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Rainy-Day Activities to Keep Students Moving

Posted 6 months ago - by Dr. Lisa Witherspoon

There are some days that you're left without your gymnasium or field, so how can you keep students moving when physical education is moved into a classroom?

When it comes to weather such as rain, snow, or extreme heat, sometimes it is difficult to find indoor activities that keep students motivated and moving. Some teachers do not have an indoor facility such as a gymnasium or multi-purpose room available, and for those that do, sometimes you're "kicked out" for a school assembly or other school-wide function. Many physical education teachers have experienced conducting their classes in a small classroom with desks. While this is sometimes a great opportunity to teach content involving wellness topics (nutrition, safety, health, etc.), many times we want students to be able to get up and move, which is difficult considering the physical environment available.

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Two activities that have become more popular and successful with teachers and students for an indoor activity are GoNoodle® and HOPSports Brain Breaks®.  Both simply require the Internet and a source to project what is displayed on a device (computer, tablet, smartphone) onto a large screen or wall space. Students are able to stand by their desk or in personal space to participate in the activities chosen.  See below a quick contribution and comparison of the two:




Brain Breaks®

Age-appropriate activities




Variety of activities




Available for classroom teachers to encourage more physical activity time



Teacher-friendly (usage)




Easy-to-follow for students




Unique content such as yoga, martial arts, and dance


(Not martial arts)



With the simple click on a device, both GoNoodle® and Brain Breaks® can offer teachers a large variety of activities for students. One unique feature with both websites is that teachers can choose content areas that they may not feel comfortable teaching, such as yoga and dance, so students are able to participate in these activities that are developmentally appropriate and healthy. Students simply follow the instructors on the screen while teachers are able to walk around and provide feedback to assist the students’ learning.

Another way teachers can implement these activities is through an instant activity or bell work before class instruction begins. Rainy or snowy days or limited space situations do not have to be bothersome. These are two of the many ideas teachers can explore to get their students up and moving while enjoying being physical active.

Learn more or shop Brain Breaks® today!

Looking for more ideas? Check out No Gym, No Field, No Problem! by Shannon Jarvis.


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

Check out more Blogs by Lisa!

Are you tight on space? Do you need a task to keep students moving while waiting to play? Need an idea for classroom teachers to give students “Fit Breaks?” 

All you need is a standard deck of cards and 4 different exercises that meet your goal and space requirement.  And music, of course, because everyone loves music!

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This is a very simple activity, that if done correctly can hit both muscular endurance and also cardiovascular endurance, depending on the types of exercises you choose for each suit in the deck of cards.  I teach high school students and in 15 minutes they are able to complete the entire deck.   Typically half of the class performs this activity and the remainder of the class is on spin bikes.  We also utilize this workout as a way to keep students waiting in line moving.   Our goal is to keep all of our students active, so we use the deck of cards as a way to accomplish this goal.

How it works:

  • Designate one exercise for each of the four suits in the deck and print it out on a piece of paper. 
    • Examples: Diamonds = Dolphin Planks, Spades = Crunches, Hearts = Lunge Jumps, and Clubs = Mountain Climbers 

  • Shuffle the deck and have students flip over 1 card at a time
  • Students complete the number of reps provided on the card
    • Numbered cards are the number on the card
    • Face cards (Jacks, Queens, and Kings) are 10 reps and the Ace is 11
    • Examples: 7 of Diamonds = 7 Dolphin Planks, 2 of Spades = 2 Crunches, King of Hearts = 10 Lunge Jumps
  • Change up the excercises every couple of weeks. Keep the old cards so you can resuse them in the future. 

I also recommend that PE teachers introduce this simple workout to classroom teachers.  My wife is a 3rd grade teacher and I have shown her how to do the deck of cards workout with her students.  Classroom teachers can easily have the deck of cards on their desks and when they notice their class is in need of a quick “fit break” to rejuvenate their minds, they can flip 4 or 5 cards and have their class moving instantly.  Knowing first hand all of the work that classroom teachers have on their plates, I encourage you to print off the exercise/suit cards so the teacher does not have to take the time to do this part.  You should also keep in my mind the amount of space in a classroom and what items students have at their desks that could be used.  

