The Whistle: PE Blog

BLOG: You Don’t Have to Let Field Day Stress You Out!

By: Kristy Cobbs, 2021 INSHAPE Elementary PE Teacher of the Year


Planning a memorable and enjoyable field day can be daunting, but I’m here to help you make it easy breezy! I’m excited to share my expert tips and game recommendations to ensure your field day is a stress-free success!


  • Start early  

Set your date at the beginning of the year and put it on the master calendar. Advertise the date to the students’ parents in advance to ensure lots of volunteers. If you have difficulty getting volunteers, classroom teachers and aides can help run stations.


  • Stop worrying about structured timed rotations  

Instead, create 25-30 mini games and allow students to rotate freely in student-picked friend groups of about four to six. No competition, no keeping score and no sticking to a strict rotation schedule.  Just fun. See the list below for some of my favorites.


  • Keep a record

Make sure to save your list of activities each year along with a brief description of each.  Every year, add about five new activities and take out five older ones. Rotate old activities back in every few years. Students never get tired of the classics like the 3-legged race and tug-of-war.


  • Organize equipment ahead of time

Use cardboard boxes from the cafeteria to sort equipment according to the stations, making sure to include the activity description.  On the morning of the big day, grab the boxes and set up the stations.  Give the description write-ups to the parent volunteer so they know how to instruct the game.  

Optional Equipment:

PALOS™ Foldable Storage Baskets, Large

PALOS™ Foldable Game & Storage Baskets, Small


Some of my favorite Field Day activities.


  • Catch a Cannon Ball:  Using School Health PE Cannon Launchers, students take turns launching cannon balls to their partner.  Partners try to catch the cannon balls with a small bucket or with their hands.  

Optional Equipment:

o   The Zone™ Cannon Launchers

o   The Zone™ Buckets 


  • Ice Cream Scoop Relay: How about a “cold treat?” Students race back and forth trying to add scoops of ice cream to their cone.

Optional Equipment:

o   The Zone™ Ice Cream Scoop Relay


  • Tic Tac Toe: Zip tie nine hoops together forming a three-by-three grid.  Students take turns throwing discs or bean bags into the squares playing tic-tac-toe.  

Optional Equipment:

o   Deluxe Hoops 12-Pack

o   The Zone POWRDisc

o   Canvas Bean Bags


  • Water Balloon T-Ball:  Using batting tees and plastic bats, place water balloon on tee and have students hit it off. Watch out for the splash!

Optional Equipment:

o   The Zone™ Plastic Bat Set

o   Heavy Rubber Batting Tee


  • Junk in Your Trunk: Take empty tissue boxes and cut a slit in the ends near the base.  Slide belts through the slit. The Zone Super Straps work great. Add miscellaneous items like poker chips, dominoes, or plastic letters inside the tissue box.  Secure the tissue box to the student’s waist and then turn on some music and let them shake it out!

Optional Equipment:

o   The Zone™ Super Straps & Flags


  • Jenga®:  Create Jenga pieces with 12 pack soda sleeves.  Stuff sleeves with newspaper to add weight so they don’t blow away, then tape shut.  Use about 27-30 sleeves per game. Play Jenga as normal.


Bonus: Student Favorite!!

  • Belly Bumpers: Create a circle with cones.  Students climb into the belly bumpers and bump into other students trying to knock them out of the circle.

Optional Equipment:

o   Belly Bumpers

o   Standard Colored Half Cone Sets


I hope these tips help reduce your stress and help you have a successful Field Day!

Posted in Fab 5® Activities and The Whistle: PE Blog

BLOG: Getting Students Excited About Nutrition

BLOG: Getting Students Excited About Nutrition


It seems the sight of children running around a playground is few and far between. Tablets, television and video game consoles are the new slides and swings, and it is taking a toll on children’s eating habits and physical health.

The inactivity of children has turned childhood obesity into a global epidemic and according to Benioff Children’s Hospitals, media use has been identified as a main contributing factor. Studies from Benioff states children between 8 and 18 spend about 6 hours and 43 minutes a day on media devices. Limited physical activity is an obvious reason excessive screen time is unhealthy, but the ads that come with the media they are consuming can be harmful as well. Children’s media often contains ads for foods that mostly have high sugar and high fat content.

