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Name of Activity:

Drum Beat Commands

Purpose of Activity:

To promote understanding of how to move, where to move, and when to move while interacting in physical education class.


Students need to know where their 'spot' is to warm up; students need to recognize various 'meeting spots' for group instruction (e.g., circle on the floor)

Suggested Grade Level:


Materials Needed:

Drum for teacher

Description of Idea

This is a great way to introduce students to procedures in a physical education class. Students can be taught to freeze instantly and put equipment down immediately, rather than 'take one more shot.' This system has allowed for me to take extra classes when necessary, as all students in the school are taught to react the same way to the drum beat.

One drum beat means: students freeze and put their hands on their knees; if they have equipment, they put it down on the floor and place their hands on their knees.

Two drumbeats mean: students run to the spot where the teacher points, such as a center circle, or around the teacher if the teacher points to themselves.

Three drum beats mean: students run and sit, legs criss-crossed, in personal spot.

The drum beat commands are being taught by having the students walk or jog in the same direction around the gym or field. On the beat (either once, twice, or three times), students react quickly and quietly. This allows for immediate silence in a busy class, as well as for quick relocation for group discussion or learning. These drum beat commands also allow a game to be stopped instantly if an announcement is heard over the intercom, a student is injured, or a quick 'teachable' moment is needed.

Assessment Ideas:

While students jog, walk, or skip the teacher checks for understanding by beating the drum in various ways. Continue until all students understand the signals.

Teaching Suggestions:

Instead of a drum you can use a hand clap signal, a chime, tambourine or any auditory signal that suits your needs.

Submitted by Jacqueline Wheeler who teaches at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts in Hilton Head, SC. Thanks for contributing to PE Central! Posted on PEC: 2/17/2010.
Viewed 42705 times since 1/20/2009.

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Drum Beat Commands

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Let others know how this idea went when you implemented/tried it with your kids. Include any variations, suggested teaching tips, positive comments, etc. so others can benefit from your tips. Please be helpful and positive with all comments. Look below to see all posted comments.



Previous Comments:

Kevin Tiller

Noticed that the whistle has been replaced with a drum. Bravo!


I like your idea.

Celestine Hunter

I will implement this in my classroom.It sounds like a good way to begin positive reaction to commands.


I personally find whistles quite effective. All my students have an assigned "spot" (floor tape) where they stand to do our warmup exercises and stretches. One whistle means stop what you are doing immediately and listen, and two quick whistles means it's time to line up. Whistles are used from preschool all the way up to adult athletes. I do not see them as negative in any way.


I agree that students are not dogs; however, if anyone has ever taught a class with a dance class, playing music is in the same space....whiste commands are awesome and everybody freezes at once! It is amazing to watch and all levels of learners get it quickly..very, very effective.


wel i guess we should really teach our youngs when they are 1 onwards cos they grasp things easily


By eshetu, Thu march 12,2009
No. Whistles are good, carylong distances and sometimes are in better sound range than our voices. Go for it, just get your pattern set firmly before using it. using whistles the student gets the training to understand what the sounds mean it's a good plan.

Kevin Tiller

Students are not dogs. A whistle should never be used in P.E. class. I can't believe this was posted.

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