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Back to School: Be Inspired!

Posted 2 months ago - by Carolyn Temertzoglou

As a former HPE teacher and teacher educator for 25 + years, I still enjoy the excitement and anticipation the new school year brings. September is always a time of new challenges, opportunities, and renewed visions for what we hope to accomplish in our HPE programs to ensure our students lead healthy active lives long after they graduate from school.

This past month, I delivered a summer professional learning course at OISE, along with two of my colleagues Michael Sinukoff and Eva Roser, both HPE teacher leaders in the Greater Toronto Area. It left me feeling inspired and re-energized from the 50 teachers we worked with; some aspiring to teach HPE for the very first time while others are leading the way to quality HPE programs.

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On our last day of the course, we were challenged by my husband, Ted. He’s an award-winning former HPE teacher, author, health and physical literacy champion, and world-renowned speaker who believes in maximizing teacher success, and unlocking the potential of ALL students to “reimagine” HPE and to actualize the principles of the UNESCO Quality Physical Education Document.

UNESCO (2015) states,

“Despite the recognized power of physical education, we are seeing a global decline in its delivery. This is helping to fuel a global health crisis – conservative estimates consider physical inactivity as accounting for 6 per cent of global mortality. This is the pledge inspiring these Guidelines – to mobilize stakeholders and resources in order to ensure the provision of quality physical education to young people across the world, regardless of their socio-economic situation, ethnicity, culture or gender.

Are you feeling up to the challenge? Wanting some back to school inspiration? Here are four ways to get you started:   

1.   Sign up for Ted’s Morning High Five email series

Re-imagine Health & Physical Education

Start the year with the inspiration, motivation, and information you need to reimagine HPE for your school. Ted shares strategies to dignify HPE in your community, best practices around the world and ways in which to get your stakeholders (e.g., parents, staff, administrators, community partnerships) on board with your vision for HPE.

Speedminton Set

2. Back-to-School Essentials

Check out innovative equipment that can inspire hours of physical activity, play and new games, such as Speedminton, disc golf, and much more for your HPE program this school year! Shop back-to-school essentials here. 

3. Survey your students

Ask about what games, activities and sports they enjoy and clearly communicate the learning outcomes/goals of your PE program to your students, staff and parents.

Checklist4. Refer to the Physical Literacy Checklist  

Use this checklist by PHE Canada to guide your teaching practice with respect to i) planning for student learning; ii) creating an environment for student learning; iii) using teaching strategies and skills for student learning iv) modelling exemplar teaching and professionalism

READY, SET, GO! Share what inspires you for Back to School below. 


Back to School: Tips to Tackle the New School Year

Posted 2 months ago - by Dr. Lisa Witherspoon

It’s hard to believe another school year is right around the corner. For many teachers, the thought of getting back to it is overwhelming. Thinking about organizing new students, new schedules, equipment, paperwork, etc. can be stressful. However, if you get started early, the transition back to the classroom can be enjoyable.  I have provided a few tips to help teachers at least “get the ball rolling” before that first day back with students is upon us.

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TIP 1:  Curriculum

Many of you have been teaching for years, so understanding the scope and sequence of your lessons is not as difficult. However, having new lesson ideas for the students, whether it is new activities or trying out the use of infusing technology, is a great way to continue teaching quality physical education lessons. Many successful teachers have suggested laying out your units ahead of time to make sure you have the necessary equipment to ensure developmentally appropriate practices. Check out Nutrition Curriculum and Physical Education resources here.

TIP 2:  Equipment

Get in that equipment room and find out what you have and what you need.  This helps when laying out your curriculum by content area and/or units ahead of time. Over the summer many items, such as playground balls, soccer balls, and basketballs can deflate. Foam balls that you may not have used in awhile may not be in condition to be reused.  Getting that equipment room ready to go can really make your life easier once the year begins. Shop back-to-school essentials and replenishment items.

TIP 3:  Students

Regardless of how long you have taught, you are going to experience new students.  Getting your classroom schedule with student names early is a great way to get ahead and start planning how attendance will be taken, what kind of partners or groups you can begin thinking about, and how to plan the culture of your classroom atmosphere.  Another aspect of dealing with students early that is often overlooked is learning your students ability levels and those that will need more modifications depending on the content and activities involved in your planned curriculum.

TIP 4:  Technology

Realize that using technology in your classroom is not just for the students’ enjoyment and success. Many technology tools can assist you and make your day-to-day routine more effective and efficient. 

Start early and begin looking into what Apps or tools you can incorporate. Whether the reason is for assisting you with attendance, making teams/groups, music, curriculum ideas, or assessment, there is an App or tool to help you. Check out a quick blog for some immediate ideas about using Apps in your class. Read more blog articles about Technology in P.E.