Getting children away from their tablet completely is a tough task, but being able to limit screen time by finding something more entertaining is a big first step, and that first step can be at school.

What a child replenishes with after physical activity is just as important as the activity itself. explains the lifestyle benefits for children that eat healthy as well as what these healthy habits can prevent.

As teachers, it is important to educate your students on the benefits of good nutrition, and work to introduce them to some healthy snacks. School Health provides numerous ways to educate children on what a balanced meal looks like. The MyPlate Real Plate is a teaching aid used at mealtimes to show food groups and portion sizes for each meal.

Helping your students understand what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle can be essential for their future and taking a fun and rewarding approach through games and engaging educational resources can make it easier for them to remember key components.

Posted in The Whistle: PE Blog

BLOG: Negative Effects of Fast Food

BLOG: Negative Effects of Fast Food


We all know that fast food is not a healthy option when deciding what to eat. There is plenty of well-researched evidence showing that regularly eating fast food can harm a person’s health. Eating a poor quality diet high in these types of foods is linked to a higher risk of obesity, depression, digestive issues, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and early death.

People who eat fast food four or more times a week up their risk of dying from heart disease by 80%. Fast foods create a much higher risk of heart disease because of the high levels of saturated or trans fats found in much of the food. Those fats can clog the arteries and over time contribute to high cholesterol levels.

A well-balanced meal contains nutrients which are necessary for human development. Fast food lacks these essential nutrients which in turn is not giving your body what it needs to thrive.

The high calorie count and sugar levels associated with fast food contribute to increased weight gain. Even small amounts of fast food can increase your calorie intake considerably. When looking to lose weight, dropping fast food from your diet is an absolute must.

Type 2 Diabetes is another problem that can arise when consuming too much fast food. This is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar. Symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, hunger, fatigue, and blurred vision. A diet high in fast food along with an inactive lifestyle can put you on the fast track to diabetes.

Teaching students at an early age the benefits of eating healthy and avoiding fast food is a great way to lower our youth’s risk of obesity.

Here is a great resource for teaching students the importance of proper nutrition in a fun way.

The Zone™ Fast Food Foolery
Introduce proper nutrition concepts through active play.
Perfect for Health and Nutrition classes, or even as a quick “brain break.” Randomly chosen students begin the game holding one of the 3 included fast food components (cheeseburger, fries, drink). The remaining students try to avoid being tagged by the unhealthy food. If tagged, they must take the food component and try to get rid of it by tagging another student. Game teaches proper eating habits and spatial awareness. Includes: soft drink, loose fries/container, cheeseburger with bun and toppings. Meets national standards 1 – 5. Two or more sets recommended for large class sizes.

Posted in The Whistle: PE Blog

BLOG: Helping a PE Substitute Teacher Succeed

BLOG: Helping a PE Substitute Teacher Succeed


Substitute teachers are often at a disadvantage when walking into any classroom. It can be even more difficult for a PE teacher. There are no seating charts and, in many cases, very few ways to maintain control of an entire classroom of children no matter what their age. If you know you are going to have a substitute in your class, there are a few simple things you can do to make their job easier.

Announce to your class that there will be a substitute teacher instructing the class. Talk to your kids about the type of behavior you expect from them in your absence. Encourage them to be as helpful as possible by getting out any equipment that is needed and then helping to put things away when the class is over. Give extra credit points to those who go above and beyond to help the sub have a good day.

Leave your substitute teacher a note, welcoming them to the class and provide them with a list of other teachers they can look to if they need immediate assistance with the class. Let them know how much you appreciate their willingness to take over your duties and that you have informed the class to be on their best behavior. Lastly, include any information you feel may be beneficial that will make them look forward to meeting your students.

Have a clipboard ready with a list of the student’s in each class and a few game ideas. If the substitute is confident with teaching an actual class, lay out the lesson for the day and add any notes that will be useful. Many classes have student helpers that are chosen on a day to day basis. If you have a helper, create a list for them as well. They can work with the teacher by answering questions about the class or making sure all of the class goals are accomplished for the day.