Example: Hearts = chair squats, Diamonds = ski jumps, Spades = rocket jumps, and Clubs = seal jacks. 

Using cards is a simple way to get a large number of students active in any space you have available and it is very inexpensive.  As for the exercises, the sky is the limit on what you can have students do for each suit and I encourage you to let students help in deciding, because they will have a feeling of empowerment and are more likely to complete the task!  ENJOY!


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

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Integrate Brain Breaks at Your School with Technology!

Posted 2 years ago - by Aaron Beighle

As the evidence supporting the integration of physical activity grows, movements such as Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAPs) are becoming mainstream. With this, the role of the physical education teacher is expanding and many physical educators are capitalizing on this chance to promote physical activity during the school day.

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In the last ten years, ideas for integrating physical activity or brain breaks in the school day have exploded. There are books, programs, websites, products, curricula, and countless other strategies geared towards getting students moving. 

One strategy that is cost-effective, fun, and easy to implement is the good ole fashion homemade video. While technological advances mean you don’t have to get out the camcorder (if you are younger than 30 ask an old person what a camcorder is), you can use your phone to record a video and BAM, your students can be moving to it in less than 10 minutes. 

The best strategy I have seen are videos such as those on the YouTube channel, Mr. Noble’s Fitness World. Billy Noble is a physical education teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary in Lexington, KY. During his 10+ year teaching career, he has generated countless videos such as the ones posted online. He even has his student teachers create their own characters as a part of the student teaching experience. 

There are two reasons I like this approach:

  1. The videos are cost-effective, or cheap. They don’t cost a dime. Well maybe if you need the knee high socks and some Chuck Taylor’s, you might have to spend a few bucks.

  2. They can be made quickly. Just turn on the music, move to the music and hit stop. No editing, no rehearsing.

The videos you see took Billy less than 10 minutes to make. Just a bit of creativity to come up with the characters. Thematic (Halloween, School festival, etc.) videos can also be easily created. Videos highlighting upcoming physical education lessons or reviewing previous lessons can be made. The possibilities are endless.

Once the videos are made, they can be used in several ways:

  1. Morning Movement Time:

    • The first way is for a morning, school-wide movement time. Most schools have morning announcements. These videos can be a part of the announcements and used to get the days started actively.

  2. Activity or Brain Breaks:

    • Even if school announcements are not used, the videos can be made available to teachers through a video system or DVD. If the teachers have access to the videos at any time, classroom breaks can include the teacher clicking on the link to YouTube and letting the video play. Ideally, the teacher will engage in the activity with the students, but if he/she won’t, a video is still a great strategy. That is, some teachers might want to integrate physical activity in the school day because they don’t want to lead an activity. However, they will let their students be active if they have a video to turn on.

  3. Activity with Content:

    • Another idea might be working with the classroom teacher to make videos that are active reviews of academic content learned in the classroom. The idea of working with classroom teachers brings me to my final idea...

  4. Get students in the videos:

    • Students can work together to create their own video. While this might not be feasible during physical education time, I have worked in afterschool programs that allowed groups of students to choreograph and perform a dance for their video. This dance was then used during the morning announcements. I have also worked with a PE teacher who used the video as a behavior incentive. Essentially students who were having behavior issues were given behavior goals. Their reward for meeting these goals was getting to appear in the videos. They became stars in the school….for positive reasons.

Homemade videos add a local, personal touch to classroom physical activity time. They are cost effective and fun ways of integrating physical activity and brain breaks into the school day. Give it a shot.


For additional ways to get your students moving during the school day, check out Moving Minds by Gopher!


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

Check out more Blogs by Aaron!


Fuel Up to Play 60: Promoting School-Wide Wellness

Posted 2 years ago - by Jessica Shawley

Have you heard of Fuel Up to Play 60?! Wondering how it can impact your school and program?