TIP 5:  Activity Space

Make sure you walk your field or activity space to make sure it is safe before students are back. This often goes unnoticed and can be negligent on your part if something goes wrong during your class. Over the summer many things can happen to your space whether it’s a field or gymnasium. Check for glass, debris, fence or wall damage just to make sure your students are safe.

Although there are many more ideas to remember to start the new school year, hopefully these tips will get you back in the mode of planning.  Get moving and start organizing early!  Good luck! 

10 Tips for a Successful School Year

Posted 2 months ago - by Shannon Jarvis Irwin

Back to school season is right around the corner! Get ready with these 10 tips for a successful school year, including organization, attitude, planning, and equipment. Don't forget to share your tips below!

1. Be a team player.

As teachers, we need to be flexible and help others when we can. I am not just talking about with our students, but with our fellow teachers and administrators. Learn all new staff member’s names and take a moment to welcome them. Being in a new environment or school can be stressful; you can help ease some anxiety and create relationships that only be benefit a school by being united.

2. Organize your storage closet.

TRX Commercial Suspension TrainerStart your year off by knowing exactly what equipment you have and where it’s stored in your storage room. Label all boxes and containers clearly, so you don’t have to rummage through them looking for something. If you need boxes or storage containers always check with your cafeteria staff. They receive crates of all sizes and sturdy boxes in their weekly shipments.

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This is also a great time to take an inventory, so you know what your purchases needs are for the year and create that dream list. What’s on my dream list this year? TRX Commercial Trainer 12-Pack …I dream BIG.

Check out inventory tips here!

3. Be prepared.

Lesson plans are your friends. Know what objective you’re going to teach and what equipment you need to accomplish that. I keep a folder on my desktop, labeled “PE Activities”, and add to it year after year. Each game or activity is a separate word document complete with everything I need to know about how to play it, including the National and/or State Standards the game provides. Having this file makes piecing my lesson plans together a breeze, simply copy and paste.

4. Vertically align your lessons and equipment used for the week.

I teach grades K-8th and want to make my day go as smoothly as possible. Transitioning from one age group to the complete opposite end can present a challenge at times. I try to use the same equipment all day long but change the activities to fit the needs for the different levels.

For example, volleyball. Setting up the net and taking it down is not an easy task, so once it’s up we are keeping it up all day. Therefore, my lessons may look like this for the week:

  • 6th-8th Volleyball skills
  • 3rd-5th Nukem
  • K-2nd Clean your room

All of these lessons use the volleyball net, but provide a different activity that’s more age appropriate for my students.

5. Designate a space for equipment used that week.

Storage cart with equipmentFind an area, whether it be in your office, storage closet, or corner of your gym, to place all your equipment used for that week. This is a major saver for me! It helps to start my day off easier by having everything need for the week in one spot instead of having to hunt down various items from storage each day. At the end of the week, replace the items with the following week’s equipment.

6. Visualize and mentally walk through your weekly schedule.

Write it out and post it in several locations throughout your gym. This helps me to know at-a-glance when I need to transition equipment for a different age group and not be caught off guard. Every day of the week is a different schedule for me, so having it posted in more than one location helps me to stay on track.

7.Teach recess.

Sounds kind of silly, right? But seriously with all the easy access to technology at our fingertips, kids nowadays don’t know how to play and socially interact with one another on the playground. Teach them games they can play with no equipment. Show them what equipment is available for recess use and how to properly store the equipment after they are done. Also, explain that they need to notify someone if equipment breaks.

8. Be consistent and practice procedures.

Know what procedures you want to set in place before your students set foot in the gym. Take the extra time to practice them with your students. Don’t settle or move on until they do what’s expected. This may take extra time at the beginning of the year, but it will be worth it. 

9. Study the previous year’s yearbook.

Yearbooks are a great tool to refresh your memory or familiarize yourself with your students’ names and photos. Of course, not all your same students will be returning and there will be some new faces too, so don’t spend a lot of time memorizing.

One of my favorite things in the mornings is to greet kids at the crosswalk by their name. Emotions are all over the place the first week back to school, what a comforting feeling to the families and students too that you remember them and are excited to see them.

10. Smile.

The worst advice I hear given to teachers in my opinion, is to not smile until Christmas or else they’ll walk all over you. Wrong. You can be firm and let your students know you mean business and be nice about it. Children need to know they are loved. So smile, and be their example about how they should be treating others.

Writing this post makes me so excited for my upcoming school year. We have such a wonderful gift of opportunity to make a difference in our students’ lives. Take advantage of teaching the next generation how to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Good luck to you and have an amazing school year!

