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Using Fitness Testing Data in P.E.

Posted 1 month ago - by Jason Gemberling

Fitness testing

You decided to have your students do some fitness testing and you have all of the results collected, now what?  It is a great question and one that I am sure has a variety of answers, anywhere from putting the results in a file drawer to analyzing the results in great detail.  My hope is that you are pushing more toward the analyzing the results end of the spectrum, or honestly, why else are you testing your students?

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Fitness Testing Practices

First, let me start with a few thoughts on testing itself.  I have struggled with subjecting my students to fitness testing and whether or not I am getting true results.  There are several well-known physical educators who are against testing students for various reasons, one of which is it can turn kids away from physical activity, especially kids who are not very physically fit. 

Others take the extreme position in handing out awards to those that are fit and dominated the testing.  I place myself in the middle of this all, in that I do not grade students based on their results nor do I punish them for not making a certain standard. 

My goal is to encourage my students to give me their best effort on that particular day and always to try to do better than before.  I know I have some students that are out to set records in my class and they do, but I also have those students that are obese and hate exercise so by asking for their best and encouraging them to beat their personal best, I see first-hand that students are working harder.

What to do with the Results

With that said, what do I do with my results?  As a PE department, we test our students three times a year and inform the students that the results are used to guide our instruction. Again, this helps to motivate some students.  At the end of our school year, we look at what areas of fitness our students performed well and which areas show us we need improvement.  We break these results down by age and gender to help us better understand the results. 

For our school, we have noticed a downward spiral in muscular strength and endurance, but a slight upward spike for cardiovascular endurance over the past 3 or 4 years.  We attribute this spike in cardio to a switch in our focus from team sports to a more fitness-based curriculum.  As we continue to gather data, we will work to continue the growth in cardio.  Likewise, we know that we need to increase our focus in strength areas to help create a more well-rounded fitness level for our students.

Fitness Report Card

Something we have considered doing with our results is creating a Fitness Report Card for students to take home to their parents.  Our hesitation lies in putting too much emphasis on testing and turning kids off on becoming healthier individuals because they fear repercussions from home. To ease these concerns, we make sure parents are aware of the testing and inform them that they are welcome to come into school and meet with us about the results and what we are doing to help their child improve, not just on the testing, but really on our main focus, improving wellness. 

We also talk with our students individually about their results and what they mean to them and how we can work together to create a fitness plan.  Again, the goal of our program is to get our students heading in a positive direction with their health and well-being.

A word of caution with your results – before you start testing, understand that fitness testing can be unreliable due to factors beyond our control and even the students’ control.  I say this because we all know that kids can be stubborn, they might feel ill, they might be hesitant of testing, etc., so be understanding and encouraging and you will find your data too be more reliable because your students will know you want them to do their best!

At the end of the day, what you choose to do with your data is up to you, but I do encourage you to use it. Let students know the value and what you are using the results for so they put more stock into what they are about to do. And above all else, MAKE IT FUN!!    

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!

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!

Refine Sport Skills with Tchoukball & Sabakiball

Posted 4 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

Speed, agility, strategy, teamwork, and hand-eye coordination are all keep skills for almost all traditional American sports, such as basketball, football, and baseball, and all of these skills are brought into play in Tchoukball and Sabakiball. 

Tchoukball and Sabakiball are 2 of the more popular units in our high school physical education classes.  And as teachers, we love both of these games as well because of all of the skills mentioned PLUS the tremendous amount of cardio our students get while playing. 


Tchoukball is a game that reminds me of basketball, but more intense!  This game is extremely fast and goes end to end in the blink of an eye.  Another great aspect of Tchoukball is that there is NO defending, which allows students to feel more comfortable playing the game.  Teams are throwing at a target, which is a rebounder that kicks the ball back into play for the opposing team to try and catch before it contacts the floor. 

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This game requires teams to work on spacing on the floor to cover more area, communication on who is going for the ball, and speed and agility to react to the ball as it comes off of the rebounder.  And that is just the team on defense!  Offensively, the idea is to trick your opponent and shoot at the rebounder using angles avoid giving the opposing team the opportunity to catch the ball before it hits the floor.  One very unique piece to the game is that teams can shoot at either end of the floor, so again it requires excellent communication and floor spacing. 

As a former basketball coach, I would love my players to play Tchoukball while working on spacing and communication!  As a PE teacher, I encourage you to put pedometers or heart rate monitors on your students while they play Tchoukball, you will be amazed at the results!

