Back-to-School Icebreakers and Team Building Activities
The first day of school is right around the corner! Maria Corte shares her Top 5 icebreakers and team building activities for the first week of school! Check them out below!
Ice breaker activities are a great way for students’ to connect with their classmates and teachers upon returning to school. The first few days of school many students are unsure about the class and their relationships with other classmates. Creating a warm and friendly climate for your class is essential for your student’s success as well as the success of your program. Making your class inviting and comfortable will not only give your students the confidence to perform well, it will also make you more familiar with your students to decrease any potential management issues. The following are my top favorite activities that help me, as a teacher learn all the amazing personalities I’ll have the pleasure of working with all semester.
Rock Paper Scissors Tournament
Students pair up and throw R, P, S shoot. The winner finds another winner, while the defeated student now cheers on the person that defeated them. This goes on until there are only two students left in the tournament. Now you have half the class cheering for their “guy” and the other half of the class cheering for their “guy”. It’s loud, it’s fun and it never fails!
Hint: When you get to the last two remaining students, the winner is now the best 2 out of 3.
Instruct your students to find other students with the same common interests or likes. The first common interest I use is their favorite COLOR. Next, MONTH they were born and finally FRESHMAN, SOPHOMORE, JUNIOR OR SENIOR. Once they have their group, they sit down in a circle and go around stating their name and grade. (When doing the birth month, have them state their name and the DAY they were born)
Hint: This activity allows the teacher to immediately identify students who will be leaders, followers, loud, shy, etc…
Have students find a partner and decide who chases who. Once the music starts, the student who is chasing will spin around three times before finding and catching their partner. Once they catch or tag their partner, they reverse roles and the chaser now gets chased.
Next, have the partners’ pair up again, but this time link arms. They will now pair up with another group of two linked partners, making it 2 on 2. They repeat the above process, but must stay linked with their partner, even on the beginning spinning part.
Next, have the linked partners link arms with the linked partner(s) they were chasing making it 4 on 4. They repeat the above process, but this time the chasers will only spin once.
Team Juggling Name Game
Now that you have groups of 8 from the above Partner Tag game, have them get in a circle (standing) and give each group 3 tennis balls. They will number off from 1-8 consecutively. Now have the #1 student take one tennis ball and toss it to #2 student while saying their name and their #. For example, Joey who is # 1 will say “Joey 1” before throwing it to the #2 student. This will continue until the ball gets back to #1 student. Now have the students mix up in the circle and stand next to two different people. Start with student #1 again and have them toss the ball consecutively. Add another ball and then a third ball to make it more challenging.
What Do I Do Now?
Are you looking to spice up your PE lessons? Do you see some of your students standing around with the “what do I do now” look on their face? If you answered yes to these questions, then circuit training is right for you.
What exactly is circuit training?
- “An intensive form of fitness training in which a group of exercises are completed one after the other. Each exercise is performed for a specified number of repetitions or for a prescribed time before you move on to the next exercise.” (Oxford Food and Fitness Dictionary)
What are the benefits of curcuit training?
- Develop overall body strength and aerobic fitness
- Enables you to have many different activities going on concurrently
- Allows all students to work at their own levels
- Allows all students to achieve success
- Students get a lot done in a little amount of time with a lot of people
- Eliminate any standing around and looking around
Here are some tips:
- Circuit training usually works best if they are set up along the perimeter of the available space which will help with the rotation
- Choose activities or skills students have previously worked on or that is done regularly
- Set up stations prior to class arrival
- Divide students evenly between stations
- Ensure that there is enough equipment for everyone in each station
- Place signs with words and pictures of each activity for each station
- Demonstrate the activities at each station prior to students starting
- Play upbeat music to keep students engaged
- Have fun
Students will start the activity at their station upon a signal from the teacher. The teacher could either say the word go, blow a whistle, or start music. After 30 – 60 seconds of performing the exercise at their station, teacher signals for students to rotate to next station. Continue this format until students have completed all the stations within the circuit.
To make the station a bit more challenging students can write down the number of completed reps of each exercise on an index card. The next time they do the circuit they will try to beat their previous score.
Anyone can develop a circuit. It takes a little bit of time, a little bit of space, and a little bit of equipment. Circuit training is something your students can do at home with family and friends. They will learn skills that will help them lead a healthy lifestyle. Most importantly, they will have fun!