If you can meet with the substitute teacher at least once before they teach your class. In some cases, this won’t be possible, but if your substitute will be assuming your duties for longer than two or three days, meeting with them will be extremely helpful. You will be able to answer any questions they may have and allow them to get a feel for your teaching style. If they can visit your class during school, it will allow the students to meet them prior to them taking over the class. This way, there will be no surprises and the kids will already know who will be waiting for them in class.

It’s important to remember that not all substitute teachers know the rules of certain games or sports so asking them to teach a lesson in basketball or another sport will be difficult. Make sure to provide them with activities they are able to teach with confidence. Depending on their level of experience, they may be a little nervous teaching a PE class simply because it is taught differently than other academic classes. Include instructions for simple games and divide the students into smaller groups so they are easier to manage.

No one wants to miss a day of teaching but when it happens, you need to make sure your students are properly taken care of. Leave as many notes as you feel comfortable with. If it makes you feel better, call the school and talk to the substitute at lunchtime. Find out how they are doing and if they have any questions or concerns. Keep the lines of communication open and let your substitute know they can count on you or other faculty if help is needed.

Posted in The Whistle: PE Blog

BLOG: Tips to Win Over Your Students

BLOG: Tips to Win Over Your Students


By: Kelly Zerby

It’s time to go back to school, are you ready?  Whether you are going back to the same school you have been in for many years, or if you are starting at a new place, you need to start the new year off on the right foot with your students.  Here are a few suggestions for you.

Smile and Stay Positive

Set a welcoming tone for your students.  Greet them on the playground and tell them you are happy to see them.  They are nervous coming back to school after having been gone for 2 months.  They are going to be so excited to see a familiar and welcoming face. 

Set Routines

Children thrive on routine, and teachers do too.  Once you set it up, and keep it consistent, things will fall into place.  For example, my students do instant activities when they enter the gym most days.  During the first few times the students come to PE class with me, I teach them all the instant activities, and we practice them.  Then as the weeks continue, when they enter PE, they know all the activities. 

Give respect, get respect

You have to set up an atmosphere of respect in your gymnasium.  My students know I care about them and want them to learn. I make sure they make decisions about what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.  If I see a student in distress, I make sure to have a one on one conversation. I also feel it’s important that your students know you are human too. I often tell them stories from when I was a kid, or when I was a high school athlete.  My students are always eager to learn more about me, and tend to listen better because I am human, not just a teacher to them.

Remember, things take time.

Whatever the case may be, remember that back to school procedures takes time.  The students need to be re-taught all the school expectations and they need to practice them.  It may seem tedious, but if you are structured and consistent, your students will learn and follow the routines.  

Try something new. 

As teachers we should always be looking to change for the better. Challenge yourself to improve in one or more areas. Reflect on last year or previous years and ask yourself what can I make better? Ask for feedback from colleagues in and out of your building. Talk to other professionals via Twitter or other means. The changes may be small but the impact may be huge. Think outside the box and be brave enough to try that new idea. 

Posted in The Whistle: PE Blog

BLOG: Building Strength and Character Through Sportsmanship and Encouragement

BLOG: Building Strength and Character Through Sportsmanship and Encouragement


Sportsmanship is a learned trait. While many athletes are naturally gracious, no one likes to lose. With that being said, much of the behavior they exhibit on the field are learned traits that they pick up from their peers and their parents. Competition is a good thing when it is used as a motivator to encourage student-athletes to do their very best.

It can be extremely challenging when it gets taken to the extreme and a win must be achieved no matter what the cost. As an educator, it’s up to you to teach your students the true value of sportsmanship and that even a loss can result in a victory if you learn something in the process.

Strength and Power Are Two Different Things

Even incredibly weak people have the power to say the most hurtful things. They may be strong when it comes to physical strength, but if their strength isn’t supported by compassion their words can be incredibly damaging. When training your students, remember to strengthen their minds as well as their bodies. Encouragement is something that can be passed on. While you are encouraging them to improve, remind them to encourage others. Supporting others who may be struggling is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of character and it works to strengthen the group as a whole.

