By Jason Gemberling
Parachutes, cones, hula-hoops, more cones, poly spots, mats, the list goes on and on for what an elementary physical education teacher has in his or her equipment closets, but what would an elementary PE teacher call their essentials?
I started my teaching career at the elementary level at Wakefield Forest Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia, teaching K-6 physical education, and I loved every minute!
Kids at that age love coming to PE class and being active and getting the wiggles out, and they love trying new things.
Thinking back to my time teaching and talking with my current elementary PE staff, I am going to give you my top 5 pieces of equipment that everyone should have in their closet.
1. Gymnastic Mats
My top recommendation and the one item that I think is the most used would be quality gymnastic mats. These mats are not used for just gymnastics, but can be used for a variety of different activities, including circuit training stations, large group games such as island movers, and also for adapted physical education. I recommend a lightweight mat at the elementary level for ease of use, meaning that students can easily help move the mats.
My next recommendation is quality cones in a variety of sizes and functions. I know this seems odd, but cones are a lifesaver for an elementary PE teacher keeping order and direction in his or her class. I am including poly spots as a cone too, because these are a great way to indicate where students need to be in the gym or outside at any given point in class.
When it comes to regular cones, I recommend different colors and sizes for use in a variety of activities. Write on foam board or whiteboards and then prop them on the cone for students to follow. Again, I know it seems odd to talk cones, but without them, it can be tricky to organize your students and activities in class.
3. Media Player/Sound System
A good media player is another piece of equipment that makes my list. The power of music in a PE class, especially an elementary PE class, is amazing. Music can be used to start and stop any activity and is a great way to keep students on task. And, depending on the music you choose, it can also be a great motivator.
It is also needed for those teachers that do FITNESSGRAM testing. Again, make sure you get a good system and also check to see if there is a sound system in your gym space as a possibility for class.
4. Student-Tracking Devices
Another must-have for everyone is some method for tracking students during class. This can look different by school and even within classes. Pedometers and heart rate monitors are both fantastic devices for teachers to use to track student output during a class and throughout a school year.
Personally, I recommend pedometers over heart rate monitors, especially at the elementary level because of their ease of use. However, newer heart rate monitors are a great tool that if you have the opportunity to use, go for it. I am actually trying to get my hands on these and hope to do so very soon.
I love pedometers for their ease of use and the data that we can collect. Our students do a good job, and, at the elementary level, it is nice to have a pedometer that has several functions for different age levels.
For example, it is nice having the normal step count feature for K-2 and then slowly be able to introduce the moderate to vigorous physical activity feature for your 3-6 group. Plus, with pedometers, you can cross curriculum with Math and Social Studies!
5. Team Building Games & Activities
My final recommendation would be team-building games and activities. Having the ability to have students be active and working together to a specific goal is a win-win situation. There are a lot of ideas and many can be done using items you can find at school or home, and, in some cases, you can purchase different activities.
I have made my own buddy-walkers for students to use, and I have also purchased a couple of activities for team-building. My biggest plus to these activities is that it gets all students in the class involved and working together with no real winner, so you can take the competition aspect out of class.
Jason Gemberling is a PE teacher at Midd-West High School in Middleburg, Pennsylvania. He also writes for Gopher Sport, a leader in physical education, sports and fitness equipment, www.gophersport.com.