Find out more about the program and how it promotes school-wide wellness below.

What attracted me to the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FU2P60) program is how the mission aligns with my goals as a physical educator AND it isn’t just a physical education-only grant.

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You're probably thinking, "Wait. Say that again?! You were looking for something that wasn't just a PE grant?"

Yes, I was looking for an opportunity to emphasize wellness as a school-wide initiative. FU2P60 helps schools build comprehensive programs that promote a culture of wellness school-wide, which includes and supports health & physical education, and is built upon student leadership. This is what I was looking for to help me team up with colleagues and cultivate wellness partnerships.

This is my fourth year as a Fuel Up to Play 60 Advisor and each year the program expands throughout our school. For example, near the end of last year, the technology teacher at my school approached me with the idea of bringing Fuel Up to Play 60 into her classroom. A little back story, with previous funding, I had provided teachers with some of Gopher’s Active & Healthy™ Schools program materials to bring ‘brain energizers’ into classrooms to help students take breaks from prolonged sitting. This teacher had successfully added these brain energizers to her teaching and now wanted to educate students on the importance of regular breaks from sitting and emphasize making healthy choices, especially if their career choice would include sitting in front of a screen.   

The technology teacher became a program advisor with me. With FU2P60 grant funding, we purchased equipment to keep at her end of the school for physical activity breaks from prolonged periods of sitting. Other teachers were allowed access the equipment as well. The students loved being able to get outside or into the hallway to move and then return to their work, often with more vigor. This was made possible through the “In-Class Physical Activity Breaks” Play.

Next, we purchased an iPad mini™, GoPro® camera, and educational materials/posters for the “Snack Smarter in School” Play. Students utilized the technology equipment to take videos, interviews, and snapshots of our students in action during a variety of activities. The technology teacher used Food Cards to review nutrition content previously taught in physical education. Students built healthy plates, analyzed food labels, and formatted information into tables as part of their technology skill building. Students created original posters with healthy messages and participated in contests for giveaways. Students even developed a FU2P60 student website we will use to post pictures and promote the program overall.

The technology teacher developed several activities that infused nutrition with technology skills. It truly is a successful cross-curricular partnership.  

Fuel Up to Play 60 is a natural platform to help teachers collaborate and enhance their curriculum through student health and wellness. The possibilities are endless! This blog is only one success story from my Fuel Up to Play 60 experience. There are many more and you can view other stories here. Overall, the initiative is an excellent way to help establish partnerships within your school that promote the importance of physical activity and nutrition.

The program provides the option to apply for grant funding annually. You are not required to apply for funding to be a part of the program. It is completely FREE. As an experienced grant-writing teacher, the FU2P60 application process to be very user friendly, even for first time grant writers. Your local dairy council will provide support with the application process and overall program. All you have to do is ask. There are two upcoming deadlines for 2015-16 school year grant funding cycle (June 16 & November 4, 2015) where your school can qualify for up to $4,000 in funds to support the Healthy Eating & Physical Activity Plays.

Continuing the Conversation: What do you currently do to support wellness in your school beyond your classroom? What partnership opportunities might there be in your school or community that could begin next year? 


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

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I believe that all successful businesses, and school systems, are always looking for ways to be creative and improve their business or organization.  Great ideas grow into systematic change when the leadership at each site is willing to listen to; research data, philosophical concepts, emotions, the latest in technological approaches, and every once in awhile a “dream” that has no data attached to it!  When hiring for leadership positions it is important to have individuals who have; strong work ethic, great communication skills, depth in educational knowledge, and a caring approach to everyone that they come into contact with.  It is also extremely important to have leadership that is flexible and willing to try ideas that go against the norm and require some patience and understanding.

