opened for the second semester.

What is your favorite large group activity?

I love teaching large group activities.  I think they are a crucial part of a well-rounded physical education curriculum.  Most of the time, I use them as culminating activities at the end of a unit, as a break between units, or on days immediately proceeding/following long weekends/breaks.

When I am selecting or creating large group activities, I look for ones that (in no particular order):

  • Maximize participation and have minimal wait time.
  • Have no end point or prevent time from being wasted while “resetting” equipment.
  • Provide for smooth transitions when taking turns, changing positions, or alternating roles (e.g., offense/defense).
  • Require the students to think resulting in a higher level of student engagement.
  • Call for the students to work with and help one another.
  • Challenge the students to be better by allowing opportunities to both build on successes and learn from mistakes. More importantly, they quickly get another chance to try again.
  • Allow students to engage in healthy competition.
  • Provide an opportunity to apply skills they have recently acquired or review skills they have previously learned.
  • Are fun and exciting.
  • Get their heart rate up.
  • Have multiple rounds.
  • Contain minimal rules.
  • Can be easily replicated during another class.

What criteria do you use when selecting large group activities and deciding if they are appropriate for your class? 

I love creating and learning new large group activities.  I am always trying something out.  A lot of times, I see one that doesn’t quite work for me.  In that case, I tweak it just enough to make it work for my program and my students.  I encourage you to do the same.

Here are a couple more of my favorite large group activities (click on them for a free lesson plan):

Put a Ring on My Finger

Balance the Bagel

Crab Tag

If you are interested in even more of my favorite large group activities, then please check out my eBook (I Teach More Than Gym – Vol. I:  A Collection of Elementary PE Activities).  It contains 30+ complete lesson plans with diagrams.


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Have You Ever Taught Throwing Using Shop Rags?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

Every now and then, you attend a session at a conference that opens your eyes to an entirely new way of approaching skill development. This happened to me several years ago when I attended a session by Jim Rich at the Share the Wealth PE Conference. Jim is an adapted PE teacher from North Carolina, and his session focused on using shop rags to teach throwing and catching.

Yeah, you read that right…shop rags. You can buy these in bulk at various retailers.

shop rag

Jim suggested using shop rags for a couple of reasons. First, when you throw it, the shop rag opens up which causes it to slow down and makes it easier to catch. Second, even when in close proximity to their partner (e.g., 8’-12’), the thrower can perform the full overhand throwing motion. When using a ball or beanbag from this distance, most throwers will automatically modify their throwing technique and perform more of a lob. I also like the idea that you can throw them for distance in a crowded area and not have to worry about injuries.

I took what I learned from Jim, tweaked it, and overhauled our K-2 throwing unit.

As you know, there are several ways to teach the overhand throw. My preferred method uses the cues Side, Arm, Step, and Throw. I like these cues because the concept is transferrable and with a little variance can be used when teaching how to strike with a bat (i.e., Side, Bat, Step, and Swing).

During the first semester, our students participate in a tossing and catching unit. I usually have a throwing, catching, and striking unit during the beginning of the second semester.

At the beginning of this unit, I like to focus on throwing and save catching for another day. Here are some activities that just involve throwing:

Throwing Around the Track: The students spread out around the track (i.e., the area between the basketball and volleyball boundary lines). They are encouraged to wad their shop rag up, throw it as far as they can, move to where it landed, and repeat. I challenge them to see how many throws it takes them to go around the track.

After they begin the activity and I make sure everyone is on task, I stop and explain to them how they can earn the next level. I tell them if I see them using the correct cues, I will tie their shop rag in a knot.


When this occurs, it can be thrown even farther. I then begin to assess each student as they participate. Most are ready and quickly earn the next level. Others need encouraging and corrective feedback coupled with additional practice time. After a few minutes, I can easily identify who still needs help by looking to see whether or not their shop rag is tied in a knot.

Clean Your Room: The gym is divided in half or quarters to make “rooms,” and the students are evenly separated into each room. The students can throw the knotted shop rags from their room into another room. At the end of each round, the team with the cleanest room is the winner.

