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Monster Steps

Students explore different stride lengths to avoid over-striding and under-striding

Tags: elementary school, legs & feet

Objectives Students explore different stride lengths as they learn how to avoid over-striding and under-striding. They try running with monster steps, then baby steps, and finally with some that are just right.
Standards National Standards for Physical Education (NASPE)
Standards 1,2
New York State Education Department (NYSED)
Standards 1,2
Time Required 20 minutes
Materials Stopwatch or watch with a second hand, roster and pen to record times


Prepare for the Activity

Learn how to teach kids to use good stride lengths by watching the Form 101: Leg Movements video and by reading the “Assess the students” section below to know what to watch for and how to correct mistakes.


Events Play

Demonstrates proper form for various components of the running stride.

Click here to access on Teacher Tube

Introduce the Activity

  • Name the activity and tell your students it will help them discover how to run just right—so they’re not taking steps that are too big or too small. Explain that in running, “a stride” means a step. Tell students when they use the right stride length, it makes running faster, easier, and more fun.
  • Tell students they will try three different lengths of strides, and be timed as they run a lap around the gym using those different strides.

Conduct the activity

  1. First demonstrate an exaggeratedly long stride—one in which you are reaching your leg way out in front of your body and either landing on your heel or almost leaping. Tell students you want them to run taking the longest steps they can, reaching as far forward with the leg as possible for the first time around the gym. Call these “monster steps.”
  2. In small groups, have students run one lap with the long stride. Record each child’s time. Do this until you have times for all the students.
  3. Next, demonstrate running with little baby steps.
  4. With the students going in the same group order they did before, record times for each as they complete a lap around the gym with baby steps.
  5. Demonstrate a good running stride—taking a medium-size step with your feet landing directly beneath your hips, or as close to this as possible.
  6. Maintaining the same groups and order, record students’ times as they run a lap around the gym with “just right” steps.
  7. Read off the times for a handful of students in each category (e.g., “Amanda ran XX with the giant steps, XX with the baby steps, and XX with the normal stride”). Their “normal stride” times should be fastest.
  8. Explain that even though we don’t run as exaggeratedly as we did in this activity, some of us run with a little bit of a long or short stride, but a medium stride is best. Discuss the various strides lengths using the question below as a guide.

Assess the Students

What to watch for during the normal stride:

  • Feet landing beneath the hips, or very close to this.

What to watch for during exaggerated strides:

  • Strides that are too long where feet are landing out in front of the body. This is often associated with landing heavily on the heels.
  • Strides that are too short with students mincing their steps, using little or no knee lift, and, in extreme cases, shuffling along.
  • Exaggerated strides—you want to ensure students feel the difference and see the change in their times.
  • Running—but students should still be running, not walking or bounding.

Note: Sometimes kids may run faster with big steps in this short trial (particularly if their stride isn't exaggerated enough). Emphasize that running with steps that are too long can put a lot of stress on your bones, which can sometimes lead to injuries. It also takes more work, so you tire faster.

Direction cues to share with students:

  • “Lengthen your stride!” (For kids who are taking short steps on their normal stride lap)
  • “Lift your knees!” (For kids with short strides)
  • “Be more powerful!” (For kids with short strides)
  • “Shorten your stride! No monster steps!” (For kids who are taking too long a stride on their normal stride lap)
  • “Stop reaching, run easy!” (For those with long strides)
  • “Land on the ball of your foot!” (For those landing on their heel)
  • “Land with your feet under your body!”

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


Talk with your students after they’ve completed Monster Steps. Sample questions might include:

  • How did it feel to run with the monster strides? Did you have less control?
  • How did it feel to run with the baby steps?
  • How were the monster strides and the “just right” strides different? (Landing on heel in monster strides vs. ball of foot in normal strides, taking longer steps but with slower turnover in monster strides, arms flailing more in monster strides)
  • What are some differences you noticed between baby strides and “just right” strides? (Knees come up higher with normal strides, feet push off the ground more powerfully in normal strides, longer and quicker steps in normal running)
  • Where should your feet be landing in a normal stride? (Beneath your body)
  • Why should they be landing there? (Because your feet act like brakes when they are too far out in front and it can also hurt your body)
  • At first, which stride did you think would be fastest - the long, medium, or short stride? (Kids tend to over-stride when they want to sprint because it feels like it should be the fastest, but it is not because you can’t take steps as quickly. Under striding is slower too, because you don’t have enough power.)
  • Why should we try to use a “just right” stride? (It is most efficient and powerful—easiest and fastest!)


  • Use a tambourine to establish what type of step; quick shakes = short, quick steps; slow beats = long, big strides.
  • If you have a lot of students and timing them individually is not practical, older students can time each other.
  • Have students guess and then count the number of steps they take to cross the gym floor using monster strides, baby strides, and “just-right” strides.

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.

  • For students with mobility impairments, work on arm drive; if possible, allow the student to use spotters and aids to help manipulate the leg movement.
  • Have pictures or visual display of the before and after phases to show students how their bodies should look before, after, and during the movement.
  • Allow students to do Monster Steps at their own pace, walking around the gym, and only when ready, start jogging and doing the varied steps.
  • Have students partner up and mirror each other, to allow for more practice and a visual with their peer, also working on socialization.

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