Planning for Back to School in P.E.

Posted 2 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

back to school kidIt’s hard to believe but summer is winding down and the back-to-school ads are on TV, so it is time to start planning for a great school year.  Every year at this time, I have a million thoughts running through my head on what to do first and will I have enough time to get it all done.  So, here are some thoughts on how to plan for the year ahead, whether it is your first or last year teaching!

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Unit and Lesson Plans

Layout a rough calendar of the year ahead.

This ensures you have a general guideline for when and what activities you will teach throughout the year.  Hopefully you and your colleagues have a framework to go by in your curriculum; but if you do not, this is a great time to start organizing one to help guide your instruction.  If you are a first-year teacher, I recommend starting with the first 6 weeks! 

Establish routines before the first day.

I can remember my first day of school and I thought I had everything under control.  Little did I know that the year before there were no routines and plenty of chaos, so be prepared for your best plans to backfire!  Be ready to think on your feet and if you need ideas or suggestions ask other teachers even if they are not PE teachers! 

If you team-teach, I encourage you to meet with your team to discus and organize your thoughts and approach to how you all want the year to progress.  I am very thankful to work with a great team of educators!  We all share a passion for what we do and love trying new ideas in an effort to improve our program! 

Organize your equipment

I have an older brother who loves to give me a rough time about being a PE teacher and how I better make sure I have my ball pump and a needle ready so I can start the year!  Little does he know that I have 2 ball pumps, but it is way more than that!

Now is the time to be organizing your equipment along with checking everything to make sure it is in good working order!  This is the time of year that I am sure to have all of the equipment in our fitness center serviced and cleaned in preparation for the heavy usage that occurs during the school year.  It is also a great time to again make sure all of your equipment is ready for the first 6 weeks of lessons. 

Some recommend cataloging all of your equipment so you are certain to know what you have and what you need to order to start the school year. I completely agree with this philosophy, but will honestly admit that I have never found the time to do this for our equipment. This might be the year that we make it happen, and I hope you are all able to as well! Check out inventory tips or shop back-to-school equipment essentials!

Plan the big stuff!

calendar with date circledFirst year teachers, this message is for you!  PLAN THE BIG STUFF!!  I can’t stress enough on how important it is to plan your big events now.  Get the dates on the school calendar, reserve the spaces that you will use, and most importantly, start asking for help now.

Field Day is a huge event and one that takes a lot of time and organization!  Waiting until the last minute is sure to cause you stress and sleepless nights. Here are a few tips for planning for Field Day:

  • Ask your administrator and more importantly classroom teachers, if they can fill you in on what has been done in the past
  • Do not commit to keeping it the same until you have had time to process what they have told you
  • Think about all of the details and how YOU want the day to go before you begin sharing your ideas
  • Then, once you have your thoughts collected get the ball rolling.  You will be a much happier person in the spring if you start the process now

If your school has done any other special events in the past, be sure to check on those as well.  I know I found out in late October that in the past my elementary school had always done Turkey Trot right before Thanksgiving.  I was blindsided by the amount of work it took to pull this event off and actually picked up the frozen turkeys the morning of the event! 

Educate yourself!

In an effort to re-energize and provide yourself with new ideas and the opportunity to be around other PE teachers, try to find a conference or teacher development day that you can attend before school starts. If you can’t find one, I strongly encourage you to start one at your own school and invite as many PE teachers as possible.  Some school districts are large enough that they hold their own PE professional development days before the school year begins, but some school districts, like mine, are not big enough to do this type of event alone. 

Last year, my team and I organized an event that brought about 50 PE teachers together for one day in August to learn some new activities and strategies.  We are thankful that we are able to do this again this year and hope to make it a yearly tradition.  You are all welcome to join us!

If you are unable to make an event before the school year starts, be sure to look ahead and see if there is a conference that you could attend to further your education in the field.  It is always wonderful to be around other PE teachers, share ideas, and listen to experiences. Remember that this year the National SHAPE America Convention hits Nashville in March.  I hope to attend and see you all there!

I know that for some back-to-school is a dreaded time of year, but I like to think of it as an opportunity.  It is our chance to impart some wisdom to young children in an effort to make them a little more healthy and active.  I wish you all a fantastic start to your school year and if I can ever help, please let me know!

9 Skill-Based Gymnastics Games for All Ages! [Video]

Posted 2 months ago - by Gopher Community

Students love to play gymnastic games, and teachers love to see their students build strength while learning core skills that align with National P.E. Standards! With these gymnastics games, students can gain core muscle, arm muscle, and confidence in gymnastics and tumbling; all while playing games and having fun! All you need are some mats! Brittney Resler, Owatonna Gymnastics Club Executive Director, shares nine gymnastic games that her gymnasts love and your students will too!