In the Hoop: My colleague likes to hang hula-hoops on the basketball goals as a target. Each target will have 2-3 lines throwing at the same hoop. We try to limit each line to 3 or less students. Directly underneath each hoop is a tub with some bagels (i.e., sliced pool noodles). When it is your turn, you try to throw the knotted rag through the hoop. If you make it, you get to take a bagel back to your group and make a tower.

After participating in the throwing activities, we review the skill of catching. We begin the catching review using a shop rag that is not tied in a knot.

Self-Toss and Catching:

Can you self-toss and catch the shop rag?

Can you self-toss and catch the shop rag above your head?

Can you self-toss and catch the shop rag on one knee?

Can you self-toss, clap, and then catch the shop rag?

Throw and Catch with a Partner: Each pair should stand about 8’-12’ apart. I have them stand on the corner of a 4-square court. The students can simply throw and catch the shop rag back and forth. Like above, I assess each pair so that those who are throwing and catching correctly can have their shop rag tied in a knot.

Partner Hoop: This activity is very similar to “In the Hoop.” The difference is that partner #1 will throw the shop rag to partner #2 who will catch it, turn, and attempt to throw it in the hoop.

Over the Fence: The students are put into groups of 4 at a 4-square court. Two students stand on opposite corners of the court and are instructed to throw a shop rag back and forth. Meanwhile, the third student stands in the middle with their hands up and acts like a fence that the other two have to pass the object over. The fourth person waits their turn. Everyone should rotate after 4 or so passes.

If you have never used shop rags to teach throwing, I encourage you to give it a try!


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This Is How I Teach 4-Square

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

One of the first units we teach each year is 4-square. I like to begin with this unit of instruction for several reasons. First, it is a great activity that involves basic striking skills, cooperation, and use of strategy. Second, our school has several 4-square courts painted on the playground so it is a great activity the students can participate in during recess. Third, we encourage the students to draw a court at home (with sidewalk chalk) and engage their friends and family in either 2-square or 4-square. Finally, it lays the foundation for how our units of instruction will flow. This introduces our new students and refreshes our returning students to the Student Progression Model of Instruction (SPMI).

A key detail in the SPMI is to define the critical elements and the common mistakes of each step in the progression. This must be done in order to be able to give specific feedback. By taking the time to define the critical elements and common mistakes, you are creating a rubric.   This rubric will play a key role during the actual instruction and skill assessment.

The following is our 4-Square Progression (two-hand, underhand striking with a playground ball) for 2nd-5th grades:

1.  Drop, hit, bounce, catch (DBHC): This is the serve in 4-square. The focus is on the initial hit that is dropped and then hit to a partner who is straight across.

Critical Elements of the DHBC:

  • TSW drop the ball straight down from waist level.
  • TSW step forward with one foot as striking.
  • TSW strike it underhand with two hands (fingers pointing to the floor).
  • TSW make contact with their finger pads [similar hand contact as the basketball dribble (striking the ball upward versus pushing it down)].
  • The ball should move to their partner with a medium level arch.
  • The ball should bounce one time followed by the partner catching it.

Common Mistakes of the DHBC:

  • TSW carry the ball rather than striking it.
  • TSW not take a step.
  • TSW hit the ball with too much or too little force.
  • TSW hit the ball with their hands in the overhand position.
  • TSW strike the ball with only one hand.

2.  Drop, hit, hit, hit, catch (DHHHC): The focus is now on the second and third hits that come from a partner who is straight across. They now have to track the ball, react, and strike it back to their partner. This step purposely has three hits to allow the person who serves it to change each time.

  • Critical Elements of the DHHHC: same as above plus the students should move up/back/sideways (if needed) to strike the ball
  • Common Mistakes of the DHHHC: same as above plus the student standing still and not moving up/back/sideways

3.  Drop, hit, hit… (DHH…): This is a continuous hit. The focus is now on the second, third, and additional hits that come from a partner who is straight across. That is, are the two consistently striking it back and forth (4-6 hits in a row)?

