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I remember warm ups when I was a kid. Our PE teacher had us go to our squad spots and he played a tape recording of him saying the exercises. "Arm circles... Jumping Jacks...etc." On one hand, even as a kid, I admired the efficiency. I had the same warm up for at least 5 years. On the other hand, it was a joke. We did the warm up, but we all thought it was lame. Then I started teaching and I saw a lot of teachers just having the kids jog when they came in the gym. Easy enough. No explanation, just go. But even that came with problems: refusing to jog, talking in groups (usually about somebody else). I needed something else.
Making PE Warm Ups Great
Now I've got an amazing warm up. The trick is to be as efficient as possible. At first, it takes quite a bit of practice; but once they get the hang of it, they can come in and get moving with no delays and minimal direction.
I got some sign holders and spread them out along my wall. In each one, I put my warm up pictures. I start the year with super hero exercises. They require no equipment and my youngest students get super excited about acting like Captain America and Iron Man. But then I start adding new stations so they are always fresh. I've learned to add no more than two a day, otherwise it's too much explaining for the warm up.
My older students (Third Grade and up) get free choice of warm up activities and can move on to a different one at-will.
Kindergarten, First, and Second grade aren't quite ready for that kind of choice and get assigned to a warm up station. They rotate when they hear The Dinger. I also color-code the stations by putting a piece of construction paper behind the image. This way, they know where to start. I hand them a colored rubber wristband and they go to the station that matches the color of their band.
Bonus Warm Ups
It's tough to have signs that meet the needs of a Kindergartener and a Fifth Grader, so I add a few more options.
I put them on my projector; but they could also be printed if necessary. I try to make these ones more "fun" oriented. I have a game called Ball Jousting where 2 kids stand in a box and use exercise balls to try to knock the other person out of the box or knock the ball out of their hands. I'll get out the balance beam. I do a game called "Get Over It" where I stack my mats up and they jump up and over them. I've got some TRX straps for inverted rows. Every one has an image of what the workout should look like.
I greet my students in the hall and invite them into the gym with two of my most important rules: Look like a picture and Only touch what you've been invited to touch.
I use pictures for all my activities. Kids lose focus and some can't read, but they can all make themselves look like a picture... even if we don't speak the same language. On top of that, it's a perfect way to keep them on task without being bossy. Instead of giving them a direct order, I can just walk up and say Do you look like that picture? Or with the older students who want to sit and talk, I'll walk up and tell them I don't see any pictures of people sitting. Of course if they still decide not to work, I just remind them they can show me their work today by doing or by writing (and there's plenty to write on the warm up options).
Then there's the touching. Dear Lord, the touching. Touching each other, touching my stuff, moving equipment that I had ready for the activity, pulling up the floor tape. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person in their lives that teaches them about consent. It's not just important for my sanity but also as they grow into adults. If you haven't been invited to touch something, then don't touch it.
Fun Warm Ups
The TRX straps I use (paid link)
We also have a couple of the TRX Rip Trainers which are a lot of fun for rowing exercises (paid link)
The exercise balls I use, perfect for the elementary aged student (paid link)
I've found that giving my students choice has increased buy-in. Of course, they aren't going to like everything; but they're going to like something. And by switching it up periodically, it gives them more to be excited about.
Expectations During Warm Ups
I have two expectations during the warm up. Only touch what you've been invited to touch and Look like a picture. Some kids can't read. But they know what a picture looks like. I allow them to choose between all of the activities and roam at will. If they aren't doing the activity correctly (such as sitting on the ball instead of doing the exercise), then they lose that choice for the day. If they lose two choices in a day, then they clearly can't handle making choices for themselves and I need to choose for them. Most of the time, this means I start them at one of the Fitness Circuit signs and turn on The Dinger which will ding every 30-60 seconds so they can move to the next station. Occasionally, there's the student who refuses to do anything and sometimes they have a good reason. But if it is frequently a problem, I revert to my rule of I need to know that you know. And if you can't show me you know with your actions, you can show me you know with your writing. It works wonders. With several students, I've given them a couple sheets of paper and had them write all the choices and their descriptions. Turns out, they much prefer doing the activities to writing about them.
I love this warm up and I'm always looking to improve it. If you have any small-sided games you like for warm ups, leave a comment and let me know.