Designing an Effective Instant Activity | PE Express Podcast Ep. #31

I’m going to share with you the process I went through that completely transformed the first five minutes of my class.

Instant activities are such a hot topic in our fiscal education community. They’re quick, fun and sure to get your students off to an active start at the beginning of class.

What is an Instant Activity?

There are so many types of instant activities, small group, large group, cooperative, competitive, fitness-based, skill based, one task, multitasks, I could keep going on. We have a lot of options as to what type of instant activity we bring to our PE program. I’m a huge advocate for instant activities in PE programs because they immediately get students moving at the beginning of class. I share a lot about instant activities because I’ve personally seen the benefits and huge gains students can achieve simply by giving them an entry task as they walk in the door. Through countless revisions, I eventually designed an instant activity where I didn’t need to give my students direct instruction to complete their entry task and it worked. So here’s what I did when I designed my instant activity, I first thought about what I wanted to achieve and I came up with three main goals. My first goal was to provide a variety of activities. My second goal was to give students the ability to perform without my assistance and the third goal was to create an active and fun learning environment. Through countless revisions, here’s the design I came up with: A five minute, five task instant activity. This was printed in a poster format with limited instructional text of each task and a visual picture of someone modeling the task. At the bottom of this poster. Below the five tasks, I put a standards based performance rubric students or myself could access for assessment.

The Five Minute, Five Task Instant Activity

My instant activities have five tasks, all of which allow my students to work at their own pace. Each task gives students one minute towards practicing a fitness theme skill. After each minute, students move on to the next numbered task. The first four tasks are fitness themed and directly linked to each of the health related fitness components, cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and muscular endurance. For example, students practice ski jumps for one minute. The fifth and final task is a challenging cooperative activity between two students. For example, students sit back to back with a partner and attempt to stand together while keeping their arms linked.

Use Time Instead of Reps

I found time tasks to be highly effective with my students. In a previous incident activity design I used, I gave students a number of repetitions to complete for each task. This ended up being a big failure. For example, jogging three laps, performing 20 jumping jacks, et cetera. I soon learned, this method was hard to monitor. Students tried to take shortcuts completing these tasks. One prime example of this, I saw it with my students, was those ever so popular, hummingbird jumping jacks where somehow they emphatically wave their arms to complete 25 jumping jacks in three seconds. Within the first minute, I overheard students saying, I’m finished. Now what? So I made the change from students completing a set number, repetitions, to students working to the best of their ability in a one minute task. Allowing students to work at their own pace did wonders and created more bind to the learning and higher participation rates in these first five minutes and it made scanning the classroom to see if everyone was on task so much easier.

So the design of my instant activity was complete. Once I had this blueprint, I built a library of 30 different instant activity posters where I was able to provide a new different set of tasks each week. Yes, I ended up coming up with 150 different activities. This did take a little time, but it was so worthwhile as each week progressed, students had new tasks to focus on. However, there were some tasks that students simply didn’t want to do.

Student Choice Increases Motivation and Activity

Instead of fighting that, I gave students the power to choose their tasks that they wanted to complete by adding student choice posters alongside the instant activity poster. The student choice poster had three previous skills from prior instant activities as students could revisit instead of trying out the new task at hand. For example, if a student didn’t like jumping jacks as the task on that week’s instant activity, they could refer back to the student choice poster and choose jogging in place instead. So what do these instant activities actually look like in the classroom? Well, I saw up to 60 students at one time. For safety transitions and management, I had six different locations where students could access their instant activity. Instead of students going one spot, I divided them into six equal teams designating each team to go to a different part of the gym to access their entry task.

I found a lot of success with this style of incident activity, and you can to whatever type of incident activity you do with your students, I encourage you to occasionally reflect on what you’re doing and ask yourself, can I make this better?

Derek is a Washington State-based NBCT Physical Educator looking to leave a lasting impression in the Physical Education community through meaningful collaboration, advocacy, and teamwork. He taught elementary PE for more than a decade and now currently serves all 32 schools in the Highline School District as the PreK-12 Health and Physical Education Coordinator. A Seattle native, Derek’s credentials include a bachelors and masters in Physical Education from Western Washington University and Central Washington University, respectively. He serves alongside other physical educators on his state’s Health and PE cadre. Derek shows his growing passion for teaching leadership and advocacy in Physical Education as a workshop presenter for SHAPE Washington and SHAPE America. He also shares his PE philosophy with educators across the globe as a monthly blogger through the Puget Sound Educational Service District and Ready Washington. Outside of PE, Derek enjoys spending time with his family of 3, running outdoors, and swinging the golf clubs searching for that illusive hole-in-one. See what Derek is doing on Twitter: @PhysEdDerek

Derek is a Washington State-based NBCT Physical Educator looking to leave a lasting impression in the Physical Education community through meaningful collaboration, advocacy, and teamwork. He taught elementary PE for more than a decade and now currently serves all 32 schools in the Highline School District as the PreK-12 Health and Physical Education Coordinator. A Seattle native, Derek’s credentials include a bachelors and masters in Physical Education from Western Washington University and Central Washington University, respectively. He serves alongside other physical educators on his state’s Health and PE cadre. Derek shows his growing passion for teaching leadership and advocacy in Physical Education as a workshop presenter for SHAPE Washington and SHAPE America. He also shares his PE philosophy with educators across the globe as a monthly blogger through the Puget Sound Educational Service District and Ready Washington. Outside of PE, Derek enjoys spending time with his family of 3, running outdoors, and swinging the golf clubs searching for that illusive hole-in-one. See what Derek is doing on Twitter: @PhysEdDerek

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