  • Critical Elements and Common Mistakes of the DHH…: same as above

4.  Multiple Partners: The students are placed in groups of 4 on a 4-square court. The focus is now on receiving and striking a ball to and from different angles. There is no mention of rules or boundaries. The students simply focus on how many hits in a row their group can get before it bounces twice.

  • Critical Elements of Striking with Multiple Partners: same as above plus each student can now hit it to different people
  • Common Mistakes of Striking with Multiple Partners: same as above plus not paying attention as the ball may or may not come to them

5.  Modified 4-Square: The focus is now on learning the rules, boundaries, and strategical errors of the activity as well as the basic rotation. I usually introduce one or two rules at a time in order not to bombard them.

I define the rules as, “If you…then your turn is over,” or “If this happens in your square…then your turn is over.”

Rules: If any of the following occur, your turn is over:

  • If you hit it airborne (i.e., way out of bounds)
  • If it bounces twice in your square
  • If you hit it overhand/one-handed
  • If you cause it to hit the center line
  • If it bounces once in your square and you do not hit it

6.  Traditional 4-Square: The focus is now on applying the rules, boundaries, and strategies of the activity.

I prefer to put the students into groups of 5. I have found that requiring one student to momentarily wait a turn helps to keep the entire group on-task. We typically use an 8.5” playground ball (PGB). In our gym, the 4-square courts are 8’ x 8’, and we have 20 of them to accommodate our large classes. Having this many 4-square courts can be useful for other things as well.

Our squares are labeled #1-4 with #4 being the king/queen of the court. The rotation can be confusing to some students. If your turn is over, you then move to the end of the line while the others move up.

Pro-Tip: I remind the students to only rotate if there is a square open in front of them. For instance, if the student in square #3 makes a mistake, they go to the end of the line while #4 stays put, #2 moves up to square #3, #1 moves up to square #2, and the next person in line enters to square #1.

screen shot 2019-01-20 at 1.45.36 pm

The initial steps of this progression (#1 DHBC & #2 DHHHC) may be introduced in 2nd grade as a challenge with the latter steps being further developed when the students reach 4th and 5th grade. Items #5 & #6 in the progression are skill dependent. That is, we may or may not progress to them with the 3rd graders. It all depends on their skill level. Since I do not have much turnover of students from year to year, the 5th graders may begin at step #4. If so, I check with any new students to make sure they have steps #1-3 under control.

To add some variety, I sometimes allow the students to use a 5” PGB, a 24” ball, or to play on their knees.

If the class has a good grasp on the skills, rules, and strategies, we extend the learning through activities like Aerobic Striking and a 4-Square Tournament.

Aerobic Striking (DHH… with a team):

  • Variation A (Continuous Striking): Each 4-square court should have 5 students. A group of 3 (in a line) should be at one corner while a group of 2 (in a line) should be at the opposite corner. The goal is for the two corner groups to work together to execute the DHH… for as long as possible. The group of 3 starts with the ball and begins the DHH… sequence. As soon as the first person hits the ball, they should rotate to the end of their line. The first person in the group of 2 then strikes the ball back and rotates to the end of their line. This back and forth striking continues until a mistake is made.
  • Variation B (Switching Sides): Same as above; however, as soon as each person hits the ball, they should rotate to the end of the OPPOSITE line.

4-Square Tournament: The gym is divided into 3 levels with all students beginning at level 1.

  • Level 1 – If you serve the ball 3 times in a row, you get to move to level 2.
  • Level 2 – If you serve the ball 2 times in a row, you get to move to level 3. If you get out 2 times, you move back down to level 1.
  • Level 3 – If you serve the ball 2 times in a row, you get 1 bagel (a sliced pool noodle) and start all over. If you get out 2 times, you move back down to level 2.

I thoroughly enjoy teaching this unit and interacting with the students as they participate.