Circuit training example #1 – without equipment
- Mountain climbers
- Curl ups
- Jumping jacks
- Push ups
- Jog in place
- Triceps dips
- Side to side ski jumps
Circuit training example #2 – with equipment
- Jump rope
- Bicycle crunches
- Hula hoops
- Hip raise
- Basketball shooting
- Touch the shoulder push ups
- Ring toss
- Aerobic steps
Kid + Ball = Play
Developing Physical Literacy Through Small Sided Games
Our son and his community rep Under 12 soccer team were asked to be ball people at the University National Men’s Soccer Championship last fall, hosted at the University of Toronto. The boys assumed their roles with excitement and awe as they stood by the sidelines with a soccer ball in hand; ready to throw into the play when indicated by the referee.
Driving home I asked my son, “how did you like that experience?” He was quick to answer that they were all told not to fidget or play with the soccer ball on the sideline and to be ready at all times. He then added, mom, doesn't that person know that “Kid + Ball = Play!” As a former physical education teacher and now educator involved in Physical Education Teacher Education, I smiled and thought to myself… what a tag line to aspire to… providing all children and youth with the competence and confidence to move their bodies, have fun and keep active!
In a time when our children and youth are living very sedentary lives, when play is almost becoming extinct and sport is becoming very specialized at an early age and less accessible to many, it begs the question; what is the role and purpose of Physical Education in schools and communities in the 21st century?
As a course instructor of pedagogy for Health and Physical Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University in Toronto, I challenge my beginning teachers with this very question as they engage in teaching and learning experiences that will contribute to their understandings as teachers. Two very influential bodies of research and practice are the notion of physical literacy and curriculum model, Teaching Games for Understanding.
Physical and Health Education (PHE) Canada defines physical literacy as,
“Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person
- Physically literate individuals consistently develop the motivation and ability to understand, communicate, apply, and analyze different forms of movement.
- They are able to demonstrate a variety of movements confidently, competently, creatively and strategically across a wide range of health-related physical activities.
- These skills enable individuals to make healthy, active choices that are both beneficial to and respectful of their whole self, others, and their environment.” (Mandigo, J., Francis, N., Lodewyk, K. & Lopez, R. 2009).
Think about your physical literacy journey from birth to present. Think about the number of fundamental movement skills such as running, jumping, skipping, throwing, swimming that you have acquired or you wish your students to acquire in your PE programs. Think about the experiences that contributed to your motivation to move or your confidence to move. Now think about what that will look like in your PE programming to develop physical literacy for all your students.
This leads to how to develop physical literacy through small-sided games. The curriculum model, Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU) simply put, allows students to understand the why before the how – game tactics before skill.
TGFU a strategic games-based approach, which emphasizes students’ understanding of and performance in the many tactical aspects of game play, was first proposed by Bunker and Thorpe in the early 1980’s as an alternative to traditional, technique–led approaches to games teaching and learning. Over the past decade, TGFU has acquired great momentum in Canada as an effective game pedagogy and is embedded in our PE curriculum documents.
TGFU is a comprehensive, student-centered approach to help students acquire the knowledge of game strategies, movement skills, decision-making skills and team building skills through small-sided games (4 vs. 4, 3 vs. 3). Students become more independent thinkers and less reliable on their PE teacher or coach to make decisions in game play situations. The use of novelty type equipment such as a rubber chicken allows for the learning to focus on tactics first and then skill development follows.
Through small-sided strategic games students develop their competence and confidence to play, have fun and are more active. Wouldn’t it be great if all kids who saw a ball wanted to play?!
For some more information about physical literacy or TGFU check out some of my 'go-to' resources that I share with beginning teachers:
- Video Link that describes the connection between physical literacy and physical education
- Great TGFU website with tons of small sided games
(Note it is under construction right now but some supports still available)
- Game On: Ready to Play, Physical Literacy Resource for Elementary Schools
- Beyond the Fundamentals – A Games Approach Resource
SHAPE America and the Importance of Professionalism
As you probably know, this year’s biggest professional event was the national AAHPERD convention in St. Louis. Any kind of convention or professional meeting is something I eagerly anticipate and get on my schedule. It's not so much the presentations or formal meetings I look forward to - although for the most part these are fun – but the people I get to meet. Turns out the more I go, the bigger my group of professional friends develops. And chatting with people about what they're doing professionally (and sometimes personally) is really the best part. It gets you recharged and reenergized and more often than not gives you something new to try when you return home. In honesty, I don't get how so many physical and health education teachers never go to professional events; in fact intentionally choose to avoid them. How do they keep inspired? How do they keep up with what's new? And how do they truly serve the best interests of the students they teach?