1. Active Warm-Up Game


Grab your students’ attention as you call out spots around the gym. Wherever you call, they need to run to that location. You can mix it up by having your students run to a mat and complete an activity. Bunk Beds, Man Overboard, Fish Eggs, and Lover’s Leap are some fun activities that will get your students instantly moving, and enjoying it!

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2. The Amazing Chase Game


Students will have fun with this ultimate game of tag! Place four mats around the gym and one in the middle. Students then run from one mat to the other, trying to tag the classmate in front of them. Meanwhile, they are running from the classmate behind them. Everyone runs in the same direction to avoid collisions! When a student is tagged, they go to the mat in the middle and complete 15 jumping jacks before joining the game again!


3. Wheelbarrow Workout


Build strength and teamwork! Students need to be in pairs to complete the Wheelbarrow Workout. One student in each pair will hold their partner’s ankles as they walk on their hands from one end of a mat and to the other. That’s not all! Once the holder calls out “Push-up”, the partner must perform a push-up before continuing. Once your students are comfortable with this exercise, have them hold their partner’s hands on their shoulders for an added challenge!


4. Headstand Progression


In this gymnastics video, students practice balance with a headstand progression! Positioned on a mat, students’ knees rest on their elbows. Have them practice balancing in this position. Once they are comfortable, they can lift their legs up, completing the headstand progression!

Take it a step further by having students hold their headstand! In pairs, one student will perform a headstand while the other student is their spotter, holding their partner’s legs up. When you say, “Go”, spotters need to run to another student in the headstand formation and spot them before they fall! The last pair in the headstand formation wins the game! Students should not hold this pose for too long because it can cause light-headedness.

5. Wall Walks


Once students can balance themselves in a headstand, they can move onto a handstand. This is a great activity to build confidence and arm strength. Put a mat on the floor, next to a mat on the wall. Students walk down the mat with their feet against the wall and hands on the floor. This strengthens their core and arm muscles, preparing them for handstands!


6. Forward Roll Progression


Motivate your class as they practice forward rolls! Stack a panel mat on top of another for extra cushion. Students should curve their back while rolling down the mat, looking at their stomachs can help create a c-shape curve in their spine! They can advance in the progression by removing the top mat and beginning their forward roll in the handstand formation.


7. Bridge Breakthrough


Increase core muscles, arm muscles, and stability with Bridge Breakthrough. Students’ fingers face their feet as they push their abdomen towards the ceiling. Once they have perfected the bridge pose, they can challenge their balance by lifting an arm or leg off the ground. Make this exercise a fun gymnastic game by having students give their friends high fives!


8. Shipwreck 


Shipwreck is a tag game that students will ask to play again! Begin with one student, the tagger, on a mat in the middle of four other mats, which are scattered around the gym. The rest of the class begins scattered across the other four mats. Once the tagger yells, “shipwreck”, everyone moves to another mat, running from the tagger. If someone is tagged, they go to the middle mat with the other taggers. The last student to be tagged is the winner!


9. Stick-It Gymnastic Game


Challenge your class with Stick-It! Each student stands on a mat, facing one another in a circle. The instructor calls out various jumps or activities, such as a tuck jump.  The goal is to correctly perform the jump and land on your feet. If a student fumbles or falls, they are out. The last student standing is the winner! This is a great way to end class, and assess which jumps your students have mastered or need to practice more.

Keep students moving and learning with these games, progressions, and challenges! From a game of tag with a twist to a headstand progression, students will learn new skills while having fun!


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more ideas and tips!

Check out more Blogs by Gopher Community!

Beginning of the School Year Ideas

Posted 2 months ago - by Aaron Beighle

Beginning of the year calendarThroughout this blog I am going to provide random thoughts (from lessons learned to ideas I have seen others use) centered around the beginning of the school year. When I was about 10 years old, I remember our neighbor saying, “You have the most random thoughts.” Well 40 years later, and here goes, you get to experience what everyone in my life experiences: the randomness of Aaron. 

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Back to school is an exciting time full of anticipation and sometimes apprehension because of the unknown. Hopefully these ideas will lead to brainstorming that results in ideas that allow you to kick your year off with excitement and optimism.

1. Take an inventory.

If you haven’t done an inventory, how do you know what you have to teach with? As soon as you get finished reading this life changing blog, please go take an inventory. It will help you tremendously as you plan for the year. Check out my previous blog on Inventory Tips.

2. Develop a curriculum and yearly plan.

Once you know what equipment you have, you can plan your curriculum (assuming you know how frequently you have your students). If you don’t have a sequentially, thoughtfully, planned curriculum, I encourage you to consider going through the process throughout the school year. It is a long process but will be well worth your time.

