Throughout my 20 years of teaching I’ve steadily grown as a PE teacher through trial and error. I remember my earlier days when each class was kicked off with a warm-up lap and a stretching routine followed by 3-7 more minutes of jogging around the playground. Day in and day out, it was much of the same. Eventually my students would lose motivation with this mundane routine. Their once steady pace would inevitably slow down before ending up as a slow walk. Frustration would ensue! It didn’t take long to realize that the students were just bored – unmotivated and unchallenged. As mentioned in an earlier blog post titled, Keeping Fitness Fresh in PE Class, diversity is what today’s students crave in regard to fitness. When exercise is viewed by students as challenging, varied, and ultimately FUN, the more positive their experience will be.
Here are my Top 5 Motivating Exercise Routines for elementary school students. They incorporate a range of exercises that drive the students, while incorporating the three elements of fitness: endurance, flexibility, and strength. Please feel free to share what works for you, I’d love to add to my repertoire. (BTW – Check out my follow-up post called 6 More Fitness Ideas for PE for more motivating fitness routines).
1. 5-Minute Lap Challenge (Class versus Class)
Prior to the challenge there’s a discussion on teamwork and how each student has to maximize his/her effort in order for the class to be successful. Each PE class jogs around our small track for 5 minutes. I tally the total number of laps the class completes as a team. After 5 minutes, I take the total number of laps and divide it by the total number of students. This quotient is the average number of laps per students. Each of my classes per grade level complete this same challenge. Following the challenge, I post the results in the gym.
The 5-minute lap challenge is repeated 4 times per year.
2. As Many Rounds as Possible (AMRAP)
Our PE team uses this type of workout often due to it versatility. We simply list 4-8 exercises focusing on different muscle groups. Each exercise is given a certain number of repetitions. The students have to complete the list of exercises as many times as possible in a given amount of time. Often we’ll include skills from the present unit into our list of exercises. We’ll also add a lap around the gym which includes obstacles for further motivation. You’ll see this in the video below.
3. High Energy Tag Games (No Elimination)
Often, you don’t think of tag as an exercise routine. However, there’s no better way to get your heart rate up and activate all the muscles in your body. Just try playing with you students and you’ll quickly find out first-hand. Whichever tag game you choose there should NEVER be elimination. In other words, if a player is tagged, there should always be a quick way to reenter the game.
4. The Race to 500
Do you want to see your students practically fly around the gym? This is another class versus class challenge. Set up a timer so it’s visible to the students. On the coaches command, the entire class runs around the perimeter of the gym. The coach stands at the starting line and tallies each student as they pass. When the class runs their 500th lap, stop the timer. This is their score. Once again we post the scores on our white board to motivate other classes. Depending on the age and number of students and the size of your gym, you can increase or decrease the total number of laps. For example, with a small class of 20 students in a large gym, you might have The Race to 250 Laps.
5. High Intensity Interval Workouts/Tabata
Our students respond well to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts. I feel this is mainly due to the variety of movements and exercises you can add to the list. This type of workout is sure to get your students sweating and their heart rates up. Simply create a list of 4-8 exercises. Using a Tabata Timer, students perform each exercise for 20-30 seconds with 10-second breaks in between. Below are a couple of examples.
Finding creative ways to motivate our students is an ongoing challenge. We need to work together to share ideas. These are my top 5. Now I’d like to learn about yours. Please post your motivating exercise routines in the comments section! Let’s work together to keep our students fit and motivated!
Read Part 2 of this post called 6 More Fitness Ideas for PE.
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