Joe McCarthy’s goal for his PE class is to enhance kids’ knowledge, confidence, and experience, so they can be active outside of class with family and friends. Engaging students in instant activity has helped him prepare kids’ brains for learning and muscles for moving.

McCarthy shares some instant activities that he has starts classes with.


Juggling scarves and balancing noodles help to develop kids’ hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. For 45 seconds, McCarthy has them practice these skills. Each time he adds a new challenge, such as walking and balancing simultaneously. In these activities, you can challenge kids to become an “expert” rather than a winner or a loser.

1st grade:

For 2 minutes, McCarthy’s students dribble basketballs around cones. While practicing technique and strategic moving, kids have to name the letter on the cone, incorporating academics and movement.

2nd grade:

Fitness dice is an exciting game that allows you to be creative. Kids work with a partner for 4 minutes. Within that time, they both roll a die, whoever rolls the higher number has to complete one activity and the students who rolls the lower number completes the other activity. This game helps kids strengthen their hand-eye coordination.

3rd grade:

Circle Tag is a fun activity that will have kids strategizing in groups of four. Three of the students will hold hands and move in a circle, meanwhile; the fourth student is the “tagger” and has to announce who they are going to tag. The “tagger” has 20 seconds to run around the moving circle and tag the person they named.

4th grade:

McCarthy places six kiddy pools around the gym; each pool holds notecards with activities on them. Whichever notecard a student selects is the activity he or she has to complete at that pool station. In 4 minutes, each student has to complete activities at all six pools. This helps kids understand the various components within fitness.

5th grade:

Tic-Tac-Toe is a fun game that strengthens students’ speed and problem solving abilities. Played against another classmate, each kid has to run and strategically place a ball into the hula-hoops. They learn about speed as they attempt to be the first player with three in a row.

These instant activities, and more like them, can help your students start moving within the first 5 minutes of class.

McCarthy poses questions for you to ask yourself while preparing instant activities:

  1. How many students are in my class?
  2. What equipment or technology do I need?
  3. How long is class time?
  4. What grade level am I teaching?
  5. What are the objectives of this activity?

Instant activities can engage students in learning techniques while having fun.

You can watch the full Webinar Instant Activities for Physical Education on our website!

Webinar Presenter: Joe McCarthy is a physical education teacher at Meadowview Elementary School in Farmington, MN. He serves as a board member for MN SHAPE, MN Healthy Kids Coalition, and is on the SHAPE America Central District Leadership Council. In 2012, McCarthy was named the American Heart Association Regional Winner and Active Schools Acceleration Project Midwest Regional Winner.

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Joe McCarthy

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