Creative Ways to Integrate Fitness with Team Building into PE

Fitness can be fun – and it doesn’t have to be just traditional fitness!

Integrating intentional fitness into every lesson is a goal of my physical education program. I have found it successful to balance individual challenge or traditional fitness activities with partner fitness challenges and cooperative/team-building activities to keep students interested and motivated.

I teach such a wide array of abilities, both physical and mental, that I found my students’ young bodies appreciated the “break” from the nature of a traditional fitness workout to include fun group activities (which still included fitness). The results? Their participation levels were great, working harder during the fitness-focused stations. Now I incorporate this throughout the year as part of my ‘go-to’ strategies.

Students training in a gymAn easy way to start implementing this is with the Partner A – Partner B or Group A – Group B method. I also call it the “ON – OFF” method. With Group A starting on the intentional fitness station, circuits or exercises and Group B begins on the cooperatives. After a certain time period, they switch and go to what their partner or group was just doing. Switch back and continue where you left off and so on.
[Photo: Group A on partner fitness challenges and Group B on resistance band trainers]

 

I also mix in team building and cooperatives into traditional circuits as part of stations students rotate to. For example, during my volleyball unit, we complete a fitness circuit that includes an emphasis on skill-related fitness that pertains to volleyball (jumping, agility, etc.) and I mix in partner volleyball challenges (bumping, setting, sequences or serve into a hula hoop station) or use the volleyball as a tool at a station (medicine ball twist – but with a volleyball). It’s a nice ‘hook’ in the lesson that carries out the volleyball theme and keeps things interesting.  

Recent fitness team building and cooperative challenge activity ideas:

  1. Beanbag Partner Challenges:

    • Using the beanbag to do partner back and forth slides while maintaining a plank position. Counting repetitions (even counting in another language!). Then transition into beanbag slide air hockey while still in plank position. Partners face each other and remain in plank position while trying to slide the beanbag between their partner’s arms to score a point. The partner tries to stop the beanbag. They can keep score if they wish. You can even do various fitness activities with a beangbag and a partner – pretending it’s a medicine ball or a sand bell. I love Gopher’s beanbag bocce set so that I can also play bocce ball cardio style with my entire class as a warm-up.
  2. Balance Dome Challenges:

    • Each student in the small group has his/her own balance dome and goes through a progression of balance challenges by themselves at first (one and two legs, push-ups, agility jumps, etc.). Then I add in a foam ball for students to work with a partner on different balance or core work – completing sit-ups with a chest pass to a partner, balancing on the dome and tossing back and forth while counting repetitions to see which team can go for the longest.
  3. Character Education:

    • Take the individual stations or challenges from any character education set, selecting a few to focus on as designated stations. In small groups, students rotate at their own pace from challenge to challenge when not on their personal fitness portion of the lesson. Students are to take turns being the leader of challenges – reading and leading the challenge with their group. Different resources I use for this:

If you feel students just aren’t responding the same way they used to at the beginning of the year to fitness activities or if you haven’t tried this method yet, it’s time to mix in some partner games and cooperatives with your fitness activities. Student smiles, laughter, and enjoyment of the activities are sure to follow. I also like how this strategy brings in elements of student choice and gives students the opportunity to communicate, lead, and cooperate in a group setting, which is an important part of our national standards and student learning outcomes.

 

Continuing the conversation: What other partner or small group fitness challenges do you use to mix things up for your lessons? 

 

Jessica is a Physical Education Teacher, NBCT in Moscow, Idaho. She is the 2012 National NASPE Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year, a National Board certified Physical Education Specialist, and served on the SHAPE Idaho board for over 7 years as President, Conference Manager and District Representative. She has and continues to travel the country providing professional development workshops and keynotes on a variety of topics.

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