AlertThe application for the 2017 United Airlines NYC Half is now open. Enter the drawing or claim your guaranteed entry today!

Running Tall

Students learn to move with head held high and eyes looking forward—improving balance and increasing speed.

Objective and overview: Students learn how to “run tall” by first walking with a beanbag balanced on their heads. Then they run without the beanbag, using the same form that enabled them to keep the beanbag balanced while walking.

National Standards for Physical Education (NASPE)
Standard 1
Standard 2

New York State Education Department (NYSED)
Standard 1

Time Required: 20 minutes
Materials: Beanbags (one per student if possible)
Cones to mark where students will run or walk to (optional)

Prepare for the Activity

  • Watch the Form 101:Running Posture video below for an explanation and demonstration of proper running posture, including what it means to run tall.
  • Set up a few cones about 10 meters apart, or use markings on the gym or playground floor.


Events Play
Form 101:Running Posture

Good posture is an important element of running form that helps runners move more efficiently and have a positive mental outlook.

Click here to access on Teacher Tube

Introduce the Activity

  • Tell your students something like this: “Today you’re going to learn to ‘walk tall’ and ‘run tall’ by balancing a beanbag on your head as you walk!”
  • Discuss what it means to run tall. Running tall means keeping an upright posture with the back straight and the head up so the chin is parallel to the ground. Use images such as a string pulling the top of your head to the ceiling to emphasize not slouching forward or looking down.
  • Talk about having your head facing straight ahead, not looking up or down. It should be held steady so that a beanbag (for example!) can balance on it as you move slowly along.
  • Demonstrate walking with the beanbag on your head, holding your head high with eyes looking straight ahead and your back straight with shoulders relaxed.
  • Explain that they will first practice walking from cone to cone with a beanbag balanced on their heads. They should pay attention to their posture as they go. They will then jog without the beanbag, using the same form that allowed them to keep the beanbag balanced.

Conduct the Activity

  1. Give each student a beanbag.
  2. Have students put the bags on their heads and walk to the cone or line that’s set about 10 meters away.
  3. Have them turn around and return in the same manner.
  4. Reinforce the good posture and head carriage they used, and then have them jog for about 20 meters using that same “tall” posture but without the beanbag. Have them run about four students at a time, and assess them as they run, giving helpful cues as needed.
  5. Repeat the beanbag walk and the jog if you have time to do so.

Assess the Students

What to watch for:

  • Eyes facing forward (not looking up or down)
  • Heads facing forward with chins parallel to the ground
  • Relatively still heads (not shaking side to side or bobbing up and down)
  • Straight backs. A slight forward lean is natural, but students who are leaning far forward, or who are hunched over, should be encouraged to straighten up.
  • Relaxed shoulders

Direction cues to share with students:

  • “Keep your head straight. Keep that beanbag on.”
  • “Eyes on the prize. Straight ahead.”
  • “Stay tall.” / “Run tall.”
  • “Imagine a beanbag on your head.” (when they are running without one)
  • “Imagine a string going from your spine straight through the top of your head to the sky.”
  • “Stay relaxed. Relax your shoulders”

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



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

  • How hard was it to walk with the beanbag?
  • How hard was it to jog with the beanbag? (If you had them try jogging with it)
  • Who can tell me how the head should be positioned when you're running? (Looking straight ahead, held high—not tilted up or down)
  • Why is it important to run with good posture? (It keeps the body parts in alignment—all stacked on top of each other. It helps prevent putting too much pressure on any one body part. It makes for easier breathing and movement. Plus, it's a more positive and confident posture.)


  • After the students successfully walk with the beanbags on their heads, try having them slowly jog with the beanbags on their heads. See how many can still keep the bags from falling, even vary the distance that they have to go.
  • If your runners are having great success with balancing beanbags on their heads, then add a challenge, have them jump over small hurdles or pass batons in a relay.
  • Run a relay race where each student walks or runs with the beanbag on his or her head to a cone or line about 10 meters away, then turns around and hurries back before the next teammate goes. If the bag drops in transit, the student has to put the bag back on his or her head before continuing.

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.

  • Encourage partners to run together and use ideas such as stand as tall as a giraffe or provide other fun visual cues to encourage student understanding.
  • Allow some children to hold the beanbag if needed on their head as long as they are “running tall.”
  • Running tall can also be encouraged for kids who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices encouraging them to “stand tall” first, before running tall.

Youth and Schools

New York Road Runners Mission