I understand being professionally involved can be expensive. But I also know that it can be done because every year I see the same teaching colleagues from around the country negotiate ways to get their school districts or universities to help fund them. Seems that where there is a will there really is a way. And not surprisingly these same people are the ones who are most active professionally, making presentations, advocating, and generally inspiring their colleagues and the public by what they do in their classrooms.
Now, I'm not suggesting that good things are not happening in the classrooms and gyms of the thousands of teaching colleagues who choose not to be professionally involved, but I do find it shortsighted. Every month on pelinks4u we report news from around the nation of PE and health program and position reductions and cuts. In too many places we just “don't get no respect.” Unfortunately, we have to ask ourselves, "Why should others respect what we do if we don’t bother to share the good news?" It's one thing for us to know that our students are learning a lot from our teaching, and an entirely different (and often false) thing to assume that others know about it. It's like a business creating a great product and not advertising. You can imagine the consequences. But this explains why it's so important for all health and physical educators to get professionally involved in addition to teaching well.
We may not need to teach the world to sing but we sure do need to promote ourselves and our profession. This involves public relations and marketing in our schools and supporting our state and national professional associations. If you've never been to your state legislature or Capitol Hill, here's what happens. Each and every day a procession of lobbyists and special interest advocates stops by the offices of your elected legislators. They try to persuade these key decision-makers to support their interests. And of course the more often legislators hear the same message the more they listen. What does this mean for you and me? Simply stated it means that if we don't have a seat at the table we find ourselves on the menu! No champions to defend us or support what we do. It becomes a self-fulfilling behavior and explains the perennial struggle we face for professional respect.
So, in conclusion, if you aren't already a member of SHAPE-America (the new name for AAHPERD/NASPE), or your state professional association I encourage you for your own self-interest to join both. These are the groups who do their best to represent us in our states and capital. They try to do what most of us don't have time or expertise to do. But they need your support. There's a reason that AARP, the NRA, and others wield such power: Membership. Size does make a difference when it comes to influence. Sadly, less than 10% of the people presently teaching health and physical education belong to AAHPERD or their state professional association. Maybe you are one of them? If you think about it, the cost is trivial in comparison to what it would mean to you, your family, and your colleagues to lose our jobs. For us to move forward successfully into the 21st century we all need to be TEAM supporters. Please join us. Together we can do great things.
Getting Parents Involved in Physical Education
A common obstacle teachers face when starting a new school year is how to get parents involved in Physical Education. Check out a few of Aaron Beighle's ideas for how to involve parents in PE below!
As a young teacher with no children of my own, I was scared to death of parents. Parent-teacher conferences, writing report card comments, visits to class, saying, “Hello” in the car pool line….all frightening duties. I didn’t know what to say or how to relate to them…people with kids were sooo old and unapproachable. Boy howdy was I wrong. The one thing I learned is that to truly impact the lives of students and teach them, parents were my best ally. I had to get them involved. Since that time, I have had the opportunity to work alongside, observe, and collaborate with some incredibly creative, energetic physical educators. For this blog, I will share just a few of the ideas I have garnered (aka stolen) to get parents involved in physical education. It is important to note that these activities can all be advertised via a physical education newsletter.
PE Nights/Demonstration Nights--
PE nights and Demonstration nights are very similar. The goal is to get parents into the gymnasium to showcase what is happening in physical education. For PE night, parents and students participate in a physical education “lesson” together. For a demonstration night, parents observe and often participate in a fun culminating game or activity. Again, this is a time to showcase the fun activities students engage in during physical education and to educate parents about your physical education program. Common feedback from parents goes something like this, “PE wasn’t like this when I was a kid.”
Active Open House--
Most schools have an Open House at the beginning of the year. What better way to promote PE? One strategy is to loan pedometers to parents to wear while at the Open House. When parents return the pedometers, provide them with an informational flier explaining the importance of physical activity and physical education. We used to include dinner table questions for families to discuss. Also during Open House, steering parents to the gymnasium to engage in activity stations works well. Stations tend to work better than a game. Getting into a game midstream can be uncomfortable for some parents. Stations allow them to work in. Also, stations allow the PE teacher to circulate and meet parents.