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How Does My Clipboard Help Me Stay Organized?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

I would be lost without my clipboard. It acts as my administrative assistant to keep me organized from day to day, class to class, and during each PE class.

I have previously shared that I team-teach and that our school has large classes (50-75 students). Structure is essential to our success. Our class routine has five distinct parts: entering the gym, a fitness section, a health tip, standards-based physical education instruction, and exiting the gym.

The Clipboard

Here it is. Nothing fancy. It dates back to the 1900’s. It looks like a stack of papers; however, each one has a role to help me become a successful PE teacher.


The SPS’s

The top sheets are the skill progression sheets (SPS’s).

I print one off for each class. I use the SPS’s to guide my daily instruction and mark off items as they are taught. As the next class enters, I move the top SPS to the bottom of the SPS stack. The current class is then the one on top. I can quickly scan to see where we left off and know where we are going.

My school uses a 6-day specials schedule. Since we have PE every other day, I do not have to keep up with what letter day it is. When I return to school the next day, after a weekend, or after an extended break, I can pick up my clipboard to see which is on top and know which class will soon be entering the gym.

The Paper Plate

If you look under the stack of SPS’s, you will see a paper plate sticking out. The current plate has been in service for several years and is fairly tattered (it might need to be replaced fairly soon).

Paper Plate Arrow

I can grasp it, flip the stack up, and reveal the sheet where I keep track of what fitness activities we have completed and which one is next. This sheet allows me to track the fitness activities all year.

Fitness Plan

The Sheet Protector

When we gather for the health tip, I can grab the sheet protector, flip up the stack, and reveal the list of health tips.

Sheet Protector Arrow

Health Tips









This list is also used all year (it is front and back).

Inside the sheet protector is where I keep a list of best practices and other helpful hints that I might need to refer back to.

The Schedule

Some years, I will affix a daily schedule to the back of the clipboard to help keep me on track.

The 3-Tiered Cart

I rarely carry the clipboard with me. I keep it on a black 3-tiered cart. This cart acts like my podium. I can set the clipboard down while teaching and roll the cart around as needed. It sounds silly, but it is nice to have something to set it on where it can be left. I can then come back to it for a quick reference at any point. It is much better than setting it on the floor.


Our library had some extra carts one year so we were able to get one. You may consider asking around in your building or searching at the district warehouse for one.

Most of the time, my clipboard stays on the cart to allow me to regularly reference the SPS’s during class. However, on large group activity days, I sometimes leave the clipboard on the edge of the stage after the health tip.

As we clean up during the last class of the day, a couple of students have the job of grabbing the iPod and my clipboard, placing them on the cart, and then rolling the cart over to my office. It will then be stored for the evening and ready for the next day.

My clipboard keeps me organized and makes me a better teacher.


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Why Is Writing a Yearly Plan Helpful?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

A yearly plan is the road map to help you achieve your teaching goal as well as to meet the national and state PE standards. Without a map, you are likely to aimlessly wander. When you wander with your teaching, you drift towards teaching whatever is easy, convenient, and fun. As a result, you more than likely focus on the skills you enjoy and avoid the ones you loathe.

Developing individuals who have the confidence to be active throughout their life requires us to teach them a broad array of skills. As a result, when they see those activities at the park, in the neighborhood, or at recess, they have the confidence to say, “Hey, I can try that because I learned it in PE class!”

Teaching from a yearly plan that is standards-based is a professional practice that is challenging.   It requires discipline. It requires you to stay focused on the big picture (your teaching goal) while taking all of the necessary steps to meet the standards.

Years ago, I learned about a planning process called backwards design. That is, you start at the end point and design a plan to get there. I previously shared how I use this process to design our skill progression sheets (i.e., unit plans). LINK

When creating a yearly plan, you can do the same. Start at the end, organize all the pieces of the puzzle, and then mend them all together.

A yearly plan is simply sequencing your unit plans into an order. The complexity of each unit plan is determined by how many PE days you plan to spend within that unit.