See my previous post for steps to develop a curriculum. In the meantime, at least lay out a calendar of the entire year so you know what you will teach and when. This will ensure you have a balanced curriculum and allows you to plan lessons around seasons, assemblies, holidays, etc.

3. Integrate cooperative activities early.

As you plan your calendar, consider doing cooperative activities early in the year. Reviewing the rules is a typical beginning of the year activity; however, integrating activities to establish your gymnasium climate works well. Activities should foster cooperation, listening, communicating with more than your voice, and just getting to know each other in the context of physical education. One favorite is “In a Line.” Below is a very basic version of this challenge. There are many other creative ways to use this activity.

  • A basic challenge is for students are asked to get in a line alphabetically by their first name.
  • Another is to ask students to put their hands behind their backs. Without gestures or using their mouth, they must get in order of their birth month. The line starts with January and ends with December. This activity opens the doors for communication. Specifically, words are not the only way we communicate.

    Note: this activity will take longer with younger students and they may need help. Also, as with all cooperative activities, a creative set-up for the challenge helps and a debriefing to discuss what is learned is essential.           

4. Teach recess activities.

Early in the year, how about teaching recess games during physical education lessons? This is a great time to teach games that students can try given the equipment available. If possible, take the classes onto the playground to discuss recess expectations, safety, and etiquette. Providing this information to the classroom teachers and recess supervisors also helps keep the lines of communication open. Check out this blog for more information on maximizing physical activity during recess.

5. Create a positive, safe culture.

One of my biggest challenges when I was teaching was to start the year creating a learning climate. I wanted to get to the content right away and often neglected this step. I had the rest of the year to teach content, but I didn’t realize it. Now I look at this as “pay me now or pay me later”. Spending the early part of the year establishing protocol, letting students get to know me, and more importantly getting to know each class and each student is SOOOO worth the time. It allows teachers to tailor instruction based on what you know about the class and students. Without this step, I wasn’t teaching students, I was teaching my content. As I have said in other blogs, the students we teach are far more important than the content we teach.

6. Smile…all the time.

We don’t smile enough as teachers. Do you LOVE your job? Let your face show it. Let your colleagues know it. And PLEASE, let your students know it. Smile so much other people wonder what you are up to. Try it for a day. It will make your life so much better.

7. Be mindful of patience.

Those who know me are likely saying, “He’s writing about patience?” I am probably the most impatient person on earth so this is a battle for me. Be patient with your new ideas. Reflect on them and make changes. Be patient with your students as they learn who you are and what your expectations are. Be patient with parents. You all are on the same team. They want what’s best for their kids, just like you do. Be patient with colleagues. Who knows what they are going through. Be patient with administrators. I believe most administrators care about the health and well-being of youth…and teachers. However, believe it or not, at times, that might not be their priority.  

8. Learn something new about every student…asap.

This one takes work. Ask them what they enjoy. Find out about their superhero shirt. For high schoolers, find out about their job. The vast majority of humans love talking about themselves. See if I’m wrong. Tell them you love having them in class. Smile…all the time (Have I said that before?). It makes you approachable. This also takes being cognizant of the quiet student. Please don’t let them fall through the cracks. Our ability to teach is entirely dependent on our ability to get to know students and connect.

9. Make a plan for phone calls home.

I love phone calls home, positive phone calls. For this reason, I spent many a planning period early in the year calling every child’s parents to let them know I loved having them in class and telling them something specific I liked about their child. Work? Oh yes. Tedious? At times. Worth it? YES. Many parents have never heard the school say anything positive about their children. This helps build a bridge between you, the child, and home. It also helps establish rapport with parents if you have issues in the future. Oh, and my first year, I wouldn’t be above making one of my first calls home be to the PTA president. Networking!

10. Take care of yourself.

The early part of the year can be hectic. Please don’t neglect yourself. Get some you time, stretch (being on your feet all day can sneak up on you), laugh a lot (even at yourself), and do things you enjoy. Burnout is real. Don’t let it steal your spirit and your passion.


Four of my ideas are content related, the last six are about people. This year, consider making it your goal to focus on people. Parents, colleagues, students. That one tough student who grinds on you. Find out more about her. That one colleague who never smiles. Say, “Hi”, build a “no strings attached, I just want to know you” relationship. Via the school of hard knocks, I have found, and am still learning that life, in the school and out of the school, is so much better when my priority is people. The rest falls in place nicely. Have a great year!



Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more tips and ideas!

Check out more Blogs by Aaron!

