Every Minute Counts: The Art of Using Instant Activities

From when students first enter the gym to when they leave, every minute counts. Employing instant activities as part of your daily routine prepares students for learning both physically and mentally and helps you capitalize every minute. 

Instant Activities Chart

Starting with even the simplest routine makes a difference. My middle level students no longer enter the gym and sit (Boring! Not to mention counter-intuitive to an active learning environment). Now, they walk around the perimeter of the gym, enjoying music and talking with one another. Once the music stops they go to an assigned location for announcements before further activity. This is our basic warm-up. It has reduced behavioral issues and the use of music really ‘hooks’ the kids. While students are warming up I am finishing preparations, checking in with students, and taking attendance via my pedometer system.

g 76058 fitstep pedometer training charts

As you get more comfortable with a basic routine, you can begin to differentiate or add layers that align with your current objectives and help review previously taught content. Instant activities can vary from locomotor movements to dynamic warm-up progressions to small-sided games to skill review or skill-related movements. Once you establish and practice the given expectations as to how the warm-up routine will work (safety, use of and set up/takedown of equipment, amount of pedometer time they need to earn, where it is posted each day, how it works with attendance, etc.) the instant activity runs itself. Our entire department uses the same routine. We have three classes going at the same time and it works really well. The teachers work together on developing new progressions and at teaching it to students.

Once our students learn the basic walking warm-up the next routine has them perform dynamic movements that prepare their bodies for further movement. We pre-teach our students these movements and they perform them in a “Four Corner” layout. Another progression is to add the game of “Active Rock-Paper-Scissors” to this format for a different level of fun and social interaction. I’ll leave you with a description of this routine below and a video of my students in action. I hope this blog inspires you to re-examine your current routines and work to make them more active, purposeful and fun for students. Keep it simple at first and build from there.

Activity Description: Rock-Paper-Scissors Warm-up

The classic game of rock-paper-scissors (R-P-S) can be used in the physical education classroom in many ways. Here’s a video of a recent favorite we have used as a large group fitness activity and warm-up challenge.

Students continuously travel from one corner to the next performing previously learned dynamic warm-up movements. Before moving to the next corner, students must challenge someone to a game of ‘action-based’ R-P-S where they jump up and down four times and show their choice on the fourth landing (count out loud: 1-2-3-show). To play “Rock” students land with both feet together and hands down at sides, “Paper” is landing with hands straight out to side and both feet spread apart (make a flat wall), or “Scissor” is landing with both feet spread apart front to back (like open scissors).

If a student wins the R-P-S challenge, they read the Four Corner Fitness Activity sign (sample included) for movement to perform as they travel to the next corner to find someone new to challenge. If a student loses they find another person in the same corner to challenge. If they lose three times in a row they travel to the next corner regardless. The activity is inclusive for all abilities, can go on for any amount of time, can be used as a warm-up or a longer large group fitness activity (though I’d recommend you change up the different versions of Rock-Paper-Scissors or types of dynamic movements) and can be used to promote positive relationships amongst peers.  The combinations are endless!


  • Use a different version of R-P-S: Bear-Fish-Mosquito.
    • Bear = arms up and arched in claws.
    • Fish = hands together making a fishy swimming motion.
    • Mosquito = hand(s) pinched close like a stinging bug.
      • (Bear eats Fish. Fish eats Mosquito. Mosquito zaps Bear.)
  • Have students jump up and down six times instead of three.
  • Promote positive relationships: Challenge students to play against a different person each time so they interact with others. They can shake hands after and say, “thank you”. Or have them introduce themselves before play, etc.

Continue the Conversation: What are your favorite instant activities or warm-up routines you use with your level of students? What are some of your favorite websites or resources with physical education warm-up ideas?

One Response

  1. I totally agree all minutes should be used. I have also incorporated a small “wait” time with some activities. Children do not know how to wait. Everything they do is done in an “instant”. They are impatient and a little bit all about “me”. Courteous, patient ladies and gentlemen make for better classmates and students.

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