Here some things to consider as you create your yearly plan:

  • Standards

The end goal has been scripted within your teaching goal and laid out in the national and state PE standards. In fact, the SHAPE America Grade Level Outcomes (GLO’s) explicitly detail what a child at each grade level should be able to accomplish. Thankfully, my state PE standards mirror the GLO’s.

  • District Documents

Does your district have a physical education curriculum map? If so, these documents can be helpful when creating a yearly plan. You may also be able to find some online that other districts, PE organizations, and/or PE consultants have created.

  • Spreadsheet

I use a spreadsheet so I can easily see the entire year. It takes about 4-5 pages to see the entire year. You may prefer to use an actual calendar. Here is a sample of a few weeks.

Yearly Plan Blank

  • District & School Calendar

I begin by using the district and school calendar to identify all of the known holidays and school-wide disruptions (i.e., picture day, science fair, career day, staff developments, state testing, fundraiser kick-off, school musical, etc.). If I don’t know the exact date, I use last year’s date as a placeholder so I know to plan around it.

  • State PE Conference

Thankfully, I am able to attend our annual state PE conference. I make sure to schedule around these professional development days because they provide me with a wealth of knowledge and excitement to return to my gymnasium. As a result, I purposely reserve the next couple of days after returning from a conference as “New Activity” days for me to try some of the things I learned.

  • Frequency of PE

If you see your students daily, every other day, every third day, or once a week, you need to know how many opportunities you will have to instruct your students.

A PE teacher who sees their students:

  • daily, will see each class around 180 times in a year.
  • every other day, will see each class around 90 times in a year.
  • every third day, will see each class around 60 times in a year.
  • once a week, will see each class around 36 times in a year.

I see my students every other day so it takes me 2 calendar days to see the entire grade level.   As a result, a 3-day PE unit will take me 6 calendar days to teach.

  • Teacher’s Choice

I insert a “Teacher’s Choice” day immediately after long breaks and in between units. These days allow me to extend any unit if needed, try new activities, or to allow the students to participate in large-group activities. Since it takes me two days to see everyone, I usually schedule these choice days in pairs.

  • Units of Instruction

What units do you need to include based on the skills outlined in the standards? I would suggest listing out all of the units. You can then estimate how many PE days you need to cover each one.

  • Weather

Do any of the units need to be outside? If so, they need to be planned during the non-freezing months. Will the temperature or dew on the grass affect your instruction?

  • Equipment

Do you have the right equipment to teach a specific unit? If not, can you fundraise to purchase it? Would a neighboring school let you borrow the equipment? Are there any units that need to be paired together? For example, I pair a K-2nd striking unit with my 3rd-5th volleyball unit because they both start with balloons.

  • Variety

To prevent myself from getting bored, I try not to teach the same unit all day. However, that plan does not always work out. I usually divide our units by K-2nd & 3rd-5th or K-1st, 2nd-3rd, & 4th-5th. Therefore, I may be teaching basketball skills to K-2nd while teaching striking skills (e.g., ping-pong) to 3rd-5th.

  • Snow Days

I typically plan a week of “Teacher’s Choice” days in late February. This allows me the flexibility to push units around in the event of snow days. If we do not use the snow days, I then have a week to be creative!

  • Plug Them In

From here, simply plug in the units based on the number of PE days you think you will need to complete each unit. For instance, I need 5-6 PE days to complete our 3rd-5th grade basketball unit which includes ball handling, dribbling, passing, pivoting, shooting, offense/defense, and basic 3v3 with slow motion buttons. This comes out to 10-12 calendar days.

  • Other Special Considerations

Do you want to teach part of a unit during the first semester and revisit it during the second semester?

Do you share your gym with before- and/or after-school groups?

Do you insert some “Review Days” to revisit skills that were taught early in the semester or year?

Is there anything else that may affect your instruction that you need to consider when planning out your year?

