Archive for the ‘PE Lesson Plans’ Category

Big Results in a Short Period of Time

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

New Research on SPARK Middle School PE program Published!

By: Paul Rosengard, SPARK Godfather

Did you know today’s SPARK’s Middle School Physical Education curriculum and teacher training program evolved from the three largest studies of MS PE ever conducted? It’s true. The three National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research projects, M-SPAN (Middle School Physical Education and Nutrition), TAAG (Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls), and The Healthy Study contributed to the exemplary and award-winning program being disseminated today.

While the last of these studies concluded in 2010, middle schools across the country have partnered with local universities to conduct ongoing tests of the SPARK program and better understand its effects on students and teachers.

One such effort titled, “Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle School Students” was recently published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health*. Several significant takeaways from this paper:

Background: This study examined the effect of a 9-week SPARK Middle School Physical Education program on physical activity levels, cardio-fitness, and motivation of 174 sixth through eighth grade students from two urban, private schools in Salt Lake City, Utah. This intervention group (using SPARK MS PE) was compared to other students in the same grades and schools who continued with their usual physical education program (Controls – referred to in the paper as Traditional group).

Measures: To ascertain student activity levels, students wore high-quality, research-validated pedometers. To determine their levels of cardio-fitness, students were administered the PACER test. To assess students’ motivation and enjoyment of the SPARK activities, they completed questionnaires (Sport Enjoyment Scale).

Results: Despite the very short intervention timeline, students participating in SPARK Middle School PE were more active, increased their cardio-fitness scores, and showed they were more motivated by the SPARK lessons and enjoyed them more than their “usual/traditional” PE program.

Here’s one interesting quote from the paper:

“The results from this study indicate that there were increases in-class PA for both the SPARK and Traditional groups from pre-test to post-test. However, the SPARK group had statistically greater increases on in-class PA compared with the Traditional group in younger children. These results support that SPARK, as an established health-related PE program, was significantly more effective in increasing middle school students’ in-class PA levels than the Traditional program in younger children.”

SPARK wishes to thank the authors, the University of Utah, and the participating schools and teachers for their time and subsequent contribution to the scientific knowledge base.

If your school is conducting research using any components of any SPARK program, please let us know via email,

Ready to bring SPARK Middle School Physical Education to your school?

  • Click here to download free sample SPARK Middle School PE Lesson Plans
  • Click here to shop for SPARK Middle School PE curriculum sets
  • Click here to request a proposal for the full SPARK Middle School PE program (professional development training, curriculum, and content-alighted equipment)

*Article citation:

Fu, Y., Gao, Z., Hannon, J.C., Burns, R.D., Brusseau, T.A. (2016). Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle-School Students. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 13, 534-542.

Click here to access the research article.

How to Use SPARK Integrations

Friday, February 7th, 2014

If you are a SPARK physical activity or physical education program user, you’ve most likely heard about our fabulous, but not-yet-famous SPARK Integrations on the back side of each activity plan. Found next to the Extensions and just above the Tips and Pointers, these little nuggets are a not-so-hidden gem that can be used to help integrate other subject areas into your PA/PE program, or to infuse some wellness messages or physical activity elsewhere throughout the day. Each program has their own unique topics appropriate for the participants of that program.

  • Early Childhood integrations are all of the Academic persuasion and include Art, Literacy, Mathematics, Music, Nutrition, and Science.
  • After School integrations reinforce learning from the activity, increase MVPA (Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity) at home, and coincide with the Think Abouts used at the end of the activity. They are all Home Plays, meaning they give information to kids to use in their home life and include Move More, Character Matters, Fitness Focus, and Food Facts integrations.
  • K-2 Physical Education features Academic, Home, and Wellness integrations.
  • 3-6 Physical Education includes Academic, Home, Wellness, and Fun Fact integrations.
  • Middle School Physical Education has Home, Wellness, Global, and Multicultural integrations.
  • High Schools Physical Education includes Home, Wellness, Global/Multicultural, and Sport Literacy integrations.

Please explain these!

