Easy Methods to Enhance Capture the Flag

Take a quick second and think about the most popular Physical Education games you experienced as a kid…

I’m sure there’s a good chance Capture the Flag is on your list. 

Capture the Flag is that “oldie but goodie” activity still popular today.  This game has always been at the top of my list mainly because of the memorable experiences I had invading territories, strategizing with my peers, and of course…trying to be the hero and CAPTURE THE FLAG.

If you’re new to Capture the Flag, or simply need a review of how it’s played, here’s a brief description.  

How Capture the Flag works?

The concept of this game is simple.  Invade the opposing team’s territory to capture the other team’s flag, and bring it back to your team’s territory safely without being tagged.  If tagged and captured by the opposing team, usually that player must go to a predesignated area and must be rescued by a teammate.

Can Capture the Flag get better?

Absolutely!  I’ve introduced Capture the Flag to my students over the years and found this traditional invasion game to be a little too old-fashioned.  So I changed it up. 

I focused on modifying 3 different components of Capture the Flag that ultimately increased learning and participation rates in my classroom.  So stick along, steal some of my ideas, and see if they work with your students.

Rethinking Capture the Flag

Modified Versions

Introducing new games is an easy way to create increased interest and attentiveness in the classroom.  I like to add a little flare to my activities and show students my creativity.  Here are two modified versions of Capture the Flag I’ve created that are sure to be a hit with your students. 

Ultimate Capture the Flag:

Incorporate Ultimate Frisbee concepts and rules into this activity and have students pass a ball or disc with their teammate when invading the opponent’s territory.  Students are safe from being captured when in possession of a ball or disc. 

Benefit – I found this modification to increase communication and teamwork when invading the opponent’s territory.  This little tweak gives students increased opportunities to working with their peer’s to complete the game’s objective.

I found this modification to increase communication and teamwork when invading the opponent’s territory.  This little tweak gives students increased opportunities to working with their peer’s to complete the game’s objective.

Strate-GO:

Coincidentally, the objective of my favorite childhood board game, Stratego, was to capture my opponent’s flag.  In search for the flag, I had to be wary of running into bombs planted throughout the territory I was invading.  I applied this board game concept into the real-life PE version and added “Fitness Bombs” to each team’s territory.  When the player gets to a potential flag, they may discover it’s a “Fitness Bomb” and must perform the given task before reentering the game.

Benefit – I found adding this risk or reward modification led to teams creating more strategies and overall participation.  Plus, the sheer reaction when a player comes across a “Fitness Bomb” or finally finds the flag is priceless.

Make it Educational:

Games like Capture the Flag are fun.  And educational.  Don’t forget to connect the learning to the fun in this activity.  Introduce learning targets you want your students to know as a result of this game.  ALL 5 National Physical Education Standards can be taught within Capture the Flag, regardless of grade level.  Here are examples of learning outcomes in 5th grade that support teaching to the standards. 

  • Standard 1: Perform Motor Skills
    • Students apply mature pattern in locomotor skills in a variety of activities, modified games, and small-sided game play.
    • Students demonstrate mature pattern in an overhand throw to a moving partner.
  • Standard 2: Movement Concepts
    • Students apply offensive and defensive strategies in a variety of small-sided and modified game play.
    • Students apply the concept of moving to open space and reducing open space in a variety of small-sided and modified game play.
  • Standard 3: Achieve Fitness
    • Students Identify activities used to develop components of health-related fitness (cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, body composition).
    • Students describe components of skill-related fitness (agility, balance, coordination, power, reaction time, speed).
  • Standard 4: Personal Behavior
    • Students analyze importance of etiquette in a variety of physical activities.
    • Students provide encouragement and feedback to peers without teacher prompting.
  • Standard 5: Value Physical Activity
    • Students explain how to overcome challenges essential for improvement.
    • Students analyze how various physical activities promote self-expression and enjoyment. 

Change the Rules

Think about the whole class.  How can all students find success?  Usually, the higher-skilled “athletes” can dominate a game like “Capture the Flag.”  So even out the playing field with a few changes to the rules.

  • Provide different-sized foam noodles for tagging.  Give students the option for a longer reach when trying to tag invading opponents.  Let students choose their tagging stick size based on their comfort, ability and personal experiences. 
  • Limit how often players can invade another team’s territory.  The higher-skilled “athletes” will most likely always be on the offensive prowl trying to invade.  Have students switch roles every couple minutes, OR place multiple flags within each playing area and allow students to only capture one flag.
  • Increase number of teams and / or flags.  This game doesn’t have to be limited to two teams.  I expanded teams to six and gave them multiple flags to protect.  This adjustment created higher participation rates and engagement in my classes.
  • Keep students active.  Don’t eliminate students from participating or have them wait to be rescued if they are tagged.  Instead, give them a task to complete.  I found a quick fitness task, making a basketball shot, or returning to the back of their own territory before invading again, maintained engagement from all students during the game. 
  • Incorporate pedometers.  Capturing the Flag doesn’t have to be the main objective for your students.  Maybe you want all students to accumulate at least 2,000 steps or 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during the allotted time period.  Pedometers will serve as that easy reminder for students that they need to be constantly moving during game play.

My Challenge for You

There are many ways Capture the Flag can be implemented within your Physical Education program.  I encourage you to explore your creativity and modify this or any other activity to increase student learning and participation.    

And if you’re in need of Capture the Flag equipment?  Check out some of GOPHER’s equipment

I am always looking for ways I can modify games like Capture the Flag.  If you have a unique version of this activity you feel many educators haven’t heard about, share that knowledge with your colleagues in our Physical Education community.    

Flag Football Equipment:

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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