It Takes Two

Many student-athletes are so driven by the need to win that they forget the value of their opponent. Without someone to compete against, there would be no victory of any kind. It’s important that you remind your athletes that the true value of any competition shouldn’t be weighed only by who won or lost. It should be weighed by the value of the teams and the players who make up the field. Any championship team can struggle and falter, but it’s in how they recover that their value and worth is shown. After losing a game, it isn’t the winner’s value that increases. The sportsmanship qualities both teams exhibit to one another makes sure both teams share the value. One in lessons learned that will allow them to improve and the other in respecting their opponent.

Lessons Learned from Loss

A team can lose and only lay the blame at the feet of others, or they can look at their level of play. What could they have done better? Was someone just not on their game? Did everyone work together as a team? The only loser is a team that doesn’t take the loss as an opportunity for growth. A true sportsman is one who accepts the loss and then commits to doing better the next time. Congratulating the other team and sharing your support for their hard-earned win is what will make both teams stand out to others. Each student-athlete will look at loss differently. It’s up to you as an educator to help them realize how important it is to support and respect others, no matter who wins or loses.

It’s All About Respect

Whether it is as a member of a team or an individual competitor, each athlete is responsible for their own behavior and their own level of play. Winning may be the desired goal, but a loss will eventually occur. The athlete’s character will be determined by how he or she reacts to not just losing, but winning as well. An athlete who respects his or her opponent will be gracious no matter the outcome. Belittling an opponent who has lost a competition does not make them a better winner. It actually detracts from their character. As a teacher, it should always be your goal to encourage your students to be respectful both on the field and off. Building character starts with teaching your athletes respect in all situations. Win or lose, it’s their character and sportsmanship that will define them as a model athlete.

Whether a student has natural athletic ability or not, when they enter a physical education class it is up to the teacher to educate them on the importance of good sportsmanship. Teach them to encourage and appreciate one another, no matter what their skill level, and you will eventually begin to see the better athletes stopping to encourage those who are struggling. Teach respect and sportsmanship will follow closely behind. The result will be a student-athlete with a strong character who understands that even a loss can be counted as a small victory towards improvement.

Posted in The Whistle: PE Blog

BLOG: How Smartphones and Social Media are Affecting Students

BLOG: How Smartphones and Social Media are Affecting children

We know smartphones are a large distraction in the classroom, but the psychological toll that these devices have on our youth is a growing problem that can have dire consequences on a child’s mental health.

When students were surveyed asking if they felt obligated to constantly be on social media
most agreed they did. They felt they needed to keep up with their friends and what they were doing.

With constant posts, pictures, check-ins and stories being posted to social media, it paints a picture of perfect and happy lives. But, we know no one has the “perfect life” and we know everyone struggles with their own unique ups and downs, –but “the downs” are never broadcasted on the internet, giving the illusion that not everyone is struggling. “What is wrong with me?” one might ask. “I am struggling and it seems no one else is. Everyone else is active and happy and always enjoying life.”

Are students jumping on social media with the intent of comparing their lives to others? Are they trying to find a way to feel bad about themselves? Probably not. But, it’s human nature to compare. We place value on the cool stuff we have, the awesome things we’re doing, and the amazing places we’re going. We feel obligated to show our “friends” the positive aspects of our lives while simply leaving out the negative.

So here leaves our students…absorbing all this “information”. Making them constantly question if they are good enough. Thoughts like these are easily brewed into feelings of anxiety and depression.


Studies have found over 70% of teens feel anxious or depressed due to smartphones. While older students have reported they realize they need a break from social media and will delete apps or shut off their phones, younger students need help taking these breaks. Some schools have taken up banning cell phones on campus but many find it hard to do so. Often assignments and grades are posted online so students are constantly checking into them. While online they find it too tempting not to respond to the dozens of messages they have received. Having so much new information popping up, they feel pressured into addressing every single one. It’s addicting in a way. Once you look at one message you feel guilty not reading the other ones.

In order to help young students from becoming too caught up and overwhelmed by smartphones and social media, many parents are agreeing to hold off on the purchase of cellphones until their children are at least in 8th grade in a movement called ‘Wait until 8th’. This program ensures the majority of children in your child’s grade will not have smartphones so no one feels left out. This is a small step forward in preventing students from becoming overcome by the social media craze at such an early age…and hopefully keeping our student’s mental health in check a little longer.