I promote the use of Fitness Self-Testing for a variety of reasons. It allows teachers to communicate with parents, explain the terms “physical activity” and “physical fitness,” and assess relevant PE content knowledge. Morgan and Morgan (2005) provide an in-depth discussion of how to implement fitness self-testing. Once complete, teachers can send home information about the importance of regular physical activity, the role of physical fitness in youth and explain the role of fitness in physical education. This holds true for other assessments as well. I think any time we can reach out to parents with thoughtful fliers, newsletters, and feedback to promote our programs we should do it.
Parents are a great ally in our efforts to promote youth physical activity. Above I have provided just a few ideas to get them involved and to educate them about physical education. Other ideas include recruiting parents to volunteer at field day or charity events or to just have them visit a physical education lesson and participate with their children. These strategies allow us to promote physical education during school and outside of school with the adults who are most influential in the lives of youth.
Kids Are Not Little Adults
K-2 students have short legs in relation to their upper body and head that causes them to have a high center of gravity and make them “top-heavy.” This helps explain why these students fall often and have little success when trying to perform activities such as push-ups and sit-ups. Growth gradually lowers the center of gravity and gives children increased stability and balance. However, it is important to understand how normal growth and development limits student success in many physical activities.
In the elementary school years, muscular strength increases linearly with chronological age. In other words, as children grow older they become stronger. Pre-adolescent children show few strength differences between the sexes. Boys and girls generally perform similarly in strength activities such as push-ups and sit-ups. In the past, teachers have accepted lower performances from girls even though they are capable of more. Expectations should be similar for elementary school boys and girls.
Strength differences do occur among children of widely differing weight and height, regardless of sex. Differences in weight and height should be considered when pairing children for competitive activities such as running together, physical contact, or games that require strength. Problems occur when a student is paired with someone who is considerably taller, heavier or more mature and therefore stronger. When matching students for safety reasons, remember that weight and stature are much more important than the gender of the students.
Strength is an important factor for success in performing motor skills. A study that weighted factors that contribute to the motor performance of children showed that strength or power or both in relation to body size was the most important. High levels of strength in relation to body size (relative strength) helped predict which students were most capable of performing motor skills. The amount of body fat was the fourth-ranked factor in the study and was weighted negatively meaning overweight children were less proficient at learning and performing motor skills. Body fat acts negatively on motor performance by reducing a child’s strength in relation to their body size. Overweight children may be stronger than normal-weight children in absolute terms, but they are less strong when strength is adjusted for body weight. This lack of relative strength makes it more difficult to perform a strength-related task (e.g., push-up or curl-up) compared to normal-weight children. The key point is that overweight youth deserve special consideration to keep them “turned on” to physical activity. Have different expectations for children rather than giving an entire class the same physical challenge.
Teachers have long understood and discussed differences in maturity among students. Youngsters are often referred to as being immature or more mature than other students; but this is usually in reference to the emotional maturity of youngsters. Another type of maturity, skeletal or physical maturity has a strong impact on student performance in physical activities. The method used to identify physical maturity is to compare chronological age to skeletal age. Ossification (hardening) of the bones occurs in the center of the bone shaft and at the ends of the long bones (growth plates). This rate of ossification gives an accurate indication of a child’s maturation and is identified by X-raying the wrist bones and comparing the development of the subject’s bones with a set of standardized X rays. This offers a more accurate indication of a child’s physical maturity. Children whose chronological age is ahead of skeletal age are said to be late (or slow) maturers. On the other hand, if skeletal age is ahead of chronological age, such children are labeled early (fast) maturers.
Studies examining skeletal age consistently show that a five- to six-year variation in maturity exists among youngsters in a typical classroom. For example, third graders (8 year olds) will range in skeletal age from 5 to 11 years. It would be inappropriate to ask a 5-year-old child to perform tasks that 11-year-olds are expected to accomplish. The message here is that even though students in a classroom are about the same age, there are large individual differences in maturity. Monitor and adjust program activities to allow students to progress at a rate suitable to their level of maturity.
Yard Games Fitness Fun in Physical Education
Considering implementing a Yard Game unit this year? Check out these five great tips from Jessica Shawley, 2012 National NASPE Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year!
A game of horseshoes at my school isn’t your typical experience. I’ve added new twists to traditional yard games to foster creativity and add an element of fitness. Yard games offer a different level of socialization, cooperation and creativity than traditional sport and fitness units. Everyone can be successful regardless of athletic ability or fitness level. Yard games are also a great activity for connecting students with their family. Teach them in late spring so the learning is carried into the summer and fall months as an activity with their family and friends for weekends, family reunions, BBQs, sporting events, or a trip to the park.