  • Evaluation

I would encourage you to keep a running list of notes/ideas as you navigate your yearly plan. At the end of the year, you can review those notes/ideas in order to make adjustments for next year. Do you need to adjust the time of year a unit is taught, purchase new equipment to better support a unit, or lengthen/shorten a unit?

I truly believe taking the time to create a yearly plan will help guide you as you strive to attain your teaching goal and meet the PE standards.

Yearly Plan Sample



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Can the Right Music Make Striking Balloons Almost Magical?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

If you give a student a balloon, they will most likely smile and begin tapping it upwards. Balloons are a great resource since they are relatively inexpensive and can be used in a variety of ways.

Are you familiar with the scene in the movie Forrest Gump when the piano plays and the feather floats through the air? Each year, I attempt to create a similar scene in our gym using balloons. Imagine 50 five year olds slowly walking around and gently striking a balloon upward. When everything works out, it is one of the most peaceful and magical things that happen within the four walls of our gym.


Since balloons are so lightweight, they almost float. This provides added reaction time for the student who is working on continuously striking an object.

With most skill progressions, I group K-2nd grades together. These progressions are simple lists of tasks, challenges, and activities. At my school, we have developed a Skill Progression Sheet (SPS) for each unit we teach. The kindergartners progress through the SPS slowly. In contrast, the 2nd graders move quicker, complete more tasks, and may even skip a couple of the steps. Prior to class, I inflate and place the balloons in multiple tubs around the gym.

I demonstrate and explain how to take care of and hold the balloon gently (i.e., don’t squeeze the balloon). I then start the music “Forrest Gump Suite.” It is 8 minutes long; however, you may need to put it on repeat mode.

I then ask the students to respectfully retrieve a balloon, return to their spot, and gently hold it. Sometimes, I have one student model how to accomplish this sequence. (Note: In our gym, each student has an assigned spot we regularly use for fitness, skills practice, and line-up).

Task #1 – Gently Striking a Balloon While Kneeling

The first task is explained and demonstrated. If they lose control, they are instructed to simply retrieve their balloon, return to their spot, and start again. I then phrase the task  in the form of a question and then they can begin. Can you gently strike a balloon back and forth using your hands while kneeling?

After 60 or so seconds, I ask them to hold the balloon while I explain the assessment. (Note: I have found that the assessment becomes the motivator in this situation.) If I see them doing 3 or more gentle strikes under control (demonstrate if needed), I will give each one a thumbs up and let them attempt the next task (i.e., standing while striking).

Task #2 – Gently Striking a Balloon While Standing

After receiving a thumbs up, each student will continuously strike a balloon back and forth using their hands while standing in a stationary position. They should attempt to strike it as many times as possible while keeping one foot “glued” to their spot. If they have to move both feet, they should simply retrieve their balloon, return to their spot, and start again.

Once all of the students have been individually progressed, I stop and explain the next assessment. If I see them doing 3 or more gentle strikes under control (demonstrate if needed), I will give each one a thumbs up and let them attempt the next task (i.e., striking while moving in general space). If necessary, I remind the students about the common mistakes and provide them with an example of how their striking should look if they want to be progressed to the next level. (Common Mistakes: do not hit it upwards or too hard.)

Task #3 – Gently Striking a Balloon While Moving in General Space

After receiving a thumbs up, each student will continuously strike a balloon while moving in general space. Each student is reminded that the expectation is to walk and gently strike their balloon upward. If they are striking too hard or moving too fast, they are not in control and may have to go back to their spot.

After a few moments of striking the balloon while moving in general space, I share the next challenge. I usually phrase these as questions. I do not stop the activity; I just pose the challenge and watch! After 2 or so minutes, I share the next one and so on.

Striking challenges:

  • Can you continuously strike a balloon with one hand (i.e., the other hand is placed behind their back)?
  • Can you continuously strike a balloon with one finger?
  • Can you continuously strike a balloon using at least three different body parts (i.e., create a pattern)?
  • Can you toss the balloon upward, strike it with your head, and then catch it?