Mat Mayhem: P.E. Game Ideas with Mats

Posted 3 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

Almost all elementary P.E. teachers have gymnastic mats in their storage closets, but do they get used for any activities other than a gymnastics unit? Why not try to get more use out of those mats that you probably had to fight to keep in your budget! And if you don’t have mats currently because of budget deficits, try explaining to your administration that gymnastics mats can be used for a wide variety of activities, therefore making them a great item to purchase in a tight budget!

Here are a couple of activities/games when you can utilize these mats! 

1. Barrel Racing


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In the part of the country that I teach, horse riding is popular and with that comes rodeos! At the rodeo one of the events is barrel racing, which is a fast sprint around three barrels in a specific order to get back to the finish line. So why not barrel race with your students?! 

Take three mats and set them upright and in a circle to look like a barrel. Then, space the barrels in the pattern below, or you can do this in any pattern you choose, just make sure the start and finish are in the same spot. Students sprint, or gallop like a horse, in the direction of the arrows. 


  • Relay-race style
  • Practice different body movements by having students walk like different animals. I mean really what kid doesn’t like to learn how to walk like a crab?!? 
  • If you have more than 3 mats, make multiple race loops or give them more barrels to round.

2. Battleship


Another game you could play is Battleship!  Give each team 3 or 4 mats to set up at their end as screens. Then give each team 10-15 bowling pins, or if you don’t have bowling pins start saving plastic water bottles. The students will set up the pins in rows of 3 or more in the space behind their screens as “battleships.” They can have as many “battleships” as they can create in the space with the number of pins provided. Each team gets an evenly divided number of coated-foam balls to use as the missiles.

On your “go,” students start firing their missiles over the screen of the other team. When one of the teams’ ships is sunk they must yell, “you sank our ship”, and then immediately everyone on the team has to do a designated exercise, such as dive bomber push-ups. When all of a teams’ ships have been sunk the team yells, “we surrender!” This ends the round and all of the ships are reset and you play again. 

3. Gladiators


My final suggestion is a throwback to one of my favorite shows as kid, American Gladiators! One of the games they played had contestants trying to score points by running around a designated area and throwing a ball into a cylindrical goal. Now, in the show they were brutally defending these goals, but I do NOT recommend that in your PE classes. 

I set up the goals, which would again be your mats on edge formed in circles, and have teams. Play with rules similar to basketball in that you can defend and steal the ball, but there is NO contact or there is a foul called. This is a NO dribbling game and I encourage the use of at least 10 foam balls. After all of the foam balls are scored in a goal, the game is over. The team that scores the most goals is the winner for that round. Then you get set up and start again.

4. Introductory Basketball Hoops


Mats make great basketball hoops for younger elementary classes. The lower height allows students to experience success with shooting a basketball and allows them to practice using the correct shooting form. We all know that young students struggle to shoot at a regulation basketball hoop using correct form, so again stand you mats on edge and curl them into a circle.

Three or four students can use one mat at one time, and if you have enough round objects that are light, then they can all shoot at one time. You can also set up different stations around the gym and have students shoot from different distances to help build their confidence and reinforce shooting with correct form.


These are just a couple games that utilize mats in different ways, but there are tons more! As P.E. teachers, if you can be creative, you can create many games utilizing equipment in ways other than its intended use to allow you to maximize what you have! And please when you come up with a new way of using not only gym mats, but any of your equipment, SHARE, SHARE, SHARE those ideas with the rest of the P.E. world!  


Continue reading the Gopher PE Blog for more ideas, tips, and trends!

Check out more Blogs by Jason!

9 Safety Tips for Gymnastics Activities

Posted 3 months ago - by Gopher Community

Gymnastics is an exciting sport to introduce in Physical Education!  As students learn skills from jumping to tumbling, it is important to keep them safe. Brittney Resler, Owatonna Gymnastics Club Executive Director, shares nine tips to follow for a safe and fun gymnastics lesson.


Tip 1:  Always keep mats dry and clean

When mats are exposed to liquids, they become a slipping hazard for students. When it is time to clean mats, use a sanitizer without bleach, like Matt-Kleen Disinfectant. Bleach causes mats to fade and lose their color.

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Tip 2: Place mats purposefully around your gym

With a dusty gym floor, mats can slip, which can be harmful to your students. Place them up against the wall for more static movements, or use the Velcro to attach multiple mats together. Another option is to purcahse non-slip drawer liners to place underneath mats.

Tip 3: Only take mats out when they are needed

Even small mats can be a tripping hazard for your class.

Tip 4: Keep activity areas safe with mats

When using panel mats, cover the whole area students are active in. If you don’t have enough mats to cover your entire gym space, make sure the areas students are practicing cartwheels or handstands in are protected with mats.

