Design Challenge: Create an Obstacle Course Using Prepositions

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PrepositionA word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause. (1)

Design Challenge: An open-ended project that encourages students to ask questions, take initiative, and think creatively. (2)

Recently, we developed a design challenge project for our physical education classes. We challenged groups of four to build an obstacle course using the following guidelines:

  • Use anything within the boundaries of the playground.
  • The course must have a clear STARTING line and FINISH line.
  • Include the following 4 prepositions plus 1 choice obstacle:
    • Under
    • Over
    • Through
    • Around
    • Choice – The “choice” obstacle is one that will set your course apart from all the other groups. Dazzle your classmates with this element.
  • The course must be safe yet challenging

Once the obstacle course was designed, students each had to practice their creation until they could consistently complete it without hesitation. Each group member would then take turns running though the course while being timed by another group member with a provided stopwatch.

Finally, groups shared their obstacle courses with each other.

Goals of the Design Challenge lesson:

  • Reinforce teamwork and communication skills
  • Provide a creative outlet for our students
  • Enhance student understanding of prepositions
  • Incorporate a full-body workout
  • Provide an opportunity for me and my colleagues to observe our students in a nontraditional PE setting

Click Design Challenge for a link to the design challenge document!

Writing Extension – After designing their course and practicing it several times, students can write out the step by step progression using the prepositions and descriptive words. Then they can give their written description to another group who would then have to figure out the course using the step by step directions.

(1) “Preposition | Definition of Preposition in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English, Oxford Dictionaries

(2) Design Challenge –

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“If a Bee Stings You, Give it a Flower”

Perspective:  Seeing life through the lens of a child. 

Recently, we were deep into the culminating lesson of our team handball unit. After several fundamental classes based on skills and lead-up games, we decided it would be fun to break our class into teams of three to play small-sided, competitive games. The students would have a chance to apply their well-rehearsed skills plus their new and existing knowledge of strategy to a competitive setting. We, the teachers, would also have the opportunity to observe and reinforce gamesmanship and proper game etiquette. After all, once the scoreboard is turned on, sportsmanship can take on multiple personalities. Our numbers allowed us to have four games going on at once. Three of the four games were in cruise control. We witnessed shared responsibilities, movement from each player, strategic passes, integrity, and positive communication. They were a thing of beauty.

Our fourth game was equally poetic…or so we thought.

It is customary during the closing minutes of our classes to meet in the center of the gym as a group to process the day’s lesson. On this occasion, we asked the students to comment on their games, specifically, the participation, communication, gamesmanship, and integrity. Following several uplifting comments and compliments, one student raised her hand and stated that her team was NOT nice to her.

“When I dropped a pass, one of my teammates yelled at me. It’s not like I meant to miss the ball. It made me NOT want to play anymore.” Nearly in tears, it was apparent the girl was sincerely stung by the words of her teammate.

Anticipating a rebuttal from at least one of her teammates, there was nothing but silence. With the end of our time together quickly approaching, I was about to intervene when a hand shot up in the center of the group. Eager to share, the student exuded her familiar look of confidence and determination as she calmly waited to be called upon. It was a look that said, I know exactly how to remedy this situation.

I gladly called on Celeste.

My mom was recently trying to sell our house. She spent a lot of time getting the house in order so that people who were interested in buying the house would be impressed. She even baked cookies so the house would smell nice. A man and a woman came to look at our house. They were kind of obnoxious. They were saying things that didn’t make my mom happy. They didn’t seem to appreciate our house. When they left, my mom was really sad. She had worked so hard. So I just told my mom If a bee stings you, give it a flower! Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe they need us to be nice to them. Don’t let their mean words hurt you. Instead, maybe they need our kind words. We have a beautiful house, and it even smells like cookies.”

 With that, there was a brief silence in the gym. Thirty-nine other students and two teachers were in complete reflection mode. Celeste’s words were INDEED the perfect remedy for the situation. If a bee stings you, give it a flower.  So simple. So meaningful.

“How can we apply this to our situation?”

Without hesitation, Celeste responded. “That’s easy! You look the person who was being mean in the eye, and with a smile give them a friendly pat on the shoulder, then carry on. Go about your business. When people tell me I’m short, I just shrug my shoulders, give them a smile and go about my business.”

Often in life, we’re going to get stung by a bee. People are going to say or do mean things to us. How we respond to that bee sting is up to us. You can leave in the stinger, allowing it to fester and get infected, and over time, the pain will eventually lessen then go away. Or you could remove the stinger, apply ice, and understand the bee was simply trying to survive and protect itself or its family.

In any case, we should reflect not only on Celeste’s empathetic and compassionate statement, but the action she had poised behind those words.  As parents and teachers, we are constantly looking for the perfect, appropriate, and impacting lessons to impart on our kids. But maybe next time conflict arises, we should stop our words in their tracks and allow children to share their thoughts, flourishing in their own teachable moments.

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Olympic Alphabet Fitness Bingo

Here’s a simple warm-up for your PE classes called OLYMPIC ALPHABET FITNESS BINGO! Organize your students in groups of four. Give them an Olympic Alphabet Fitness Bingo card.

