By Mark Kreder, YPT Resident Artist Educator

If you’re like me, there has been at least one instance in your teaching career where you say to yourself, for whatever reason, “what exercise am I going to do next?” A teaching plan can change in the blink of an eye and it’s always nice to have a go-to exercise to keep things moving along. So here, for your reading pleasure, are a few I keep in my back pocket!

Mark’s Go-To Warm-Up Exercise

Name Game with a Twist

A name game is always an easy way to get things going, especially if the children already know each other. Recently, I learned an awesome name game that was led by YPT Resident Artist Educator Rob Kempson. What is awesome about this activity is that names are only one aspect of it. Let me break it down for you

What you need:
A minimum of 4 soft, squishy objects

What you do:

  1. Go around the circle – have everyone say their name and something interesting about themselves.
  2. Bring an object into the circle. Say someone’s name across the circle from you and toss (underhand) the object to that person (you have to remember who you tossed the object to). Go around the circle until everyone has received the object.
  3. Repeat the order the object was tossed around the circle a few times.
  4. Add another object to the circle. The rule for this object is that you have to lock eyes with the person you want to toss it to (the first object is going around the circle at the same time).
  5. Repeat until the group has conquered this stage.

So that’s the basic structure. Then you keep on adding new challenges while maintaining the previous ones. Examples of additional challenges could be going around the circle clockwise saying movie names or adding the last two objects to the circle and passing one around clockwise and the other counter-clockwise.

What is great about this activity is that there are so many things happening at once that the children must be present if they want to do it successfully. By the end of the game they will be centered, focused and energized.

Mark’s Go-To LOUDER Exercise

Samurai Intergalactica

Not only does this game have a fantastic name, but it can make a quiet room get rather loud in a hurry. If you know the game zip, zing, bop then learning this game will be a breeze for you. Basically, the group stands in a circle and in the center of the circle there is energy. The goal of the activity is to get an energy ball moving around the circle.

There are six phrases you need to know:

  1. Samurai Intergalactica!’ – this is said loudly at the start of every round.
  2. AAAA’ – gets the energy ball moving
  3. KAAA’ – changes the direction of the energy ball
  4. BAAA’ – Sends the energy ball across the circle
  5. NO’ – this can only been done to a ‘BAAA’ and sends the energy ball back to the sender
  6. Down!’ – this can only be used when the game has been going on for a long time (i.e. when no one is prepared for it).

Action with phrases:

Samurai Intergalactica!’ – both hands placed into the circle shaking

AAAA’ – if the energy ball is moving left, bend your right arm and while saying ‘AAAA’ bring it in front of your body. If the energy ball is moving right, do the opposite.

KAAA’ – if the energy ball is moving left, the left arm is raised above the head in a claw like position; if right, the opposite.

BAAA’ – arms outstretched in front of you, palms touching.

NO’ – make an X with your arms on your chest.

Down!’ – drop to a crouch on the floor.

Ok enough with the circle games! This next activity is incredibly simple, but super effective.

Mark’s Go-To Focus & Listening Activity

The Numbers Game

Rules of the game:

As a group, starting from number 1, count as high as you can. Easy right? Here’s the catch – two people can’t say a number at the same time. If that happens you have to start all the way back at number 1!

With this game I find what sometimes happens is that one child will just keep saying  numbers, without waiting for anyone else to chime in. However, the objective of the game is to reach as high a number as you can, working as a team!

Note: In my experience, having the children close their eyes will help them listen and be more focused on the task at hand.

Mark’s Go-to End Game

Park Bench

You are all probably familiar with this game, but in my humble opinion no exercise list is complete without it.

What you need:

Two chairs

In this game, there are two people:

Person A – Normal person on the bench

Person B – Interesting character entering the scene

The objective of B is to get A off of the park bench. The goal is for A to try and stay on the park bench for as long as possible. Now B can do any number of things to get A off the park bench, BUT B cannot touch A or move the chairs at all. It is important to keep in mind that A should leave the park bench as soon as a regular person would become uncomfortable with being around B.

And there it is! Mark’s list of Go-to Exercises!