Physical education ice breakers are a great way to get students comfortable when starting a new semester or school year. This article explores physical education ice breaker activities and gives teachers free content to use in class.
Why Are Physical Education Ice Breakers Important?
The start of a new semester or school year can be intimidating for students. Students can be nervous and anxious about their new classmates, teacher, and class. This is especially true in physical education.
Because physical education is an activity-based class, it can leave many students feeling vulnerable and with their guard up. While it might seem silly, many students are sizing up the people around them and asking themselves, “Am I seriously about to sweat in front of all these people?”
It is those first few classes that students decide whether or not physical education is fun and welcoming or scary and uninviting. Therefore, the first week of PE is a pivotal time to make the right impression on students.
So while physical education teachers might be eager to jump right into the content and curriculum of the semester, it is important to think big picture. The big picture goal is that students come to class willing to participate and are open to trying the different fitness units and activities planned.
Physical education ice breakers can help students to create the necessary trust with their peers and teacher. Incorporating pe ice breaker games and fitness icebreakers can build the foundation for a successful semester.
Cornell’s Center for Teaching Innovation outlines some key reasons any class should consider using icebreakers:
- help to create a relaxed environment where students share ideas and participate more fully in the class
- encourage students to share ownership for the learning environment of the class
- build rapport among students and foster a productive learning environment
prepare students for collaborative group work
Choosing Your Physical Education Ice Breaker Activities
There is no shortage of ice breakers to choose from for your class. Everything from two truths and a lie to relay races can be great pe icebreakers for your students. And when we say there are plenty, we mean it. Just look at the titles of some of these other articles:
- 30 Unique Icebreakers for Kids Of All Ages
- 53 Ice Breaker Games (That Your Team Won’t Find Cheesy)
- 36 Ridiculously Fun Icebreaker Ideas, Games & Activities in 2022
Many of the most popular icebreakers that top these lists can feel corny and cheesy. Especially if you are looking at middle and high school-age students, your gut reaction might be to say, “No way this is going to HELP make kids feel more comfortable.” But instead, many of these can be just extra additions of awkwardness for students that you are trying to avoid in the first place.
When choosing your physical education ice breakers, it is helpful to consider your audience and how they will likely react to the activity. Yes, you should try out new things. And if something falls flat, that is okay! You can adjust and adapt. But more likely than not, if your gut says it is not a right fit, it probably isn’t.
Because this is physical education though, hopefully the icebreaker includes some movement. This can be a perfect entry point and gateway for students to start moving and sweating in a fun, low-stakes way. In addition, movement-based icebreakers will begin to lay the foundation and expectation for what is to come in class. Let’s take a closer look at some fitness icebreakers for a physical education class.
5 Follow Along Fitness Icebreakers
Because PLT4M is all about fitness, we put together a handful of fitness icebreakers that are a great starting point for any class. We call it “Pick a Side.” This game has a fun fitness twist on a classic icebreaker activity.
Students are tasked to go to the left or right side of the room based on what they like better. For example, in our music edition, we ask students if they like things like a live band or DJ better. Once students select and go to that side of the room, they are assigned a short 30-second fitness activity. In addition, students are encouraged to talk to and meet the students that also made the same choice.
Check out 5 of PLT4M’s Pick a Side Fitness Icebreakers:
Additional Benefits of Fitness Icebreakers
Our “Pick a Side” videos are more than just a silly way for students to choose what they like the most. A wide variety of benefits come from using this type of physical education ice breaker.
From a student’s perspective, as they make their choices and head to that corner of the room, students work out and exercise near different classmates every 30 seconds. While students might not realize it, this can be an intentional but casual way to start building up their comfort levels of working out around new people. It is also low stakes because all movements are basic and foundational that anyone can do in some capacity.
From a teacher’s perspective, although the movements are basic, you can quickly start to assess and evaluate the way students move in your class. While other icebreakers might not provide this opportunity, fitness icebreakers provide a general movement screening. Because of this, teachers can get a general sense of their audience and maybe even better plan for the rest of the semester.
Outside of the benefits outlined above, these are quick and simple videos. Icebreakers don’t have to be these long, drawn-out complicated activities. Short and to the point, it also allows you to cover other ‘first-week’ necessities like syllabuses, technology, and more.
Key Takeaways On Physical Education Icebreakers
There will always be students nervous about starting a new semester or class. For some reason, when we hear about this in physical education, we consider removing any physical activity altogether to accommodate.
Instead of removing physical activity, we should introduce it in low-stakes and welcoming ways. Physical education icebreakers can help us achieve several goals in our first week of class. PE ice breakers help to encourage participation and engagement both with class materials and classmates.
After incorporating physical education icebreakers, the doors to long-term motivation and collaboration in physical education are opened.
Besides icebreakers, does PLT4M have other resources for students and teachers?
Yes, PLT4M is home to over 25 different fitness and wellness physical education lesson plans for high school and middle school. PLT4 M powers everything you want or need for PE!
What if, even after icebreakers, my students are still not motivated to participate in PE?
Motivating students in physical education is far from simple! But past icebreakers, we believe that motivation in physical education often improves with the right resources and lesson plans. More and more students want to try out things like weightlifting, yoga, dance, and pilates and are more likely to enjoy PE if they have an opportunity to try out different units.