At this point, the magic has run its course. During the rest of the class and in the coming days, we move on to practice striking with a partner, multiples partners (i.e., groups of 4), and using implements (i.e., a ping-pong paddle or half of a pool noodle).

**Note: Check to make sure none of your students have latex allergies**

Pro-Tip #1 – Purchase helium quality balloons as they stay inflated longer.

Pro-Tip #2 – Pair this striking unit with your volleyball unit since they both use balloons.

Pro-Tip #3 – Use a pair of scissors to gently cut the balloons while they are in the tubs. Once you are done, you can scoop out the balloon pieces from the bottom and throw them away.

#PhysEdHack – (Inflating Balloons) – When inflating balloons, I use an air pump (one used to inflate pool toys and air mattresses). You may have to stretch some of the balloons to get them to inflate (pic).

#PhysEdHack – (Storing Balloons) – I like to put them in large tubs so they can be easily retrieved by the students. However, the wind from the kids moving about the gym tends to blow some of the balloons around. You can simply lay something on top of the tubs to keep the balloons contained (e.g., an empty bag).



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Why Is the Beginning of the Year so Important?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

Each year, I am eager yet anxious to start each PE class. I can’t wait for the doors to open and see the smiling faces as the students enter the gym and start skipping. I am excited to see how much we can cover within each lesson and how far we can go with each unit. I always find it fun and exciting to discover the personality of each class. Will they be rule followers, or will they push the boundaries? Will I be able to step back and give them more freedom, or will I have to “keep my thumb on them?”

I am fortunate to see our students every other day for 40 minutes. Additionally, my school is not very transient which equates to us keeping about 85% of our population from year to year. This means that on day number one, most of the students already know the routines. Those who are new, follow along pretty well.

I hope you know I am only talking about 1st-5th grade. Kindergarten is an entirely different story! I will talk more about them at the end of this post.

The beginning of the year is your chance to set the tone for the rest of the year. It is your chance to outline the procedures and routines that will help your class run smoothly. It is your opportunity to set the expectations for student behavior. To me, the first couple of PE classes are the most important ones of the year!

Here is what works for us at my school:

PE Class #1

During the opening 3-4 minutes of the first class, I have two goals. First, let them come in moving (i.e., skipping) around our “track.” Second, let them socialize. Since I team-teach, we have 3 classrooms combined for one large PE class of 60-75 students. If you watch, you can see their faces light up as they see an old classmate for the first time in 2 months. I purposely give them a chance to chat as they move around the gym. That is important! I want the first impression of PE to be about movement and socialization. After all, isn’t that what we want our kids to do for the rest of their lives?

After 4 or so minutes, we get down to business, and I pull out the whistle.

The Whistle

Some folks frown on it; however, I find the whistle to be a highly effective stop signal since we have upwards of 60-75 kids in the gym at a time. I almost always have music playing, which along with the student voices and sounds from the equipment can be quite loud.

A simple “toot” of the whistle is the stop signal. If the music is playing, I try to stop it simultaneously. When the whistle is heard, the expectation is for everyone to “Stop & Drop.” That is, they stop whatever they are doing, sit down, hold their equipment (or set it on the floor), stop talking, and look at me.

I expect this to be completed within 3 seconds. If it takes longer than 3 seconds, we immediately practice until we get it right. I pair the expectation with the following explanation:

We only have 40 minutes together. The amount of movement you get is dependent on your choices and your behavior.   The quicker you “Stop & Drop” equals the quicker I can talk. The quicker I get to talking and the better you listen equals the faster you can get back to moving.

This is how I begin to build mutual respect with the students. I remind them that we have a mutual goal (movement) and that they play a major role in achieving that goal.

After meeting the “Stop & Drop” expectation (whether on the first or third time), I introduce all of the PE teachers. I then allow them to start moving and skipping again.

I allow them to do some interval jogging. The boys walk around the perimeter of the gym while the girls jog on the “track.” I switch them every 30 seconds for about 3 or so minutes.   After walking to cool down, they execute a crab walk to engage their shoulder muscles. We then gather at the stage to sit and chat.