Want to add Tchoukball to your classes? Get the complete pack or a rebounder here!



Sabakiball is a game similar to basketball again with a little soccer thrown in if needed.  Two teams defend a pin at their ends of the court.  Players must move the ball down the court, passing with their hands or feet. But before they shoot at the baki-pin, they must complete at least three consecutive passes using only their hands.  Again, floor spacing is a crucial element to this game and translates very well to basketball or soccer.  Teams may play defense in Sabakiball and as soon as a steal is made, just like in basketball or soccer, teams must transition to offense.  Defensively, teams have a goalie, who just like in soccer will try to defend the baki-pin by any means.  Sabakiball is another fast-paced game designed to increase students’ heart rate and get students working on game strategy and communication. 

For both Tchoukball and Sabakiball, my students have created plays and set themselves up in different formations to be as effective as possible.  This is another beautiful piece to these games, because I do not give them the answers to strategy.  We go over the rules to the games and talk about teamwork and communication, but after that they play and slowly learn the nuances to the game as a team and as a class.  It is amazing to watch as students form the plays and positioning and work together to fine tune their plans!

I encourage you all to jump onto YouTube and search for videos on Tchoukball and Sabakiball.  It is amazing to watch videos of these games being played at extremely high levels, some internationally!  I have taken time to show my students some of these videos at the beginning of these units in an effort to generate some excitement!  My students can’t believe the athleticism of these players! 


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

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Fun Fitness Circuits for PE [Video]

Posted 5 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

Circuit Training is one of the best ways to get all of your students actively engaged at their own pace and ability, which in the world of differentiating, this is a jackpot winner! I teach high school students, and we do several styles of circuits throughout the year based on what fitness areas we need to improve and also space and time. The circuits that we use can easily be adapted to any level of students, but please keep one thing in mind, doing circuit training all year or even for extended periods of time will not work for all students! You need to add variety and frequency to your circuits. Imagine if your only form of exercise was intense circuit training, you would lose interest too!

We do three, for lack of a better word, “types” of circuits in program; whole group, small group, and while you wait (this is one of my favorites because it keeps all kids active at all times!). For each “type” of circuit we do, we try to incorporate a lot of variety and also try to hit as many muscle groups as possible. We have extremely wide ranges of ability levels in our classes, so we feel circuit training is a great way to reach all of our students.

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Whole Group Circuits

Our whole group circuits take place either in our main gymnasium, or outside if the weather permits, with our entire class. These circuits will also include cardio, which is something that really ramps the circuits up. One of our favorites to do is called the Rep & Run 300. I am going to give a shout out to Maria Corte for introducing this circuit to me at a conference! In this circuit we set up 15 stations, with exercises ranging from push-ups to military presses with weight plates. And if you are lacking the equipment do not panic, use your imagination and student body weight to accomplish very similar results in your circuit. I won’t lie there are times we do no equipment circuits, because setting up 15 stations and taking them down every day or even within the day can be a pain!


The goal of the Rep and Run 300 is for students to start at one of the 15 stations and complete 20 repetitions as quickly as possible utilizing proper form which would give them 300 repetitions in the end. After they finish at a station, the students will leave the center of the gym and jog 3 laps around the perimeter of the gym floor, I encourage you to measure this so your students know how far they are jogging. When they are done with their jog, they re-enter the circuit and move to the next station. This is a very challenging circuit, but the beauty is that the students work at their pace and ability.

Another circuit you could use for a large group would be a Partner Circuit. The video describes what a partner circuit could look like in my gymnasium. Again, this a great circuit to use to get every student in class actively participating on their level.


Small Group Circuits


For small group circuits, we utilize a variety of equipment and try to make it so students can safely and effectively get through in a small space. We do our small group circuits in our auxiliary gymnasium which is less than half the size of our main gymnasium. When we do small group circuits we have students divided in half with half the group doing their cardio workout on spin bikes in the same space and the other half doing the strength circuit. For our cardio, we have our students do up-down workouts.

Up-down workouts are when students pedal at a required gear at a specific RPM while seated and then when they go up they increase the gear and pedal as hard and fast as they can until they come back down. The intervals for these workouts range from 1 minute down-15 seconds up to 3 minutes down-45 seconds up. Students start with 3 minutes of down to warm their legs up and finish with 3 minutes down to cool down. Check out great spin and exercise bike options!

