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.
After all this research, I put together this post to help you. Continue reading to learn more about:
- My top social distancing PE games middle school→
- The most important reasons to continue physical education instruction even when you’re homeschooling→
- Tips for teaching PE to students virtually→
- Tips for teaching PE outdoors→
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.
- Toe’s Pedos →
- Choreographed Dance Sequences →
- Relays →
- Soccer →
- Frisbee Golf →
- Ring Toss →
- Modified Basketball →
- Ball to Basket →
8 Outdoor Activities
If you’re looking to teach your students outdoors, here are a few activities you may want to try.
- Students’ shoes
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.
- No materials needed
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.
- 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).
- Soccer balls
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.
- Cones (or other markers)
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.
- 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.
- Basketballs (1 per child)
- Basketball hoops
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.
- 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.
- Graphics/videos showing each move
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.
- Workout posters displayed on computer
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.
- Items to model juggling with
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.
- A list of items for students to find in their home
- Movements for students to practice
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.
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.
Here are some of the most important reasons to incorporate PE lessons into your daily instruction when homeschooling:
- You can model the importance of an active lifestyle for your children.
- The lessons you teach can be tailored to your child’s interests.
- It will help your children get their energy out to focus better during other instruction.
- Your children will improve their gross motor skills and confidence in their abilities.
- Your children could discover an interest in a sport or activity that they’d like to pursue beyond your daily PE classes.
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:
- Try to keep your lessons as engaging as possible for students.
- Use icebreakers to help students get comfortable with you and the other students in the class.
- Elicit feedback from students after your lessons/every few lessons.
- Get students up and moving every lesson.
- Consider doing a dance unit and teaching line dances
- Search for “follow along videos” on YouTube like this one to help guide students.
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.
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.
- Have all necessary materials prepared and ready to go.
- Set clear expectations and hold students accountable.
- Be flexible and expect weather problems or other setbacks when outside
- Make sure you and students are protected against the elements (coats, hat, sunscreen, etc.)
- Work with elements in nature (running to a tree line, stopping when they get next to the large rock, etc.)
- Keep students engaged and on-task.
Today in PE students tried Rock Paper Scissors Fitness-style! A great game for warm up (or anytime to get moving!) and can easily be played with proper social distancing. ?? #TDSB #llpshpe #outdoorEd #physEd #llps pic.twitter.com/eJtx1YFJ0v
— Larissa Aradj, OCT (@MrsGeekChic) October 6, 2020
- P.E. apps. and online resources to keep your students moving
- 7 tips on how to prepare for teaching online
- Engaging students through Zoom
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?
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