Posted in The Whistle: PE Blog

BLOG: At-Risk Students: How to Spot Them, and What to Do

BLOG: At-Risk Students: How to Spot Them, and What to Do

“At-risk students” is a catchphrase that gets thrown around without much explanation. “At risk” of what, exactly?

The term is usually used to describe students in danger of failing or dropping out of school. While there can be a correlation, this is different from the possibility of substance abuse, criminality, or victimization. 

What does “at-risk” look like? Here are three major signs to watch out for as a P.E. teacher.


P.E. teachers may not know their students’ math or English scores. Those scores could become very relevant, though, if you are about to lose a star athlete due to low grades. 

We walk a fine line here. We don’t want to present the impression that we only care about those grades to protect our lineup or a shot at a championship. Remember, character counts on any team. A student-athlete who is academically failing may feel “stupid” and not have the strategies to tackle a challenging subject.

Conversely, a pupil who performs poorly in P.E. may just not like P.E. Consider other approaches to motivating such a student. However, you may want to have a conversation with the student’s other teachers and see if the poor performance is reflected across the board. A student might avoid talking to a math teacher about being “bad at math.” He or she might open up to “Coach” about it, though.


You might not notice a student’s poor math scores. It is a lot easier to notice, however, if a student is not showing up at all. Absenteeism is a warning sign for numerous risk factors that could imperil the student’s prospects.

Take attendance seriously. A student might consider P.E. a “throwaway” class, easy to justify cutting. Make it clear that you disagree. P.E. class is valuable and you hold your students to high standards. They can meet those standards by showing up and doing their best. 


P.E. teachers have a unique perspective on who the disruptive students are. You may be in a position to observe bullying or antisocial behavior. Students may try to “disappear” from P.E. class to engage in risky behavior. A student may get into fights easily, especially if his or her adrenaline is up from a sporting activity. He or she may have difficulty following rules or demonstrate disrespect for authority. 


As teachers, we are committed to every student’s success. If a student demonstrates signs of academic failure, we owe it to him or her to intervene. A one-on-one conversation showing that you care may be all it takes. You might be able to provide a sounding board, model coping strategies, or refer the student to counseling services.

If a student resists, a call to the parents might be warranted. Try not to pre-judge — just make contact. Can you be of any help? The parents might be surprised to learn of their child’s risk profile and may take steps to correct course. Run it by a trusted administrator if you are unsure of your footing.

You may discover a home environment that does not value education. It might be appropriate to take a more involved role to get an at-risk student back on track. Consider alternate study schedules and partnerships with high-performing students they respect.

Many young people crave mentorship from an attentive adult. As a P.E. teacher, you are in pole position to offer this. While it can be fun to focus on successful students, helping at-risk students find their feet will be a source of great satisfaction throughout your career.

Posted in The Whistle: PE Blog

BLOG: Six Tips to Prevent Bullying in your P.E. Class

BLOG: Six Tips to Prevent Bullying in your P.E. Class

Physical education class is fertile ground for bullies. Athletic and social skills are on full display, ripe to be sorted into a pecking order. Locker rooms, showers, and remote fields provide cover for bad behavior. 

A study of 10th-grade students in Canada revealed that 11.1% experienced physical bullying. 12.8% were subject to social bullying, and 13.6% endured verbal bullying. Furthermore, if a student chose to quit or underachieve in P.E., bullying was frequently a key factor in that decision. (Hurley & Mandigo, 2010) 

Victims of gym bullies are not only less active in class, but less active over the course of their lives. Bullies undermine the very mission of P.E.

As a physical educator, the buck stops with you. Here are some suggestions to prevent bullying in your P.E. class:


It can be tempting to focus on the natural athletes in your class. It’s fun to see them excel. Their success feels like yours. However, the ones who need you the most are the loners, the less athletically inclined. Make time to meet and understand them. They may have hidden passions that suggest a great class activity, like step dancing or yoga. Ask them if they feel safe in P.E. class. You may not get a straight answer right away, but the fact that you care builds trust. They will be less tempting targets if potential bullies see that Coach is in their corner.