Stabilityball, stability chair, ball chair, classroom ball chair

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I believe that all successful businesses, and school systems, are always looking for ways to be creative and improve their business or organization.  Great ideas grow into systematic change when the leadership at each site is willing to listen to; research data, philosophical concepts, emotions, the latest in technological approaches, and every once in awhile a “dream” that has no data attached to it!  When hiring for leadership positions it is important to have individuals who have; strong work ethic, great communication skills, depth in educational knowledge, and a caring approach to everyone that they come into contact with.  It is also extremely important to have leadership that is flexible and willing to try ideas that go against the norm and require some patience and understanding.

Over the past several years we have had some of our staff transition to Standing Desks or Workstations, use walking paths during the school work day, and on-site yoga and Pilates classes starting at 3:20 p.m.  There can be a negative public perception centering around walking paths and workout classes on-site.  Leaders have to be able to withstand that negative public perception and accept the fact that more staff will physically work out if the workouts are of convenience and they are with a positive group of peers.  If employees want to go for a 30 minute brisk walk during the middle of the day, either around a break time or lunch time, that should be encouraged and the public will soon recognize the increased enthusiasm and job performance of those employees.  We encourage our community to use our indoor walking path at Hastings High School, why would we not do the same for our employees?

A few years ago some of our teachers incorporated Stability Ball Chairs” into their classrooms.  I was very skeptical when this decision was made.  As a former elementary teacher, I could only imagine the number of times that students would be bumping into other students, falling off of their stability balls, or knocking their work off of their desktops.  The stability balls have proven to be beneficial for not only students who had some excess energy to burn off, but they have also been beneficial as motivating some students to stay focused on their work.  Students love their stability ball chair and do not want to lose the privilege of using it during the school day.

Over the past four years, several schools in our area have incorporated what I will label as, “Physically Active Learning Centers.”  Teachers can take their students into these rooms during reading or math time and the students are engaged in specific activities that require both mental and physical activities at the same time.  Some of these activities could also be accomplished in the regular classroom setting, but it is safer in the Active Learning Center.  There is research that indicates some students who have reading weaknesses, will improve in their reading skills when combining physical activity with academic repetition.

The main point of this blog is to emphasize that any of the above mentioned changes can only take place with flexibility from the leadership position.  All staff will dream and incorporate positive physical activities into the school day if they know that their site leadership is open to new ideas and are flexible.

Check out Moving Minds for more great products to engage minds through physical activity in your schools!

Read a related CDC Report, classroom results start on page 21


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

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Posted 3 years ago - by Terri Pitts

Kids playing badminton outdoorsThe ever increasing pressure to cram more instructional time into the school day in an attempt to boost test scores has put the squeeze on recess in districts around the country. The trend can be traced back to the late eighties and was accelerated under No Child Left Behind. Districts under pressure to show academic progress began to squeeze as much instruction into the day as possible. Agustin Orci, deputy superintendent of instruction in Nevada explains, “If you have a 15-minute recess scheduled, you spend five minutes getting (students) to the playground, another five getting back and then five more minutes getting them calmed down and ready to learn back in the classroom. You end up blowing 30 minutes of potential instructional time to gain the limited benefits of having recess. It’s become a luxury we can’t afford.” Nationwide, principals state that 89 percent of discipline-related problems occur at recess or lunch.

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But all work and no play for kids has not set well with many parents-and teachers. Now there is some momentum to keep recess, fueled by several forces. There's the nation's obesity epidemic and First Lady, Michelle Obama's, spotlight on childhood health. New brain research is drawing clear links between physical activity and learning. 

Georgia State's Professor, Olga Jarrett, states, "There is this assumption that if you keep kids working longer, they will learn more," says Jarrett. "It's misguided." Indeed, no research supports the notion that test scores go up by keeping children in the classroom longer, but there is plenty of evidence that recess benefits children in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical ways. "With recess, children have choices and can organize their own games, figure out what's fair, and learn a lot of social behavior that they don't learn in P.E. and in the classroom," she says.

Research shows that when children have recess, they gain the following benefits:

- Are less fidgety and more on task
- Have improved memory and more focused attention
- Develop more brain connections
- Learn negotiation skills
- Exercise leadership, teach games, take turns, and learn to resolve conflicts
- Are more physically active before and after school


Continuing the Conversation:

— Do you think kids need recess? Why?