One of the circuits we do in small group is a mini version of the whole groups circuit. We like to start with this one before do whole group because it allows us to demonstrate proper technique, plus easily correct students because the group is smaller. We also love to use fitness bands in small group circuits because of the small space and the versatility bands provide. The video below will show you the fitness band circuit that we do in class. Remember that there are a lot more exercises you can have students do with fitness bands, so mix it up!


Fitness Band Circuit Example:

Everr station will be 20 reps and each exercise should be done slowly and controlled. 

  • Bent Over Row
  • Bicep Curl
  • Tricep Extension
  • Squats
  • Seated Row
  • Shoulder Press
  • Forward Raise
  • Lateral Raise
  • Seated Leg Press
  • Monkeys


While You Wait Circuit


I love While You Wait Circuits! They keep ALL of our students active at ALL times! We play a variety of games in our classes from Pickleball (all-time best game) to Tchoukball and because our gym is on the small side we don’t have room for all of our students to participate at one time. So, instead of the sitting and waiting to play, we created the While You Wait Circuits! These circuits can be just about anything you want to have students do in the small space you have while they wait. We typically pick 5 exercises that require no equipment have the students do 10 to 30 reps per exercise. The rule for this is that your team can’t get back into play until every member has completed the circuit at least 1 time and those that have completed it keep going. Below is one example of a While You Wait Circuit and a short video demonstration.

While You Wait Circuit Example:

  • 1- Squats – 15 reps
  • 2- Ab of your choice – 25 reps
  • 3- High Knees – 30 steps
  • 4- Push-Ups – 20 reps
  • 5- Rocket Jumps – 20 reps

These are just a small sampling of circuits, and I encourage you to be creative when you create your own circuits. Keep in my mind your student’s abilities, the space you are working with, and the equipment you have at your disposal when you create your circuits. Try to make the circuits fun by cranking up the music and even jumping into the mix with students and showing them that you can do it too! Another fun way to get students more engaged is to invite and encourage other faculty members to join your classes during their planning periods!

I have had many teachers join us and you would be amazed at the increase in effort during class when the math teacher shows up to work out with your class! And finally, as I stated earlier, you do not need a lot of equipment or really any equipment to create successful circuits. Look in the hallway and around your gymnasium or outside classroom for structures or benches or stairs and incorporate these items into your workouts, for example you can have students do dips using bench outside or push-ups with their feet elevated. The sky is the limit,so use your imagination and have fun!


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

Check out more Blogs by Jason!

Team Building Activities & Games for PE

Posted 6 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

One of the best ways to start your school year is to get your students active and working together! Team building activities and games, also referred to as cooperative learning activities, can be a great way to see which students work well with everyone, which work well with certain students, and which students struggle to work well with anyone. We all know we have the full range in any given class, so hopefully incorporating some team building activities and games will bring the entire class together.


Island Movers

One of my favorite cooperative games to do when I taught elementary students was Island Movers! The game involves as much or as little equipment as you want to allow.  The idea of the game is for students to use the equipment you give them to get everyone in their group from one end of the gymnasium to the other without anyone touching the “shark-infested waters,” aka the gym floor! Feel free to play some Jaws-themed music too! 

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  • Split class into small groups of 4 or 5 students each for the first couple of rounds. Then make the groups the larger as you go.
  • Start each group with one piece of equipment per person in the group. If they master that, remove a piece of equipment. Examples of equipment: poly spots, carpet squares, cones, jump ropes, scooters, cardboard boxes, etc. Ensure you give each group the same pieces of equipment. 
  • Allow students to work together to cross the shark-infested waters.
  • On the last day of this activity, I make this a class challenge and the entire class must work together to accomplish the task.
  • End each round with a quick debriefing. This is a time to ask your students to share what worked and what didn’t. It also allows students to try a different group’s idea.


  • This is a teamwork activity, so make sure that all groups realize this is NOT a race.
  • If a group is finished, encourage those students to cheer for the other groups.
  • Mix up the groups each round so the students get to work with everyone in the class.


Buddy Walking

buddy walking, team walkingAnother team building activity that I have done is called Buddy Walking. This is a fun activity that I encourage you to record on video the first and last day of the activity to see how far the students’ teamwork skills have grown and improved. Everyone will have a good laugh; and, to be quite honest, being able to laugh together is another great way to bond! 

I liked to use the Team Walker Sets from Gopher for this activity. However, if you are low on funds and handy, you can make your own set with some 2x4’s and rope. The idea is to get students to think, communicate, and walk as a group from Point A to Point B. Some students will take charge and lead their group in a cadenced march, while others will struggle to work together. Again, this is why debriefing is crucial!  It will allow students to hear success stories! 