Academic integrations link PE to the classroom and back. These range in subject matter from literacy to math to science. These are one of the many ways SPARK helps to address the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics (Examples: 3-6 Flying Disc: Corner to Corner Give and Go and EC Super Stunts: Animal Movements 1)

Home and Move More integrations promote physical activity at home with friends or family members. (Example: AS Cool Cooperatives: Kin-Ball Cooperative Golf)

Wellness integrations provide tips on nutrition, safety, health, etc. (Example: K-2 Catching and Throwing: Switcheroo)

Fun Facts are only found in the 3-6, but these are some doozies! They include an interesting short story or tall tale that you and your students will get a kick out of and share with others. They are connected to the activity by name or theme, but not necessarily by a straight line. (Example: 3-6 Soccer: Soccer Golf)

Multicultural connect activities to diverse cultures found locally and regionally. (Example: MS Dance: Create a Poco Loco)

Global connect activities and/or units to history, customs, and practices of countries around the world. (Example: MS Golf: Bocce Golf)

Sport Literacy integrations provide useful skill, strategy, or game regulation specifics that pertain to each unit. (Example: HS Badminton: Win the Point)

Character Matters help develop social skills and positive character traits like fair play, initiative, trust, etc. (Example: AS Cool Cooperatives: Hog Call)

Fitness Focus and Food Facts: I don’t think I need to describe these other than to let you know they are great! (Examples: link to AS Great Games: Builders/Bulldozers and AS Super Sports: Mini-Basketball


Sounds cool, but how am I going to use them?

Teachers of physical education and physical activity (PE Specialists, Classroom Teachers, Activity Leaders, Early Childhood Leaders, etc.) use the integrations in a variety of ways. Here are a few ideas:

Read during Warm-ups: As students/participants are warming up (e.g. during Perimeter Move) read the Integration aloud to set the stage for the activity to follow. This works best with the types of integrations that give information about that activity, like the Wellness, Multicultural and Global, Fun Fact, and Character Matters integrations.

As an Extension of the Activity: Many of the integrations are actually hidden extensions in that they change the way the activity is played and the focus has now been placed on something math, literacy, or science-related. These Academic Integrations (found in EC, K-2, and 3-6) can be used during the middle of the lesson as an extension to integrate these academic subjects INTO Physical Education. These vary from a quick science fact about aerobic capacity to a math extension that changes the focus of the game to utilize mathematical skills. (E.g. 3-6 Jump Rope: Jumping Color Tag)  When using any of these, it’s wise to check with the classroom teacher to see if the level of academics is appropriate for his/her class and to prepare for teaching the extension instead of the activity as written on the front page.

Read during Cool-down:  While students are cooling down (e.g. stretching) read the integration and discuss using pair/share. For example, after playing Durango Boot (AS Flying Disc) read the Character Matters integration and ask students to discuss the how competition motivated them in the game with a partner. Call upon 3 pairs to share what was discussed. This tends to work best with Home Plays, Move Mores (in AS), Character Matters (as a reflection on behavior during class) and Sport Literacy (to review rules/concepts learned during the lesson.)

Put on Bulletin Boards: Print copies of the integrations. (For MS they can be found on under each unit’s instructional media in the Planning section, just below Unit Plans but all other programs they are on each activity’s backside.) Post the integrations for each week’s lessons so students can read throughout the week as they pass by. This use works best with all types of integrations except those providing an extension to the activity by changing the focus to something academic. Ask students questions about them during roll-call or warm-up to assess their learning. Reinforce students who respond appropriately.

Share with Classroom Teachers: It’s all great to integrate other topics into PE to help address Common Core State Standards, but what about a little reciprocity? To help integrate PE concepts into academic classes, share integrations with your classroom teachers. If you are a classroom teacher, they could be used as short physical activity breaks and an infusion of wellness facts throughout the day. The types of integrations that work best here are those pertaining to Wellness and any Home Play activities.

Use with the Little Ones: If you are a leader of a pre-school/early childhood program, there are a variety of ways you can use the integrations. They serve as academic enrichment tools for before, during and after a SPARK lesson. Use the Music integrations during circle time and the Art integrations during center time. E.g. “We made an umbrella with our parachute today. Can you draw an umbrella?”  (Example: EC Parachute Play: Umbrella)

An example of a Science integration is a discussion about baby animals in a SPARK activity called Guppies. Math integrations may include the concepts of shapes, counting, and grouping. Many of the Literacy integrations suggested in SPARK can be easily added to circle time because they prompt children to act out a story using a skill learned during movement time. All of the books suggested in the Literacy Integrations coordinate with the lessons and relate to one or more of the following themes: colors, language arts, mathematics, movement skills and knowledge, nutrition, personal development, science, self-image, and social development. (Example: EC Building Blocks: Creative Words and Movements)

The Early Childhood program also includes Family Fun activities (in the bottom left corner on the backside of activity plans) which serve as a type of Home Play to promote physical activity at home with their families.


