Engage Students and Get Them Moving with These Social Distancing PE Games Middle School 12 Tips and Games

Physical education during a pandemic certainly has to look differently than it did a few years ago. Whether you’re teaching your students virtually, homeschooling your own children, or back to in-person learning and looking to keep your students as separated as possible, you’re in the right place.

However, physical education is so important, perhaps even more so now with fewer sports and other activities, so we must find a way to keep our students active.

I spent a lot of time researching different physical education activities that can be done virtually or in a socially-distanced manner. I read through various online forums, class webpages for different PE teachers, and more to help.

Tips and games for your PE lessons

After all this research, I put together this post to help you. Continue reading to learn more about:

12 Social Distancing PE Games for Middle School

Social distancing PE games middle school may require some out-of-the-box thinking, but they are entirely doable! Here are my favorite activities for outdoor and virtual PE.

Outdoor Activities

  1. Toe’s Pedos →
  2. Choreographed Dance Sequences →
  3. Relays →
  4. Soccer →
  5. Frisbee Golf →
  6. Ring Toss →
  7. Modified Basketball →
  8. Ball to Basket →

Virtual Activities

  1. Modified Gymnastics Unit →
  2. Live Long Workout Sets →
  3. Juggling →
  4. Virtual Scavenger Hunt →

Games for outdoor PE lessons

8 Outdoor Activities

If you’re looking to teach your students outdoors, here are a few activities you may want to try.

1. Toe’Pedos

You’ll need

  • Cones
  • Students’ shoes

An outdoor activity Toe's Pedos

This game is a race, but with a twist. Students must start at the same side of the field (socially-distanced) and flip one shoe off their toes and move forward to catch it. They must continue doing this as they make their way across the field to the cones and then turn around and return to the starting line. However, if students don’t catch their shoes, they must return to the starting line and start all over.

This can be a fun and exciting game and one that is certain to deliver a few laughs. If you’re looking for a lesson to record and share with parents, this could be a good candidate.

2. Choreographed Dance Sequences

You’ll Need

  • No materials needed

Dancing can help releasing the stress

With this activity, students will work in a small group (distanced) to create a dance routine to share with the class. Each student can think of a few different dance moves that can be performed to a pre-determined beat, then students will work together to perform for the whole group.

3. Relays

You’ll Need

  • Cones or markers

Have half of your class run across the field (or another large space). Rather than simply judging to see who is the fastest, the other half of the class will look for the student who has the most creative moves. This will encourage students to be more creative and explore different ways to move their bodies. You can also assign categories for each round, if you’d like. Different categories may include types of animals, specific movements (like twirling or going backwards), or different locations (such as space or rollercoasters).

4. Soccer

You’ll Need

  • Soccer balls
  • Cones

Soccer is a good game to play oudoors

Use cones to set up large squares around the field. Place students in a group of about 4 to 5 and have one student stand on each corner of a square. Students can practice passing and kicking the soccer ball to each other. If your students are ready to work on blocking, you can have one student stand between each pair and try to intercept the pass.

5. Frisbee Golf

You’ll Need

  • Frisbees
  • Cones (or other markers)

Another outdoor activity is frisbee

This game is played much like mini golf, except with frisbees. Students will need to get their frisbee to each marker in the course before being able to move onto the next marker. To make it more socially distanced, you could consider setting up multiple courses or having students start at different spots in the course so they aren’t all crowded together.

6. Ring Toss

You’ll Need

  • Rings
  • Bucket with stick/stake

This ring toss game will help students work on their precision and accuracy. Place a bucket with a tall pole or stake in it in the center of two students standing at least 6 feet apart. Students will take turns tossing their rings to see how many they can get over the stake. You can set up a scoring system for students to keep track of their points. For example, getting the ring over the stake could be worth three points and getting it within 1 foot of the stake could be worth 1 point. To make this game more challenging, you could have students take one step backwards after each round.

7. Modified Basketball

You’ll Need

  • Basketballs (1 per child)
  • Basketball hoops

Playing modifield basketball is safe during the pandemic

Playing a true game of basketball won’t work with social distancing procedures, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have students work on their dribbling and shooting skills. Split your class into two groups. Have one group spread out on one part of the court practicing dribbling, while the other half plays H-O-R-S-E with a small group of students.

