Tuesday 1 December 2020

Teaching PE during COVID-19

Submitted by: Shelagh McCracken, HPEC Vice President of Leadership in Curriculum and Pedagogy

Email Contact: vppedagogyandcurriculum@hpec.ab.ca

Note: This blog post was written prior to grades 7-9 going to online learning due to Alberta Pandemic Restrictions

As you read this, I hope you and your family are safe and healthy! Below are some thoughts and lessons we have used at the school where I teach.

“Mask up or distance please”.

“Johnny, do you need a mask break? No? Then mask up please”.

“Sally, cover your nose please.”

I am not sure about you, but I say these things a few times a day, often to the same students. I still find it awkward and weird; and yet here we are, living and teaching in something that sometimes feels like it’s out of an Orwellian novel.

I teach grade 5-9 Health and PE in a large Middle School where we have up to 5 PE classes scheduled in one period. Classes have anywhere from 23-30 students. Our students are in cohorts and we pick up classes now. Moving in our hallways has never felt more civilizedJ

The lessons attached have worked well in our setting. We have been encouraged by our administration to use equipment and facilities while practicing cleaning and distancing protocols. Classes are outside as much as possible, and we have just started using our indoor locations for Volleyball, Table Tennis and Yoga/Meditation. One positive thing about COVID is that we no longer have rentals so we can keep equipment set up in our spaces.

Another great source for resources can be found on the HPEC website under Conferences Resources https://www.hpec.ab.ca/hpec-conference-and-workshop-resources. Many of these resources can be adapted to meet COVID protocols.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is a liaison of HPEC and recognizes school as a critical setting for improving and protecting the health of children and youth.  The AHS School Health and Wellness (SHWP) Team works in partnership with school authorities around the province to support student health using a Comprehensive School Health (CSH) approach.  Although some members of the SHWP team have been reassigned to support the pandemic response, the team has several Health Promotion Facilitators available to support school authority partners with their wellness goals.  The team can be reached at schoolhealthandwellness@ahs.caIn addition, AHS has resources about CSH available at www.ahs.ca/csh and resources about back to school during COVID-19 available at www.ahs.ca/covidschools.

Ever Active Schools https://everactive.org/covid19-resources/ and Be Fit for Life http://befitforlife.ca/resources/ have great resources.

Physed Games is a resource we have used in the past and I purchased their new resource for our school entitled 50 COVID-FRIENDLY GAMES”. Activities are organized into Early Years (K-4), Middle Years (5-8) and All Years (K-8). I have often found that activities for Middle Years can be used in high school as well. You can find this and other resources from Physed Games here -  https://physedgames.com/.

We have also used some activities free resource from Asphalt Green. https://www.asphaltgreen.org/blog/rep-it-out-games-for-social-distancing

 During these unusual times, we at HPEC hope you are taking care of yourself. Teachers give so much to their students and their schools. We hope you find time for some well-deserved self-care. Maybe you can use some of the Mindfulness activities attached after a ski, walk or outdoor play!

 Be safe! Be well! Be active!


Sample COVID friendly warm ups, activities and games...

Injury prevention warm-up

Choose 6-8 of these activities to have the students complete as warm-up. Students need to complete the injury prevention exercises properly before moving on to the game activity. Feel free to make them do them a few times if they are off task.

 Start and Finish are about 20m apart

Forward Run – 40 m – (there and back)

Skipping – 40 m (there and back)

High Knees - 40 m (there and back)

Butt Kicks - 40 m (there and back)

Side Shuffle - 40 m (there and back)

Zigzag Runs - 40 m (there and back)

Speed Runs - 40 m (there and back)

Lunge Walks – 20 m (alternating legs), jog back

Squat Jumps/Skater Jumps – 10

Planks - Front-Side-Front-Side - hold each for 15 seconds

Balance on one leg - Straight leg and increase height of leg, spell alphabet by moving foot. Eyes open or closed.


Warm Up: Reverse/Opposite Day

Where: Auditorium, cafeteria, classroom, gymnasium, hallway, library, playground

Equipment: None

How to Play:

The actions are opposite of the instructions.  Have all students move to one end of the playing space.  Have students spread out and social distance.  The Teacher/Instructor starts with the calls

GO- means stop

STOP- means go

Big –means small

Small- means big

Etc Etc… students can come up with other ideas

The students try to make it past where the teacher is giving instructions.  Once a student has passed they can pick a winning exercise 10 jumping jacks, or 10 squats or their choice or you could let the student become the next caller.  

Code Breaker

 Equipment – 7 med/large cones, 7 felt markers.

 Spread cones around the field and place markers under the cones

1.       Make teams of 3-4 (students distance or mask up). Each team needs a blank sticky note

2.      Teams start at the same time

3.      Each team is given a colour to start

4.      Teams must stay together

5.      Teams find the first colour and return to the teacher to be given their next colour

6.      Students should leave markers under the cones and replace lids

7.      Emphasis students drawing a line for first colour at the top of the sticky note and add lines under each consecutive colour

8.      First team to finish all the colours wins

9.      Follow cleaning protocols for markers and cones

Sample code

Game: COVID Kickball

Equipment: 1 large playground ball (spray with cleaner at the end of the previous class

1 large cone

20 small disc/triangle cones.


·       Have students jog 2 laps around the diamond. Mask can be off if they are properly social distanced from their class mates when running. Masks on or distanceJ

·        Students find their own space and complete 3-6 Injury Prevention Warm-ups

COVID Kickball (aka kickball with modifications) Rules:

Diamond set-up - (to be done by teacher)

1 large cone at the pitcher’s mound.