When getting to know your athletic and socially adept students, stress that you do not tolerate bullying. As much as you may like a star student, you will never be on the side of a bully and there will be consequences. Don’t single them out — this is your policy for every student. Make it clear that you admire them and expect great things. Your top students may even become allies, standing up for victims and modeling positive behavior.


Young people want trusted adults to be proud of them. As “Coach,” you have a lot of capital. Lavish praise on athletes who motivate less talented students. Foster partnerships — maybe an athlete needs a tutor or study buddy, giving a victim access to a crucial ally. While competition can be fun and healthy, emphasize that the whole class is a team. Effort and constant improvement are what matters. 


When you catch a student bullying, act swiftly with pre-determined consequences. Don’t give a pass to your favorite students. You are their teacher, not their peer. The repercussions of unchecked bullying can be dire, for both the victim and the bully. If the bully admires you, leverage that respect. Confide in him how disappointed you are, that you expect better of him, and that you and your colleagues will have your eye on him. Enlist the help of counselors and administrators if you need extra support. 


It’s a gym class cliché — being “picked last” for teams. This can put kids off physical activity for years to come. Don’t play that game. Pre-assign teams and activity groups. Switch up the teams and activity groups so that a victim isn’t stuck on a team with a bully.


The more engaged and supervised your students are, the less time they have to engage in bullying behavior. Keep breaks short and refocus your students’ attention on the next activity. Choose activities that are age-appropriate and encourage teamwork!

Posted in The Whistle: PE Blog

Blog: First Aid In Health and PE And Why It’s Important

Blog: First Aid In Health and PE And Why It’s Important


When most people, including teachers and students, think of health and physical education, first aid training isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. Most would be mildly surprised that it was part of a curriculum at all. There was a time that first aid training opportunities were widely available to the nation’s youth through Scouting, YMCA and YWCA, and other organizations. But those who were born or came of age over the last few decades tend to have had very little exposure to the fundamentals of first aid, yet it’s a set of skills that are just as important today as they ever were. Accidents can and do happen anywhere, in the home, the workplace, in school, and on the sports field. Energetic, adventurous, and athletic young people are, as always, at greater risk of injury in their daily lives, so it’s important that they know not only how to prevent injuries, but how to give initial treatment when they inevitably happen, skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. Here are four good reasons why first aid training should be a part of every health and PE curriculum.


4 Reasons Why First Aid Training In Health And PE Is Important

It saves lives. Obviously, when an accident or health emergency occurs, having someone on the spot who knows how to effectively provide initial emergency treatment to others or to themselves can save a life or reduce the extent of an injury or incident. A comprehensive first aid program ideally should include CPR training as well as instruction on the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). This can prevent a heart attack from becoming fatal or resuscitate a drowning or accident victim before the lack of oxygen becomes more critical. Knowing how to administer the Heimlich Maneuver can prevent a choking death.


It prevents accidents and emergencies. First aid should be more than just knowing how to treat and bandage wounds and burns. Accident prevention is also an important element. It can include fire and water safety, workplace safety, proper handling of firearms and sharp tools, awareness of the hazards posed by wildlife and poisonous plants, and how to prevent common injuries in athletics and physical training.


It lessens the impact of emergencies. Basic instruction in how to react to an emergency situation should also be included in first aid training. Students will learn the best techniques for responding calmly, directing others to safety, and how to help and interact with first responders. Having a person present who can direct others and initiate treatment of injuries can go a long way towards calming a panicked crowd and preventing a bad situation from becoming worse.


It makes for a more confident person. Learning a life skill as useful as first aid reinforces a sense of self-assurance in the student, as well as self-respect. Knowing that they are trained in how to handle themselves in a situation and provide care to themselves and others builds confidence. It might also inspire them to learn more and start them on a path to a career in the medical profession or in health and physical education.


A holistic approach to teaching students how to maintain their physical, mental, and emotional health should include basic first aid training. Educators will find plenty of training materials online to use in their classes, such as the one found here, as well as many materials available for free or at low cost from the American Red Cross and other sources. It will provide students with resources that will serve them well for a lifetime.

Posted in The Whistle: PE Blog