The first few minutes of PE class can make or break your day. Getting students active from the start is one of SPARK’s main objectives. In many PE classes, students arrive to class only to sit around waiting for the teacher or listening to a long set of instructions. This wastes valuable activity time and should, therefore, be done sparingly. When students come to class they are excited to participate or have been sitting in other classes for long periods of time and need to get out that built-up energy.
Instant activities are a great way to begin class and prepare your student’s muscles for moving and their brains for learning. These activities use little or no equipment, are fun and challenging and promote health-related fitness. They can provide an appropriate warm-up while engaging students in an enjoyable activity to begin PE class.
SPARK recommends that instant activities should be brief (about 5-7 minutes long) and played prior to the main activity of the day. There are many choices of activities to use at the beginning of class. You can base it on the current unit you are teaching or choose something fun. You may want to also consider the grade level of students, space, equipment and desired activity outcomes. The goal is to eliminate extra planning that teaching another activity might require and get students active right when they get to class. Then they can rest as you give them instructions for the day and then they can jump back into activity.
Getting students active from the start has many benefits in addition to the ones previously mentioned. Besides engaging students from the start and warming up their bodies, instant activities also help address other needs in your daily teaching.
- Give you time to set up equipment
- Take care of issues that come up between classes
- Provide a routine for starting class
- Maximize moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA)
- Take attendance
- Meet standards and grade level outcomes
- Reduce classroom management
- Engage large classes
- Review previously learned skills
- Informal assessment
When choosing the activity to start your day you should consider what you are doing for your main lesson. If it is low in MVPA then choose a more vigorous instant activity. If you are doing a skill-based lesson such as a flying disc may be a low-impact activity using those skills would be appropriate. Sometimes you just want a fun game to get students excited for learning. Here are some different types of activities to consider:
- Simple games
- Tag games
- Fitness activities
- Skill-based warm-ups
Instant activities can also be used at the end of your lesson, done at a slower pace, for a cool-down. Tapering off from vigorous activity helps students’ bodies return to normal functioning levels and makes the transition back to the classroom easier.
In the SPARK Curriculum, each program has an instant activity section we call ASAPs (or Active Soon AS Possible). In the K-2, 3-6 and After School programs ASAPs are fun, quick and simple games to get kids active from the start. For the middle school and high school level, the ASAPs include fitness-based warm-ups as well as skill-based warmups and an introduction to the units. All fantastic options to engage your students right from the start. Here is a sample to get you started or sign up for a free trial at www.sparkfamily.org.
Once an instant activity is learned, class management time can be reduced then students will quickly engage in activity. Instant activities share commonalities. They all require minimal preparation and set-up, utilize little or no equipment, and are quick and easy to teach. So now you are ready to get your classes off on the right foot so gather your activity ideas and share them with your students when the new school year starts!
Jeff was first exposed to SPARK in 2004 while working for Shasta County Public Health Department in California. He became a SPARK trainer in 2005 and oversaw the SPARK Community Grant Program for Shasta County until 2007 when he joined the SPARK team. Jeff has spent the past 12+ years in SPARK curriculum design, professional development, and equipment selection. Jeff has a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education, a master’s degree in Public Health, and over 20 years of experience in physical education, health, and nutrition.
Jeff spends his time with wife Julie, daughter Katie, and his son Zack. In his free time, Jeff enjoys playing tennis and golf. Jeff resides in Louisville, KY.
What I love about SPARK: That the curriculum addresses all of the fundamental skills students need to learn and each unit follows a progression so each lesson builds upon the last.
What is great about SPARK: All of the supplement materials that enhance each of the lesson plans. There are task cards, skill cards, music, and assessments for teachers to use to reinforce learning.
Favorite SPARK lesson: Workout Buddies. I love the social interaction between partners and that it provides students with a choice in how they want to complete the activity.
What makes you excited about SPARK: I’m excited to join Gopher Sport to continue with my love of SPARK and creating physical education resources to meet the needs of teachers.