To integrate yard games into your curriculum, be sure to follow these tips:
1. Use the “Jig-saw” method: Divide class into the same number of groups as there are games and assign one group to each to learn all rules, scoring, set-up, take-down, and modifications. One person from each group then combines to form a new group. Members take turns teaching their newly learned game to the rest of this new group (over one or more lessons).
2. Use the Sport Education model: Student-led teams come up with a name, choose roles (manager, scorekeeper, equipment manager, captain), practice the games, and plan for a culminating event. As you research the Sport Education Model framework, you can modify it to your level and available time frame.
3. Integrate health-related fitness: Play “half-court” games so students have to move back and forth instead of stand in one location. Have fitness stations and equipment to work on muscular strength/endurance or flexibility while students wait to throw. Pairing with a high intensity activity allows yard games to be a rest station or bonus when the workout is complete.
4. Integrate skill-related fitness: Require the use a balance disc or dome to balance on while throwing, challenge students to use their non-dominant hand to throw, or have skill-related fitness challenge stations to complete while students wait their turn. There are many fun ways to incorporate the skills of coordination, reaction time, agility, and balance.
5. Cultivate Creativity: After students learn the traditional games have a “create your own yard game” challenge. Teams must create a new or modify an existing game by adding, subtracting or modifying a minimum number of rules (scoring, how to play, etiquette, etc.). Teams practice and then present their new games to another team or the entire class and try them out. You will be amazed at what students create. One of my recent favorites was using the “triple jump” footwork skill from the track unit as the movement form to throw horseshoes. Very creative indeed!
Incorporating all or some of these five tips will ensure an enjoyable yard games unit. You will also appreciate the way yard games allow you to interact with students and strengthen relationships in a non-traditional activity setting.
Join the community and continue the conversation: What’s one of your favorite yard games or strategies to “amp-up” the fitness aspect of lower impact activities such as yard games? Leave a comment or question below.
Turkish Get Up
Need a new exercise for your strength and contitioning class? Personal Trainer and Physical Education teacher, Frank Baumholtz, provides you with the steps and demonstrates how to complete a Turkish Get-Up!
One of the best lines I’ve taken over the last few years is one from Dan John. “If it’s important to you, do it every day. If it’s not important to you, don’t do it.” In all of my training programs, we always foam roll, warm up, go through dynamic-movement prep and perform Kettlebell swings and Turkish Get Ups. Everyday!
The Turkish Get Up is the ultimate core exercise. It’s the yoga move of strength and conditioning. You have to have mobility, strength and coordination. You need to be able to breathe while under load and take the body through the full range of motion. We don’t isolate muscles and movement patterns, we integrate them.
One key note to remember is that bony prominences of the body (Heel, heel of hand, elbow, knee, etc) are points of stability. Use them to your advantage.
Turkish Get Up:
- Starting Position-- Positioning the kettlebell (KB)
- Start in the fetal position
- Pull the KB close to the bdoy with both hands
- Extend your top leg and roll to your back
- Press the KB up with both hands
- KB side knee should be flexed and foot flat
- Abduct the straight leg roughly 45 degrees from your mid line
- Place off hand flat on the ground
- Keep wrist neutral (knuckles to the ceiling)
- Roll To Press
- Control breathing (breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth)
- Roll into the off-side shoulder, pressing the KB to the ceiling.
* This is a very small controlled motion, don't rush
- Press throught he shoulder and up to the elbow
- Roll back to your back
- Post (Seated)
- From the elbow, press through the hand to the steated position
- Keep the off-side heel into the ground. It might want to pop up, but don't let it!
- Return to your back. Make sure to control through the elbow on the way back down
- High Pelvis
- From the Post, extend the hips to the sky/ceiling.
- Return to your back. Make sure to control through your seat and elbow on the way back down
- From the High Pelvis Position, Bend sideways placing your knee directly under you.
- Return to your back. Make sure to control through your seat and elbow on the way back down
- 1/2 Kneeling
- From the Bend Position, bring your torso up into the ½ kneeling position.
- Return to your back. Make sure to control through the bend, your seat and elbow on the way back down.
- From the ½ Kneeling Position, stand tall keeping the KB directly above you.
- Return to your back. Make sure to control through the ½ kneeling, bend, seat and elbow on the way back down.
- Part: Work only to the position where you can control the kettlebell and return to your back each time
- Whole: Perform a full Turkish Get Up, under control, without stopping
Turkish Get Up Progression with Pictures:
- Starting Position:
2. Roll to Press 3. Elbow 4. Post