Tip 5: Thickness, size, and length are important in choosing the best mat

While planning your lesson, be certain you have the correct mat for each activity! For head-first skills, use a thick mat to protect your students’ heads. Smaller mats can be used for basic jumps. Check out these tumbling mats, all backed by an Unconditional 100% Satisfaction Guarantee!

Tip 6: Tumbling activities require mats and your attention

Don’t include tumbling activities in your lesson without proper mats. It’s important, especially during tumbling activities, that you watch your student.

Tip 7: Only spot skills you are comfortable with

In order to keep students safe, only perform exercises that you are comfortable spotting. If you are not comfortable with a skill, reach out to your local gymnastic’s club to learn proper spotting technique.

Tip 8: Teach students how to land

Sometimes, students understand how to being the skill, but not how to finish. Have your class practice feet-first landings.

Tip 9: Know your district’s safety protocols

Before starting a tumbling unit in your class, seek out your school district’s protocols. If you follow these safety tips, an injury should not occur. If an injury does happen in your class, contact the school nurse immediately.

Tumbling is a very fun and exciting unit that your students will love! If you have any additional safety tips or tumbling activity ideas please share with us in the comments below!


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Gymnastics Activities for Beginners

Posted 3 months ago - by Gopher Community

Gymnastics and tumbling are a great way for students to learn fundamental skills like balancing and rolling, while strengthening their bodies.

Partner V Lean BackIt is great to begin a gymnastics lesson with stretching to warm-up arms, legs, and calf muscles. Next, have students partner stretch to practice balance and gain confidence in beginner stunts such as the Partner Chair Balance, the Partner “V” Lean Back, and the Partner “V” Lean Side.

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  • Partner Chair Balance: Partners face each other and hold hands. Their knees bend and they squat as if sitting in a chair.
  • Partner “V” Lean Back: Partners face each other and hold hands. They lean back until their arms are fully extended.
  • Partner “V” Lean Side: Partners stand side-by-side and hold one of their partner’s hands. They continue to lean until that arm is fully extended.

Having students hold stunt poses with a partner challenges communication and strength.

Balance beanbag on headNext, have students practice balancing on their own. Have them practice balancing on one foot and walking foward and backwards in a straight line.

  • Balancing something, such as a beanbag, on their head can help them keep their chin up, implementing good posture
  • Use jump ropes, floor tape, or chalk to create lines of various shapes
  • Keep tumbling mats folded for safe practice of balancing on an elevated surface
  • Challenge them to balance on various body parts, supporting themselves in more ways than the typical two feet. Hold poses for 10 seconds.

Once they are comfortable walking in a straight line and holding poses, teach your students how to roll across the tumbling mat. The Log Roll, Forward Roll, Straddle Roll, and Cartwheels are fun challenges!

  • Log Roll: Students lie on a mat with their arms straight above their head, rolling on their side, back, side, and continuously moving in this circular motion. They should try rolling in a straight line.
  • Forward Roll: Students balance on the balls of their feet and extend their arms out. Then, their hands move to the mat as they tuck their chin to their chest and tighten their abdominal muscles. Students who struggle tucking their chin can practice holding a beanbag underneath their chin. Students roll forward on their shoulders, by pushing off their feet.
  • Straddle Roll: Start with legs far apart. Bend at the waist, placing hands down on the mat. Their chin should tuck to their chest to protect their head and neck. Roll forward on their shoulders; push off with hands and feet.
  • Cartwheels: Students can begin practicing cartwheels by learning the hand, hand, foot, foot sequence. Next, have them focus on keeping their legs straight up in a “V”. Trying to perform cartwheels in a straight line will help them perfect the skill, strengthen arms, and increase balance.

Once they have mastered balancing, rolling, and tumbling, they can build their endurance by practicing them all in a continuous sequence. Creating sequences offers students the chance to be creative, have fun, and build confidence in their gymnastic skills.

Teaching gymnastics in your P.E. class allows your students to safely learn skills, strengthen muscles, and motivate themselves through new challenges. Share your favorite gymnastics activities for physical education below!


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Maximize Engagement: Sport Ed. & TGfU Hybrid Units

Posted 3 months ago - by Adam Metcalf

The best way to learn is to do. The worst way to teach is to talk.” –Paul Halmos

We all know that student-centered, authentic learning experiences are crucial for cultivating the type of learners who will be best prepared for success in the modern world.  The incessant battle for weak attention spans has unearthed how incredibly important it is to design learning experiences that allow for student choice.  At the same time, we must foster the development of social interdependence in a safe, supportive environment where gaining perspective through a shared journey is the objective.  Alas, knowing that something is important and figuring out a practical way to do it is the ongoing challenge of our profession.  Taking risks, giving up control, and stepping outside of our comfort zones as teachers can be daunting.   