8. Ball to Basket

You’ll Need

  • Basket
  • Balloon, beach ball, or another small and light ball
  • Chalk/cones to designate starting line

For this activity, students must work to get a beach ball, balloon, or other ball into the basket in the least amount of hits. They will have to hit the ball in their air towards the basket and count how many hits it takes for it to get in the basket. You can also have students play by kicking the ball and counting how many kicks it took to get it into the basket. Students can take turns, staying distanced, and see who is able to get the ball into the basket with the fewest number of hits.

4 Virtual Activities

Looking for virtual PE activities for your middle school students? Here are some that I’d recommend trying.

1. Modified Gymnastics Unit

You’ll Need

  • Computer
  • Graphics/videos showing each move

Gymnastics improves your body

If you remove some of the riskier gymnastics moves, such as rolls and handstands, you could pretty easily teach a modified unit virtually. Show videos or model each move you want students to learn and give them time to practice. If you have cards showing the specific moves, you could even use your document camera to share the images with students.

Teach a few different moves each lesson, and at the end of the unit, have students create a performance that includes at least one example of each move they learned.

2. Live Long Workout Sets

You’ll Need

  • Workout posters displayed on computer

You don't have to leave home in order to do sport

These workout exercises are ideal for virtual middle school PE instruction. Simply display each workout poster showing the number and type of exercises on your computer screen, just as you would do on an interactive whiteboard if you were back in the classroom. Then, have students get up from their computer and start moving.

3. Juggling

You’ll Need

  • Computer
  • Items to model juggling with

Juggling is easy and useful

Juggling is another unit that isn’t too difficult to teach virtually. You’ll just need a few small items to model juggling with, and you can guide your students in finding or making appropriate items based on what they have around their house. You can find or make short videos demonstrating how to juggle and have students start with easier tasks, such as only juggling one or two items at a time.

4. Virtual Scavenger Hunt

You’ll Need

  • A list of items for students to find in their home
  • Movements for students to practice

Virtual PE lessons can be fun and amusing

Students love showing off their belongings to their classmates, and this activity will allow them to do so while practicing PE skills. Call out the name of an object and a movement students must use as they get up to locate the object in their house. Repeat for several objects, leaving a few minutes for students to share what they found/demonstrate the movement they used to find it.

5 Reasons to Teach PE Even When Homeschooling

If you’re homeschooling your son or daughter, you may be wondering whether teaching physical education is even necessary. I am a strong believer that PE is important for all students, whether they are homeschooled, attend in-person learning, or are receiving virtual instruction.

PE is nesessary even during homeschooing

Here are some of the most important reasons to incorporate PE lessons into your daily instruction when homeschooling:

  1. You can model the importance of an active lifestyle for your children.
  2. The lessons you teach can be tailored to your child’s interests.
  3. It will help your children get their energy out to focus better during other instruction.
  4. Your children will improve their gross motor skills and confidence in their abilities.
  5. Your children could discover an interest in a sport or activity that they’d like to pursue beyond your daily PE classes.

6 Tips for Teaching PE Virtually

Teaching PE virtually can certainly be a challenge. However, it is so important for our students. They need the physical activity for so many reasons, especially since much of their days are being spent sitting in front of a computer screen.

Here are a few tips that you may find helpful when trying to teach PE virtually:

  1. Try to keep your lessons as engaging as possible for students.
  2. Use icebreakers to help students get comfortable with you and the other students in the class.
  3. Elicit feedback from students after your lessons/every few lessons.
  4. Get students up and moving every lesson.
  5. Consider doing a dance unit and teaching line dances
  6. Search for “follow along videos” on YouTube like this one to help guide students.

6 Tips for Teaching PE Outdoors

Teaching PE outdoors can be a good idea any time, but especially during a pandemic. However, as you’re likely already aware, teaching outside comes with its own challenge.

Tips for teaching PE

I put together a few tips that may help you maintain classroom management, ensure your students are learning, and help your lessons go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Have all necessary materials prepared and ready to go.
  2. Set clear expectations and hold students accountable.
  3. Be flexible and expect weather problems or other setbacks when outside
  4. Make sure you and students are protected against the elements (coats, hat, sunscreen, etc.)
  5. Work with elements in nature (running to a tree line, stopping when they get next to the large rock, etc.)
  6. Keep students engaged and on-task.

Useful Resources

Final Words on Social Distancing PE Games for Middle School

Do you feel inspired after reading about those social distancing PE games middle school? Whether you’re teaching your students virtually or trying to do outdoor PE, I hope you found a few activities that you’re excited to try! Which of the activities that I shared is your favorite?

Simona Johnes

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