1 small disc cone as home base to mark the area to kick from

2 cones one either side of pitcher’s mound and 2 meters closer to home base, to be used as the short cut to first base

4 small disc cones 2m X 2m for all 3 bases

1 cone in across from the backstop between 3rd base and home base called “Commitment line”

·       Split class into 2 teams randomly (team shake app, 4 lines, coloured shirts/jackets/tops) One is fielding team and one kicking team.

·    Kicking team needs to line up behind the backstop with proper social distance between each if they want to unmask. Distance or mask up.

·       Ensure fielding team is properly distanced (2m apart) in the baseball diamond. Masks can be off if they are a safe distance apart.

·       Only one pitcher allowed per team per inning.

·        Only 4 players on the kicking team per base, they need to be standing at the corner of each base beside the corner cone.

·      To get an “out” the fielding team has to field the ball and throw it back to a relay player (a player closer to the pitcher) or the pitcher. The pitcher then touches the ball to the cone. If the ball touches the cone before the kicker gets to the base safely they are out. Any other players that are not on a base when the ball touches the cone is also out.

·       The pitcher cannot field the ball. Another player has to field the ball and throw it to the pitcher to touch the cone for it to be an out.

·       If a ball is caught in the air it is an automatic out. Runners need to tag up before attempting to go to the next base. Remind students that runners freeze if the pitcher has the ball. No lead offs or steals.

·    You can choose to play continuous kickball if students can distance properly and only have 4 on a base. Any player who crosses the commitment line has to continue to 1st base and can’t return to 3rd base. Students can use the short cut cones in front of the pitcher’s cone. These cones should be on the left of the runner.

·       You can play 3 or 4 outs, see how it is going.

·        Ensure all students keep the same order so everyone gets a chance to kick.



Mindfulness Activities:

 Bowl Grounding - 1 min https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZME0JKiweL4

 How Mindfulness Empowers Us - 2 min


 4,7,8 Breathing - 4 min Cartoon, a little goofy, could stop with a few seconds left.


4,7,8 Breathing - 4 min https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Dv-ldGLnIY

Body Scan GoZen - 6 min  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIC-Io441v4

 Grounding 5 4 3 2 1

This technique will take you through your five senses to help remind you of the present. This is a calming technique that can help you get through tough or stressful situations.

Take a deep belly breath to begin.

5 - LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I see the computer, I see the cup, I see the picture frame.

4 - FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I feel my feet warm in my socks, I feel the hair on the back of my neck, or I feel the pillow I am sitting on.

3 - LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic outside, the sound of typing or the sound of your tummy rumbling. Say the three things out loud.

2 - SMELL: Say two things you can smell. If you’re allowed to, it’s okay to move to another spot and sniff something. If you can’t smell anything at the moment or you can’t move, then name your 2 favorite smells.

1 - TASTE: Say one thing you can taste. It may be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth, or a mint from after lunch. If you can’t taste anything, then say your favorite thing to taste.

Take another deep belly breath to end.

 Jack Rhodes Meditations

Deep Relaxation Hypnosis - Jack Rhodes - 20min https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1V38hxYTAo

Positive Thinking – Jack Rhodes -13 min


Confidence with People  - Jack Rhodes - 20 min


Increased Motivation – Jack Rhodes – 17 min


Decreasing Anxiety – Jack Rhodes – 10 min


 Relaxation Hypnosis - Eyes to Soul – Jack Rhodes 7 min


Improve Your Creativity – Jack Rhodes – 10 min


Improve Your Memory – Jack Rhodes – 8 min


 Water Meditation – Jack Rhodes – 11 min


Community Service Unit – this is a unit we paired with Field Games. We also walked during this unit if the field was too slippery. Classes did at least one Community Service activity for this unit.

We received many posts and emails thanking us for our service.

Safety Concerns – getting separated from the group – stay within 3 houses of each other

1.      Shoveling sidewalks and driveways – 10-12 shovels in the main equipment room. Students pair or triple up to share shovel duties. Be careful of people’s properties 

2.       Grabbers for Garbage collection – PE has 11 grabbers to pick up garbage

3.       Positive messages left at neighbourhood houses – we used Painter’s tape to attach messages to doors.

4.      Letters/Cards – students make cards for Veterans, Senior’s Homes, Animal Shelters (card for animals getting adopted), First Responders, Grocery Clerks.

Follow PE Cleaning Protocols document for equipment use (ie. spray shovels, grabbers, felts for cards)

Camouflage on Community Walks

Round 1 - one student is “it” and stays in an agreed upon area for the game. Students are near the “it” person (social distanced) and when “it” closes their eyes and counts to 25 the students can find a hiding place to “camouflage” in.

Once the person who is “it” counts to 25, they open their eyes and try to find the students who are hidden. They can call names or describe clothing to find them. All of the students they can see/find are out of the game. Students must distance or mask up when hiding.

Round 2 - When the person who is “it” can’t find any more people, they call “food and water 20” where they count to 20 and students hiding come out and put a foot close to the “it” person (they used to tag them) and then re-hide. They cannot hide in the same place twice in a row.

Round 3 is Food and Water 15

Round 4 Food and Water 10

Round 5 Food and Water 5

Round 6 Numbers – If any students remain in the game the “it” person holds up numbers with their fingers. If the person hiding yells the number before they are seen they win the game.