Please share how you use them!

Have you been using integrations in these or other ways? If so, please share with us at SPARK. Email your ideas at We’d love to share your best practices with the SPARK family!

Holiday-Themed Tag Games

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Here are four fun holiday-themed tag games submitted by teachers across the country – these games will get your kids moving and put everyone in the holiday spirit!

  • Grinch Tag
    • Santa’s helpers vs. the Grinch. Holiday hustle has new meaning!
    • Grades K-2


  • Turtle Dove Tag
    • Limited space movement break with a hungry Turtle Dove.
    • Grades K-3



  • Tree Topple Tag
    • Chop down your opponent trees before they chop yours!
    • Grades K-8


For more December holiday games, login to and click on December Games in the Quick Links section.

Not a SPARKfamily member?  Click Here to learn how to join.

Lesson Plan: 3-Catch Basketball

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Here’s a glimpse into what a SPARK lesson plan has to offer. We’ll look at one very popular game called 3-Catch Basketball, which is from the SPARK 3-6 PE Program. It’s a fantastic way to increase coordination and teach teamwork and strategy for elementary students.

Let’s huddle up. Here’s how to play:

What is 3-Catch Basketball?

  • The object of this game is to complete three passes in a row.
  • When a team successfully does this, they earn a point.
  • The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Set Up the Boundaries and Teams

  • Boundaries: Create square grids on the court that are 10 paces on all sides using cones or chalk. Six players will be assigned to each grid, so create as many grids as you need for your entire class. (For example, if your class has 18 students, create three grids. For 24 students, create four grids.)
  • Teams: Each grid is split into two teams; three students to a team. One team wears pinnies on top of their gym clothes; the other team wears their normal gym clothes only. The team with the pinnies is offense and begins the game with the basketball in their possession.


  • Since the team wearing pinnies is offense first, it is their mission to complete three passes in a row in the same direction.
    • If player A begins with the ball, she can pass to player B or player C. If player B gets the ball second, he must pass it to player C before passing it back to player A.
    • Players cannot switch places or hand the ball to their teammates.
  • Players can pivot, fake-pass and move to open space in order to pass and catch the ball, but they cannot dribble.
  • Once the offense completes three consecutive passes, that team scores a point and becomes the defense. The defense now takes control of the ball.
  • Defensive players must attempt to break up the passing of the offense by using their hands to intercept the ball.
  • If the ball is intercepted, dropped, or goes out of the grid, possession goes to the defense and the teams switch roles.

You’ll soon have a lot of action happening at one time, so keep the following pointers in mind.

Tips and Hints

  • Defensive players stay with the same offensive player (no ganging-up on one person), but can rotate at your discretion.
  • The defense must stay three feet away from the person with the ball.
  • Offensive players can only hold the ball for three seconds at most. If they fail to pass in time, the ball switches teams.

Does it all make sense so far? Once you’ve mastered the basics, let’s add some difficult challenges to the game plan and Spark it up!

Alternative Game Options

  • Endline. This game utilizes the same grid but the players are arranged differently. Instead of passing in a circle, the offense passes in a line. The offensive players begin on their own endline and advance the ball toward the opposing endline using passes only. When the ball is passed over the endline, a point is scored (similar to a touchdown in football). If the ball is dropped or intercepted, the defense takes over.
  • Endline with shot. This is the same as regular endline, but in the opposing end zone, an offensive player picks up a hoop while his or her teammate shoots the ball through the hoop. A missed shot means no points and the defense takes over.
  • Endline with post player. This game type gives the offense the advantage. A post player stands at the midpoint of the grid and doesn’t move. He or she can help the offense pass the ball but must stay in one place (like a post). This player is rotated after each score so everyone gets a chance to be the post player.

Regardless of the age of your students, they will find 3-Catch Basketball challenging and fast-paced. It’s a game where you can add all kinds of stipulations that increase the difficulty level as well, like restricting the offense to using only one kind of pass (a bounce pass, one-handed pass, two-handed pass, maybe even a behind-the-back pass) if your students show an exceptional aptitude for 3-Catch Basketball.

Best of all, it meets several standards set by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE):

  • Passing and catching
  • Offensive and defensive strategies
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Cooperation

Ready… set… play!

Click Here to download the complete 3-Catch Basketball lesson plan, or Click Here for more Elementary Physical Education sample lesson plans.