Geocaching or treasure hunting is an activity that can be done in small groups or as a whole class and can be a tremendous amount of fun! You are in control of how complex you would like to make this adventurous lesson. I have never had GPS units in my PE closet, but if you can purchase a couple I would recommend it! The units range in cost and complexity, so pick what you feel comfortable using and teaching! And if you don’t have the funds to purchase GPS units, dig deep into your National Treasure skills and create maps of your own for your students to follow. The great part about creating clues to use is that you can pull classroom concepts into PE class, again this all depends on how elaborate you want to make the lesson/unit. I have done this as a search-and-rescue mission utilizing clues that they must follow to get to a specific destination. Along the way as they get to each clue, I like to add different exercises that they must complete as a group before moving onto the next clue. A word of caution, this is not the best thing to do within the halls of your school, it can be a little loud! Shop Geocaching supplies.


Team Counting Game

My last suggestion, and I still use this at the high school level, is a counting game. I call it team counting, and I would say this is better for your upper elementary students. There is no equipment necessary and you can use it inside or outside! 

If you have a class of 20 students, the idea is for the class to count from 1 to 20, but each student is allowed to call out only one number. Students sit or stand in a circle and are not permitted to count straight down the line or around the circle. If two students call out a number at the same time, they must start back at 1. If there is a long pause, I usually go with 3 or 4 seconds, then they must start over.  Depending on the class, this task can be done quickly or it may take them 10 minutes or they may never get it. I suggest not letting them struggle to the point where they don’t get it, give them some hints. The hint I use is that once a student has secured a number that they called out, they should always be the person to call that number. Again, debriefing with your class at the end is crucial, because you can talk about different strategies and how they as a class worked together to solve a tricky problem. As an extra little bonus, I use this with my track team and they must do wall sits while trying to work together to count from 1 to however many are in my sprinter/hurdler/jumper group.

I know the thought is to use team building activities and games at the beginning of the year and I agree it is important, but I would also gauge your classes throughout the year. I know when I taught elementary school PE, there were times in the year when I pulled these back out because I felt it was necessary to get everyone back together. This is especially true as they get older because hormones kick in, friendships form, and sometimes you can tell classes are excluding some kids. That never leads to anything positive! I also want to point out that these activities are meant to be fun, and if you notice your students getting frustrated just stop and have a debriefing session to talk things out. If your students are extremely frustrated and you don’t help them work through this, you will have accomplished nothing! Good Luck!


Shop team building equipment options.

Interested in more team building ideas? Check out these blogs:


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

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Utilizing Pedometers and MVPA in PE

Posted 8 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

For almost 10 years, I taught high school physical education wondering what I could use to help measure student participation and at the same time justify student grades.  While attending a conference, I was introduced to pedometers and using MVPA, moderate to vigorous physical activity, and how utilizing this small, easy-to-use device could help put my physical education program on the right path. 

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Let’s start by talking about a couple pedometers that I have used in the past couple years.  We have used both the Gopher FITstep™ Plus and the Gopher FITstep™ Pro.  Both pedometers are extremely reliable and calculate steps, active time, and most importantly MVPA time.  We switched to the FITstep™ Pro for its uploading capability, which allows us to collect data on individual students as well as entire classes and even our entire school.  We have taken our FITstep™ Plus pedometers to our elementary and middle school classes to get our students familiar with the pedometers at a young age, as well as allowing our PE staff at those buildings to utilize the pedometers in their grading and evaluation of students. 

So, how is MVPA calculated?  MVPA is based on the number of steps taken per minute.  The great part about both of these pedometers is that you have control over what the average number of steps per minute is set for the MVPA timer to run.  And the timer only runs when your students are walking or running at or above the set number of steps per minute.  As soon as your students drop below the average that you set, their timer stops running.  It has taken our students a little time to get used to this fact, but they have caught on and do a fantastic job.  Our students are assigned a pedometer number and are permitted to put their pedometer on as soon as they get into our gym.  I smile and laugh every time I enter the gym and see 9th through 12th grade students walking in place or around the gym as I take attendance.  I call it organized chaos!  My administration loves it too, which is a huge help for our program! 

I have been asked many times while presenting to groups on how we use pedometers. How often do you use pedometers?  What is the biggest problem with using pedometers? We use pedometers every day we are outside for class.  Our program offers our students a lot of choices to be active, especially when we are outside.  When we come back inside for the long winter stretch in Central PA, the pedometers hibernate for the winter!  Our students appreciate the break and with the choices they have inside the pedometers don’t always work depending on the activity. 