Challenge: How many squares can your group complete together in 5 minutes?

  1. Take turns choosing a word on the Bingo card.
  2. Match each letter of the word to the “Alphabet Fitness Key” to decipher your workout.
  3. Complete the exercises associated with each letter.



L – 25 lunges

U – 15 Squats

G – 10 Arm Circles

E – 20 Mountain Climbers

Click OLYMPIC ALPHABET FITNESS BINGO  for a copy of the challenge!

I’m sure there are other ways to use this challenge. Let me know if your discover any!


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10 MORE Instant Activities for PE

“Instant activities are designed to actively engage students in PE class the moment they walk through the gymnasium doors.  Usually posted on a whiteboard or monitor, instant activities involve every student with very little teacher involvement.  They’re typically high energy, but can also take on a cooperative component. Instant activities are an effective way to stimulate student learning prior to the day’s lesson.” Click here – (Top 7 Instant Activities for PE)

Instant activities are also a useful means to spiral back to a previous unit. For example, if we cover basketball skills in September, we will incorporate similar basketball skills as instant activities periodically throughout the school year.

What about fitness? We love incorporating body weight challenges, AMRAPs (as many rounds/repetitions as possible), jump ropes, and hula hoops as instant activities. Instant activities help to fulfill our mission of keeping our students thinking and in motion throughout each class.

Below is a list of ten more of my favorite instant activities. Enjoy!

Exercise Creation with Foam Cylinders – “With a partner, create an exercise that can strengthen your core muscles.”

Instant activities allowing students to create with a partner are always popular. Try leaving sets of 2-3 pieces of equipment around the gym. Challenge your students to create a game using the equipment. Give them parameters such as boundary limits and basic guidelines to keep everyone safe.

In the following video, students were challenged to create a core exercise with a foam cylinder. Prior to their arrival, I spread out the cylinders throughout the gym. As they entered I quickly partnered them up. After reading the challenge on our video screen (or whiteboard), they immediately began the task. As the students create, I like to filter through the gym, observing partner dynamics.


Kangaroo Tag – Welcome to Australia! It’s time for Kangaroo Tag. Green kangaroos are it.” 

As the students enter the gym, I hand them a noodle and call out, “Welcome to Australia! It’s time for Kangaroo Tag. Green kangaroos are it.” Students immediately put the noodle between their feet and begin jumping. Anyone with a green noodle is a tagger, while everyone else is a fleer.  When tagged by a green kangaroo, the student performs ten mountain climbers on the sideline with hands on the noodle before reentering the game. After one minute, I call out a different color kangaroo to be the taggers.


Roll for Fitness Challenge 

I’ve done this with groups of 2-4 students depending on class size. Spread out the Roll for Fitness sheets along with two dice throughout the gym. As the students enter, quickly group them up and immediately send them to a challenge sheet. Partners each toss a die into the air then catch it. They add the two numbers that are facing up. Each number, from 1-12, has a corresponding exercise on the Roll for Fitness challenge sheet.

Note: I’ve used this as a station during prior PE classes. For this reason, students are familiar with the directions, and I’m able to use it as an instant activity.

Click Roll for Fitness Instant Activity for a copy of the challenge.

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Paddle Challenges

Evenly space enough paddles with a bean bag throughout the gym for each student.

Instant Activity #1 – Individual challenges

Students practice tossing and catching the bean bag in their own space. I’ll post individual challenges on the screen.

Instant Activity #2 – Partner Challenge

Students toss their bean bags to each other, attempting to catch the bean bag in their hands. I’ll post the following challenges on the screen?

  • How many times you can both catch the bean bag?
  • Can you toss the bean bag with your non dominant hand?
  • Can you toss the bean bag to each other, then catch it with your paddle?


Plank Hand Tag 

Students enter the gym and without hesitation begin the challenge. In plank position, each student tries to tap the opposing student’s hand. The first one to tap the opponent’s hand three times wins the round. Each player then searches for another challenger.


Ice Cream Parlor – “The Ice Cream Parlor is about to open. The manager is hiring anyone who can scoop the ice cream into a cone. Be careful not to drop the ice cream on the floor.”

This is a favorite instant activity with my first grade students. Before the students enter the gym, I greet them at the door and tell them that the ice cream parlor is open.  Students enter the gym and retrieve a plastic scoop, a yarn ball, and a small cone and practice tossing the ice cream with their scoop into the cone. After a brief amount of time, students will partner up and toss the ice cream to each other. I’ll let the videos speak for themselves.

Individual Ice Cream Scooper


Partner Ice Cream Scoopers


Noodle Fun“Create as many movements as you can with your noodle in personal space!”

You’ll never know what the kids with discover when given the opportunity to create with swim noodles. Before your students arrive, spread out one swim noodle for each student. Below are two videos showcasing movements create by first graders. I now use their ideas with my other classes!

Noodle Skate Boarding

Noddle Pogo Stick


Freeze Dance“Find your own personal space and move to the beat of the music. Freeze when the music stops.”

Students enter the gym and begin dancing to the beat of the music. When the music stops, they freeze!