The Beginning Routine

I explain how they will enter every single class. They will skip, interval jog, crab walk, participate in an instant fitness activity, and gather for a daily health tip. Please refer to the following previous article for more details: How Does Your #PhysEd Class Begin?

I also tell them what I hope for us to cover that day and that I plan to end with an instant activity. However, I remind them that the amount of time they get for that activity is dependent on how well they listen and follow directions. Every time we have to stop for poor behavior takes time away from their movement time.

The Paw Prints & Ending Routine

After the first health tip, we assign their paw prints (floor spots). These are their assigned seats in PE. We use them during some fitness activities, individual/partner practice, and during our line-up procedure. After assigning their spots, we practice the line-up procedure. Please refer to the following previous article for more details: How Do Your Students Exit the Gym?

After successfully practicing the line-up routine, we gather back by the stage to discuss all of the rules, expectations, and consequences with the students. Please note, we also send a letter home to the families that introduce our program and details the same information.  P.E.Parent.Letter

The Rules

The rules fall into three categories.


  • Keep your hands, feet, and objects to yourself
  • Do not horseplay or slide on the floor
  • Do not leave assigned area without permission


  • Show respect and listen during instruction
  • Take care of the equipment
  • Leave the gym in a quiet and orderly manner
  • Keep inappropriate and unkind words to yourself


  • Follow all rules and directions for each activity

NOTE: Other inappropriate behavior will be discussed and disciplined as needed.

The Expectations

  • Exhibit Sango P.R.I.D.E. (Positivity, Respect, Integrity, Determination, & Excellence)
  • Wear gym shoes
  • Have a great attitude
  • Do your best

The Consequences

If a student chooses to disobey the rules, the following disciplinary action will be taken:

  • 1st OFFENSE – Verbal Warning (given to an individual or the entire class) &/or Time-Out
  • 2nd OFFENSE – Extended Time-Out
  • 3rd OFFENSE – Prolonged Time-Out & move a clip down

After doing all of the above, the 3rd-5th graders usually have about 8-10 minutes left in class. Therefore, we end class with some type of instant activity just like we started with skipping. I want the last impression of the first class to be movement! The lower grades (1st-2nd) may only have 5 minutes left so they participate in a freeze activity. When the music is on they can move, and when it stops they have to freeze like a statue. 

PE Class #2

We follow our same beginning routine. We then go over our safety drills.

The Drills

As shared in the How Do Your Students Exit the Gym? article, our line-up procedure is very orderly. At the end of each PE class, the students end up in classroom lines right in front of the exit door. For consistency, they urgently move to these same classroom lines during our fire and tornado drills. After arriving in these lines, we exit the gym and proceed outside (fire drill) or into the hallway (tornado drill). Our lockdown drill is a little different.

The Other Stuff

We cover anything else we did not get to on day #1 (i.e, bathrooms, space awareness, etc.).

The First Large Group Activity of the Year

After completing everything on our PE orientation checklist, the students get to participate in their first large group activity of the year. I usually select one that is simple, familiar, and takes very little equipment.

When this is all said and done, we are ready to start the next class with the first unit of the year – Line Dancing!


Our kindergarten (K) students only come once a week for the first week. This enables each K classroom teacher to work in small groups (i.e., only 5 students per day). On that day, they help the students become acquainted with the school, and they use that time to assess each child. During this first week, each K teacher combines their small groups to come to PE for about 10-15 minutes. During this time, we walk around the gym, introduce ourselves, and practice finding a few floor markings. The sixth full day of school is the first day that all of the K students come! Having 45-60 K students on the first day is a site to behold! Starting on that day, we teach everything we outlined above; however, we go MUCH slower and spread it out over a few PE classes. We introduce a little bit more each day coupled with simple opportunities to move.

How do you begin your year?

Do you establish procedures and routines to help the rest of the year run smoothly?

Do you set high expectations for student behavior?

How do you begin to build mutual respect with your students?


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