As for problems, we have a little trouble keeping students from breaking pedometers during some of our activities, mainly flag football and tchoukball.  For flag football, the pedometers are breaking as belts are being pulled off, so we have been trying to figure out a way to avoid this problem and if anyone out there has any suggestions, please share!  Tchoukball is not as rough on pedometers, but we have several students that go all out and land on the pedometers while diving to catch the tchoukball.  This one is not a problem for me, just because I love the enthusiasm!  Now for our biggest issue, trying to get our students to understand that MVPA is based off of steps per minute and that everyone walks at different rates with different stride lengths.  We go over this with our students all of the time and they still struggle to understand why someone who is 6’ tall with long strides walking with someone 5’ with short strides will have a different amount of MVPA time if they walk at the shorter person’s stride.  I am pretty sure we will be dealing with this one for all of time with some students! 

For us, one of the best things about using the FITstep™ Pro pedometers is they allow our students to self-monitor during class, so they know what they need to do to earn credit for class.  We created charts that our students and parents are made aware of at the beginning of the school year, indicating how much MVPA time they need to get in order to earn full credit.  Please feel free to take a look at the chart we use most often and make it your own!  Another great part of using pedometers is parents can understand our system and expectation much better than when it was based solely off of what the teacher felt the student’s effort was in class. 


We also have Pedometer Rules posted that we expect students to follow:

  1. Treat the pedometer with respect!
  2. FInd your assigned pedometer (double check!!)
  3. Place pedometer on waistband (not on or in pockets)
  4. At the end of class, upload your pedometer

I also love that pedometers are very low maintenance, which means less work for you!  I have used heart rate monitors before but the upkeep with chest straps and keeping them clean and the time commitment is just not worth it to me!  Now with that said I am looking for feedback from anyone how they like strapless heart rate monitors and if they are effective, because we are always looking for new ways to assess our students!   

Learn more about the FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers and all Gopher Pedometers!


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Did You Make a P.E. New Year's Resolution?

Posted 8 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

We recently ushered 2016 out of the gym, and I'm sure many of you prepared a New Year’s Resolution to do something great in your PE or Health classes. Maybe you have two or three resolutions you're using to improve your program and help your students reach new personal fitness goals? Or perhaps you decided to make a leap and try a brand new lesson? Whatever it is, I encourage you to go for it! And on top of that share with as many people as you can, you never know your resolution could go viral! 

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Here are a couple of my PE resolutions for 2017:

1. Attend a health and P.E. conference or convention

I want to give myself the opportunity to find new ideas and talk with other fantastic health and physical education teachers. As health and physical educators, we all have several great lesson ideas or activities that our students experience success and gain knowledge; so, we all need to find time to get to a conference or convention and share our successes with others! Building a community for the greater good is one way we can all make a difference!

2. Share at least 1 new fitness activity with my students

My goal here is to find an activity that might get more students physically active every day. It may be that I try PiYo® for my yoga loving students or Zumba® for those that might like fitness-based, high-energy dance. I could also look to add suspension training with a TRX® trainer set. My hope is that the more types of physical activity that I can expose my students to, the better chance that I hit something they may enjoy and continue to do throughout their lives!

3. Start a school-wide fitness initiative

My last resolution for the upcoming year is a big one and I will try my best to make it come to fruition. I would like to start a school-wide fitness initiative to get not just my students, but all of the teachers and school personnel physically active on a daily basis. This may be done through monthly themes or contests in an effort to jumpstart the campaign. It may not happen until the start of the next school year and culminate with a 5k fun run or color run at the conclusion of next school year, but this is something that I feel will bring the students and staff together for one common goal of getting healthier and more fit!

I would love to hear your resolutions and I encourage you to try something new! And if you are looking for ideas, please search through the amazing blog posts on this site and see what you can make work in your class!

May 2017 be a GREAT year for you all!


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A Feast of Thanksgiving Turkey Trot Ideas for Your School!

Posted 11 months ago - by Jason Gemberling

Looking for a fun and fit way to send your students home for Thanksgiving Break this year?  Try a trot, a Turkey Trot that is! 

This is a fun event that can be done at any age level and can be done simply, or if you are game, quite extravagantly. Depending on the grade level you are teaching, you can decide the distance your students will run or walk.  You will also need to decide if you want this event to be a true race or more of a fun event. 

