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Bang the Drums

Banging two imaginary drums becomes a creative way to learn correct arm movement

Tags: elementary school, arms & hands

Objectives Bang the Drums helps students practice body awareness and control and learn the fundamentals of correct arm swing for running.
Standards National Standards for Physical Education (NASPE)
Standards 1,2
New York State Education Department (NYSED)
Standards 1
Prerequisite Use Zig Zag to teach kids the value of arm swing before conducting Bang the Drums.
Time Required 15 minutes
Materials None required


Prepare for the Activity

  • Watch the Bang the Drums video below for instructions and a demonstration of this activity.
  • Use the video and the “Assess the students” section below to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of effective arm movement, and also with common errors to watch for.
  • It may also be helpful to watch the Form 101: Arm Movements video, which covers the essentials of good arm swing and form.
  • Also check out the Funky Run video and lesson for another activity that addresses body awareness and control.


Events Play

A form exercise that promotes awareness and control of the arms while teaching the fundamentals of arm swing.

Click here to access on Teacher Tube

Introduce the Activity

  • Tell your students the name of the activity and its purpose: to help them learn how to use their arms as they run, because running is a full-body exercise and the arms help us stay balanced and focused on moving forward.
  • Have your students spread out to make good use of the space you have and to ensure safety.

Conduct the Activity

  1. First, tell students to imagine they have drums next to their hips. The tops of the drums are facing forward, not upward. Ask for two volunteers to come hold up their hands as drums for a demonstration. They can each hold up a hand next to your hips, with their palm facing forward.
  2. Standing in place, demonstrate good arm swing for your students, making sure to “bang” the “drums” your students are holding up for you with each swing. Your pinky fingers should touch their palms with each swing.
  3. Demonstrate a few examples of bad form where your hands miss the “drums.” Incorrect examples can include swinging from the elbow rather than the shoulder, swinging side to side rather than front to back, or hunching the shoulders and swinging the arms too high above the waist.
  4. Have the students begin swinging their arms as they imagine hitting drums that are parallel to their hips. (Remember, the tops of the drums face forward, not upward. The pinkies and outsides of the hands strike the drum face.)
  5. As they swing their arms, supply a beat for them. You can clap in rhythm, or count ONE-TWO-ONE-TWO.
  6. Help kids who are struggling by holding up your hands as targets for them to hit with each swing.
  7. Demonstrate correct arm form while jogging.
  8. Have them practice this arm swing while jogging 15-30 meters in groups of three or four. Observe and comment on their form as each group runs (or after they finish).

Assess the Students

What to watch for:

  • Hands passing the body at the hips.
  • Full, relaxed, strong arm swing.
  • Arms pumping forward and back, not across the body. Hands should not cross the midline of the body and the torso should not twist.
  • Arms swinging from the shoulders, not opening and closing at the elbows.
  • Elbows should remain bent and close to the body.
  • Shoulders relaxed.
  • Arms swinging in opposition to the legs if they are jogging forward.

Direction cues to share with students:

  • “Pump your arms. Hip to chest.”
  • “Swing the arms straight, not sideways.”
  • “Keep your elbows bent the whole time.”
  • “Keep your elbows close to your body!”
  • “Relax your shoulders!”
  • “Don’t miss those drums!”

Note: Focus on one or two of the cues at a time as you assess students. Don't overload students with directions.


After you’ve finished Bang the Drums, talk to your students about their experience with the activity and the fundamentals of good arm swing. Consider asking them questions like these:

  • How did it feel to “bang the drums”?
  • Did that arm swing feel natural to you? Why or why not?
  • If you had them try these exaggerated swings, ask: How did it feel when you tried an arm swing that went really high, up above your chest, or really low, below your hips?
  • How should your arms move when you run? (See “What to watch for” in “Assess the Students” section.)
  • How low should your hands go, and how high should they go? (Your hands shouldn’t go above your chest or below the hips.)
  • Should your hands swing sideways, making you twist? (No)
  • Are your arms important in running? (Yes) Why? How do they help? (They help with balance and it’s important to use all your energy and body parts to move forward.)


  • As an option, call for exaggerated arm swings—e.g., higher than the chest or sideways. Then have them go back to using a correct arm swing, and ask them the difference in how it feels.
  • Have students pair up and have one hold up their hands as drums for the other, and then switch.
  • Appoint a child who has good arm swing as your “drum leader” and have him or her step out in front to lead the group as they march in place.  The "drum leader" begins by marching, making sure the correct arm form is in place and then works up to a jog, maintaining proper arm form.

Inclusion Strategies

Classrooms are filled with learners who demonstrate a variety of needs and abilities, including ESL students, those with disabilities, and gifted/talented students. Consider these adaptations as you work to modify the lesson for student success.

  • Promote partners to encourage relaxed swing of arms and not swinging arms wildly or too hard to “bang the drums.”
  • Concept of Bang the Drums might be difficult for students with intellectual disability to understand. Provide demonstration and if needed teach the skill hand-over-hand while stepping or standing in place.
  • Note that for chair users and pushing a wheelchair the “bang the drum” idea is not a correct or efficient pattern of movement. Encourage “extension,” “arm swing,” and “reaching back” when working with students who are using a wheelchair.
  • For students with visual impairments, use two broomsticks or noodles and walk then jog in unison promoting accurate arm movements.

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