— Is recess just for elementary school students, or should students in middle school — or even high school — have some form of recess or unstructured time? Do you still have recess?

— How important was recess in your schooling? What did you do during recess? Was it beneficial for you?


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

View more Blogs by Terri!

Active and Healthy Schools (AHS)

Posted 3 years ago - by Aaron Beighle

Looking for ways to maximize the amount of physical activity your students are receiving throughout the school day? Check out how Gopher's Active and Healthy Schools program can help you get there!

Active & Healthy Schools CurriculumFor my last blog I wrote about Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP). As you will recall this multi-faceted approach is gaining momentum around the country. This time I want to focus on Gopher’s Active and Healthy Schools (AHS) Program. This program was originally developed a few years before the release of the CSPAP Position Statement by NASPE, but assists schools in implementing components of CPSAP and healthy living. AHS includes several modules including classrooms, playgrounds, healthy eating, sun safety, and outside of school. With each module, requisite materials to implement the program are provided. In addition, other equipment, strategies, and signage are available.

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For the purpose of this blog I am going to focus on the use of AHS to maximize physical activity during the school day. In my experience working with schools, most try to increase physical activity during the school day for a variety of reasons. However, the literature suggests that not all of these efforts are successful. Fortunately, the approaches utilized by AHS have been researched and shown to be effective. Interestingly, AHS was the basis of one large study conducted in Omaha, Nebraska, by Dr. Jen Huberty, now of Arizona State University. I will discuss this study later in the blog.

AHS materials include activity cards for classroom based physical activity. In our work with teachers, we have found long lesson plans or lengthy descriptions are not what they want. Thus, the activity cards provide simple activities that can be completed in a small space with short descriptions (usually fewer than 5 bullets). Many of the activities allow for academic integrations as well. Several teachers have suggested that the activity cards be stored in an easily accessible place (e.g., on the white board or on their desk). When students get fidgety or restless, teachers simply grab a card and provide an activity break. This approach improves behavior and concentration. In our research we have found this to be an effective strategy, specifically when the breaks were used to integrate academic content, for increasing activity and decreasing behavior issues. On a side note, I think it is essential that classroom teachers begin looking at physical activity as a teaching tool similar to a white board, centers, and reading groups, as opposed to something “added to their plate”. When I teach pre-service classroom teachers, I teach them that physical activity, while it is a break, is a tool that assists with classroom management, content delivery, and overall classroom morale. A teacher in one of our studies told us before the study she thought she couldn’t afford to “waste time on physical activity” when she had so much to cover. After the study she said, “I can’t afford not to integrate physical activity. My kids love it. I love it. And they are so much more focused. It’s changed my classroom.”

AHS also includes a playground module. The focus of this module is to use activity zones at recess. Activity zones are just what they sound like. A recess supervisor zones off areas of the playground for different activities. This can be accomplished with lines or cones. Examples of zone activities might be jump rope, dance, soccer, walking path, and tennis rally with a partner. During recess students can then move to zones as they wish. Zones can be changed weekly to replace activities that are not as popular or interest in them has waned. One strategy is for the physical education teachers to introduce a new activity each week at the end of a physical education lesson. This activity can then be used as an activity zone. Professors at the University of Northern Colorado call this the Recess Activity of the Week (R.A.W.). Another key component of the playground module is the recess supervisor. As I mentioned before, in our research in Nebraska we found the implementation of activity zones by a recess supervisor was effective. The supervisor circulates throughout recess motivating students, teaching new activities, and setting up the zones. Another key component of our research was the use of recreational equipment (jump ropes, playground balls, etc.) at recess. Students need equipment to be active. While the research on expensive equipment like slides, swings, and merry-go-rounds is not convincing, providing students with recreational equipment has been shown to be effective.

My experience working with schools using AHS has been successful. The program is turnkey, cost-effective, and sustainable. What else can you ask for? For further information I encourage you to visit For information on the research mentioned above contact me at


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