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Turkey Trot Ideas: 

 1. A True Race

I have done this as a true race when I taught elementary school students for just my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students and they trotted for a mile.  Each grade raced separately and the first place boy and girl won a frozen turkey, second place won a pumpkin pie, and third place a box of stuffing. Use your imagination to decide your awards!

2. For Fun

If you want this to be a fun event, consider having some of your teachers dress up as turkeys, boxes of stuffing, Pilgrims, or whatever Thanksgiving costume they want, and have them trot along with your students.  Nothing gets kids more excited than seeing their teachers (and administrators) trotting along with them as they participate in the fun! 

3. Get Parents Involved

I encourage you to get parents involved as well. Not only to help you with logistics, but also to encourage them to get active with their children.  AND, if you want to make the event really big, parents are fantastic helpers! 

4. Trot + Thanksgiving Dinner

While thinking about writing this blog, I had another thought come to mind that I may try to make a reality for Thanksgiving 2017.  I teach in a very rural school district, with a number of economically disadvantaged students, so why not take the last day of school and make it a “Fit Family Turkey Trot and Thanksgiving Dinner?” I know I have students that don’t get the full Thanksgiving feast, so my thought is to get in contact with our Director of Food Service and put together a home cooked Thanksgiving Feast that will follow a Turkey Trot 5k run/walk. This may be a huge endeavor, but with proper planning, it could become a huge success and give all of my students and their families the opportunity to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together. 

I hope that if any of you try a trot, you make sure to keep the event fun for every student and get as many stakeholders involved as possible!  And if you do try a trot, please share how you ran your event!  I love hearing how others do things like this to get new and fresh ideas!  Happy Trotting!


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A student gets stung by a bee and he/she is severely allergic.  A student is suffering from an asthma attack.  A student comes in contact with a food he/she is allergic to. A student with a severe heart condition faints.  These are all nightmares that we all hope never happen in our classes, especially if we teach a class by ourselves, and we are outside with no method of communicating directly with the school nurse. 

As a parent of a third grader with severe food allergies, this is something that both my wife and I think about on a daily basis – not only in PE class, but throughout my daughter’s entire day. So, please take the time to put a plan in place to protect all of your students and also help yourself feel at ease when students with these type of conditions are in your class.

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1. Ask your school nurse for a list of all of your students that have any type of medical conditions. 

My school district does an excellent job of communicating this type of information to all of the staff in an effort to keep all of our students safe. Through our grading/attendance software program, we are easily made aware of these conditions, but I know that not everyone has this software.  A simple list could and should be made available to you and if it is not, I urge you to push for one.

Simply knowing ahead of time that a student is allergic to bees and has epinephrine in the nurse’s office is extremely important and lifesaving!  My daughter carries her EpiPen® with her, and all of her teachers know this, so that if she comes into contact with an allergen, the teacher can administer her Epinephrine immediately. So, know your students! Also, know your school district’s policies on students self-carrying medication of any kind such as Epinephrine and asthma inhalers.


2. Have a method for communicating with your school nurse or office staff.  

This is something that most of us have in place, but for younger teachers, this may be a small detail that you overlook. This is typically not an issue when you are inside for class, but when you are outside, it is critical. 

For some of my classes, we are on mountain bikes and they take us quite far from our building, so I always have my cell phone with me in case of emergencies. You can also purchase two-way radios if you don’t feel comfortable carrying your personal cell phone. Regardless of whether it is your phone or a two-way radio, make sure that you know who you are contacting and that they understand if you are contacting them it is an emergency.  If you are left with no other option, make sure that in each of your classes you have several students that you can rely on to get to the building quickly and get help.


3. Make sure you know the steps to help a student in an emergency situation. 

I am hopeful that everyone is certified in CPR and first aid, but are you trained in how to administer Epinephrine? My guess is not many of you are. At my school district, we have had trainings in the past on this and are required to view a training video/slideshow every year. I would love to see a training be required every year for every member of our staff.


4. Make sure you ask questions if you are unsure of a condition or issue with one of your students. 

You need to be sure you understand what you are looking for and how to help, so that your students are safe. Depending on the size of your school, you may have 5, 10, 15, or maybe 50 students that have a medical condition you need to be aware of, and as a parent of one of those kids, please take the time to understand because someday you could be called to save a life!


As a reminder, none of these students have chosen the conditions they are dealing with in their lives. I have listened to fellow staff members complain about having a student with food allergies in their class too many times. I find it disheartening to think that some people would rather the child be removed from school than make a few minor changes to their routines to keep a student safe.

Showing a little compassion and making students feel safe and welcome is the least we can do as educators!  


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