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My physical education department has been using a Sport Ed/TGfU hybrid model for nine years in our middle school curriculum (Grades 5-8).  Although it may seem intimidating, the shift away from the traditional sport units and instructional methods to a student-centered approach has been more fulfilling than we could have ever predicted!  In this approach, the teacher acts as the facilitator for learning rather than the traditional “sage on stage.”  We have seen amazing engagement and growth in our students through adapting and combining elements from the Sport Education and Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) instructional models. 

While an “event driven” unit can be exciting and memorable, an overcomplicated unit can result in an enormous amount of planning and management; this may lead to teacher burnout and a decrease in student engagement.  We have found that adapting some simple elements from the Sport Ed model and using the themes and structure of the TGfU model can help provide a framework for engaging and repeatable units without teacher burnout.  We have tried many variations and continue to tweak the unit structure, but have found the most success using the basic guidelines below: 

Unit Planning: 

Begin your year establishing expectations, building relationships, cooperative skills, etc.  Then plan and sequence your units according to the TGfU Game Categories:

  • Invasion Games (Soccer, Rugby, Basketball, Ultimate, Floor Hockey, etc.) will be the most prevalent sport category.  Begin with a sport unit that is simple and/or one with which students are familiar.  Skills and strategies will transfer from one sport to the next (i.e., maintaining possession and creating space in soccer will also be applicable in basketball).  Grouping these sports together will create a deeper understanding and an increased familiarity with how to react to and solve the in-game problems and situations.
  • Sequencing Net/Wall Games during the winter months work well with the indoor space and equipment available at our school (Volleyball, Badminton, Pickleball, etc.).
  • As the weather warms up in the Spring, we prefer to finish the school year with Target (Golf, Archery, Bowling, etc.) and Striking/Fielding Games (Kickball, Softball, Cricket, etc.). 

Each sport unit (within the TGfU category) is typically eight to twelve 45-minute sessions. Our students have daily P.E. so each unit spans approximately 3 weeks. We usually complete 6-8 sport units per school year:

  • 2-4 sessions of preseason practice
  • 3-4 sessions of regular season games (team records count toward tournament seeding)
  • 3-4 sessions of post season tournament (usually double elimination)

Keep It Simple

Limit the number of roles and responsibilities.  In our units, everybody is a player and some people have additional roles. Each team has a coach (who volunteers prior to the start of the unit). Once balanced teams are determined, all members meet to sign the Team Contract/ Fair Play Agreement as well as determine who will take on the additional responsibilities: assistant coach, equipment manager, fitness trainer, publicist.  By structuring simplified Sport Ed units, repeating the model will allow several students the opportunity to experience the various roles.

Facilitate Learning 

Rather than giving the students skills and drills, we allow them to come up with their own practice plans.  We encourage them to take the focus of the day and play a modified game that will allow players to develop an understanding within a dynamic, fun setting.  Using the TGfU model structure, we encourage and assist coaches with implementing small-sided games to emphasize the strategies and skills needed to achieve success.  When we are focused on offensive strategies, modifying the number of defenders and/or restricting movement will allow for more meaningful practice on the offensive side.

Example: Preseason Learning Outcome: Maintain possession by creating space using pivots, fakes, and jab steps.

Scoring: Offensive players score a point every time they complete 3 consecutive passes within the prescribed boundary.  Take turns playing offensive and defensive positions where the defensive team is outnumbered (i.e. 2 vs 1, 3 vs 2, 4 vs 2, etc.)

Ask Lots of Questions 

Kids playing volleyballThe authentic nature of this format can heighten the potential for group dynamics to get messy.  It is important for the teacher to make sure that a safe classroom culture is paramount.  Giving up control to the students is undoubtedly difficult, but this is the best way for them to learn.  Your students need to know that you are there to support them and need you to remain firm and consistent with what is expected from every member of the class.  If a practice or game isn’t going or didn’t go well, ask questions of the coaches that will advance a more reflective, open mindset.  Allow students to express themselves in daily class discussions, or in private as needed.  Be willing to make adjustments based on the feedback and needs of the class.

The engagement and enthusiasm fostered through this model is unparalleled.  We have also found that once students have experienced autonomy and authenticity of this type of unit (i.e., peer-lead activities and the use of teams that stay together through a preseason, regular season, and postseason), they overwhelmingly prefer a “Sport Ed” unit to a traditional unit.  I highly recommend giving it a try and seeing for yourself!

For a more extensive look into TGfU and Sport Education hybrid units, check out a recording of my webinar, Maximize Engagement: Sport Ed. & TGfU Hybrid Units.


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