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Bricks and Feathers

Students experience how it feels to run "light as a feather" versus loaded down by a "ton of bricks"

Tags: elementary school, legs & feet

Objectives Students alternate between running heavily on their feet (with "bricks on their backs") and lightly (with "feathers on their backs"). They experience how landing lightly on the balls of their feet is preferable to heavy pounding. The activity also promotes overall good running form.
Standards National Standards for Physical Education (NASPE)
Standards 1,2,3,4
New York State Education Department (NYSED)
Standard 1
Time Required 15 minutes
Materials None required

Prepare for the Activity

  • Watch the Bricks & Feathers video below to see how to conduct the activity.
  • Identify a running course where your students can run for 5-10 minutes. Choose either a back and forth course or a loop course where all students are in sight at all times.


Events Play

Encourages soft landings on the balls of the feet and overall good form.

Click here to access on Teacher Tube

Introduce the Activity

  • Tell your students the name of the activity and its purpose. You might say something like, “Today you’re going to compare how it feels to run softly with how it feels to run heavily.”
  • Show them the course you have designated and explain that they will run while you will alternately call out “Bricks!” and “Feathers!” every 15-30 seconds. They will run continuously for 5-10 minutes, alternating between heavy-footed running and light-footed running.
  • When you call out “Bricks!” they will run like they have bags of bricks on their backs. When you call out “Feathers!” they will run light and easy, as if they have feathers on their backs.
  • Demonstrate what you mean by running with “bricks” (landing with heavy feet, hunched over, stomping on the ground, short strides, restricted arm movements) and what you mean by running with “feathers” (landing lightly on the balls of your feet, running with a relaxed, upright posture, using longer strides and a fluid arm movement).
  • Tell them to pay attention to how they feel during each phase of running.

Conduct the Activity

  1. Line the students up and have them start running.
  2. Alternately call out “bricks” and “feathers” every 15-30 seconds for 5-10 minutes of continuous running.

Assess the Students

What to watch for during the “bricks” phase:

  • Landing with flat, heavy feet
  • Loud stomping sounds
  • Hunched posture
  • Restricted arm movements
  • Short strides

What to watch for during the “feathers” phase:

  • Landing lightly on the balls of the feet, not the toes
  • Quiet feet
  • Relaxed, upright posture
  • Full, fluid arm movements
  • Long strides

Direction cues to share with students:

  • “Feel those bricks! They are so heavy!”
  • “Don’t march [or prance]! Keep running!”
  • “Light as feathers! Light on your feet!”
  • “Get those bricks off your back!”

(Going forward, the last two can be used any time you see students running with heavy, pounding steps.)

Note: Only give a student one direction at a time.


When you've completed Bricks and Feathers, talk to your students about their experience with the activity. Here are some sample questions to get you started:

  • How did it feel to run with bricks?
  • How about with feathers? Did that feel better?
  • How did your feet land during the bricks phase? (They landed with heavy, plodding foot strikes)
  • Did your feet land differently in the feathers phase? (They landed lightly and quietly)
  • Compare your posture in each phase. (They were more hunched over in the bricks phase, and more upright in the feathers phase)
  • How about your stride in each phase? Was it different? (The stride was longer in the feathers phase)


  • Make this a tag game by splitting students into two groups: the Fast Fawns and the Plodding Ogres. The Fawns start a few seconds ahead of the Ogres, running straight down a field, and the Ogres plod after them. Switch roles at the end of the field: The Ogres are now Fawns and the Fawns are now Ogres. In another round let the Fawns chase the Ogres.

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.

  • Consider using different cues for children with intellectual disabilities such as “tiptoeing” vs. “stomping” their feet as they run.
  • Let students know they will only run for a short distance. Reinforce proper running form when completed to minimize confusion.


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