For more INSTANT ACTIVITIES check out one of my previous posts called, TOP 7 INSTANT ACTIVITIES FOR PE!

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February’s Healthy Breakfast Challenge

Students, teachers, and families have enjoyed each of the first five monthly fitness challenges I’ve presented to them this year.  However, for February, I’m offering a healthy breakfast challenge (link to document below) instead of a fitness challenge.  This idea came to me as I overheard a group of 5th grade students discussing their morning routines before school.  Several of the students mentioned that they either didn’t have time for breakfast or just didn’t like to eat breakfast.  I then took a quick survey of the class and discovered that some students eat breakfast everyday, others sometimes eat breakfast, and more than a few never eat breakfast.

February’s Nutritious Breakfast Challenge Goals

  • to educate students and parents about the significance of eating a complete, nutritious breakfast
  • to define what a complete breakfast includes (carbohydrates, protein, vitamins/minerals)
  • to introduce students to a variety of options for a complete breakfast

Click February’s Nutritious Breakfast Challenge for an editable copy of the challenge.

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The Challenge: Students will choose one food from each of the three columns (carbohydrates, protein, fruit) listed below for breakfast.  One their calendar, they will mark each of the items they ate.  They only mark the calendar on days they eat a complete, nutritious breakfast.  At the end of the month, students turn in their calendars to receive an award certificate and toe token.

Click February’s Nutritious Breakfast Challenge for an editable copy of the challenge.

“Breakfast Basics.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

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Volleyball Serving Progressions…with a SWIM NOODLE?

Each year volleyball has proven to be one of our students favorite units. Beginning with third grade, we introduce the basic volleyball skills and present them with lead-up games to help familiarize them with passing, serving rotation, etiquette, and rules. Eventually, as sixth graders, students will have a strong foundation of skills and knowledge to participate in regulation games.

With third grade especially, we begin with the underhand serve. After all, it’s the very first hit of each point. Therefore, without a consistent serve traveling over the net, you limit scoring opportunities for your team (with our younger classes we do not play regulation games). We introduce the basic cues of striking an underhand serve. Swing your arm straight back like a pendulum, step with your opposite foot, slightly bend forward holding the ball at waist level, then strike the ball out of your hand. We teach our students to strike the ball with he heel of their hand.

This can be extremely difficult for students of all ages. There are so many components to the underhand serve, where correct form is challenged. Young servers tend to lift the hand that is holding the ball as their striking hand comes forward. This will significantly decrease the likelihood of striking the ball over the net, and on many occasions striking the ball at all.


Put a swim noodle (cut each noodle in half) in each student’s hand. We accidentally discovered this teaching tool while playing a game called Noodle Rocket Launchers with our first grade students. Noodle Rocket Launchers is a simple game where students pop the noodle out of their hand using an underhand tossing motion. They experiment with trajectory based on the angle of the noodle. See a video of an advanced version of Noodle Rocket Launchers at the end of this post. 

We couldn’t help but recognize the similarity to an underhand serve in volleyball. We soon began using the noodle to introduce serving to our third grade students. We found it to be an excellent tool for differentiation and instruction. Through repetition with the noodle we noticed vast improvements in the fundamentals of serving across the board.

Below are 5 progressions we now use to teach the underhand and overhand volleyball serve.

Progression 1

Each student practices with a noodle in personal space. The focus is on stepping with the opposite foot, swinging the striking arm straight back and forward while stabilizing the arm holding the noodle, then striking the noodle in the air.

Progression 2

With a partner, students stand about ten feet from each other. Along with the skills practiced in progression one, students now bend slightly at the waist lowering their shoulders, and experiment with the angle of the noodle. Instead of serving the noodle straight in the air, they are now serving it out to their partner. Encourage students to strike with the heel of their hand.

Progression 3

Students practice serving the noodle to each other over the net. Again, students experiment with trajectory and distance, focusing on proper fundamentals.

Progression 4

For students who have mastered the underhand serve, we introduce the overhand serve. With a partner, each student takes turns striking the noodle with an overhand motion.

Progression 5

Students practice the overhand serve over the net.


Using a noodle has helped our students to increase their success when serving an actual volleyball. It also gives the teacher another way to differentiate instruction. For every child that can consistently strike a serve over the net, there are several others who experience frustration from repeatedly trying to correctly piece together all the serving cues in stereo.  The swim noodle can alleviate much of this pain and frustration.

Advance Version of Noodle Rocket Launchers

You can play this game across the floor while using the volleyball net as an obstacle.

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ROLL in the NEW YEAR! – January Fitness Challenge

For January, it’s time to get back to some basic movements using a pair of dice. The Roll in the New Year fitness challenge consists of exercises ranging from strengthening the upper and lower body to increasing aerobic endurance.

Each day, roll two dice and add the numbers together. The sum of the dice determines the exercise movement. Your workout should consist of at least 10 rolls of the dice. However, if you’re feeling extra motivated, especially as you roll into late January, roll a few extra times to intensify your workout!

Click Roll in the New Year for an editable copy of the fitness challenge and calendar!

Happy New Year! Let’s ROLL!

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