Animal Run

By pretending to be different members of the animal kingdom, kids see how it feels to run at different paces

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This is a team-based, baton-passing game in which the last runner in line sprints to the front when she gets the baton. Students learn to run at a controlled slow and steady pace, and develop their ability to surge for short bursts.

Time Required
20 minutes

One baton for each group of 5-12 runners

Prepare for the Activity

  • Watch the Animal Run video to learn how to conduct this activity.
  • Define a course where students can run for somewhere between 400-800 meters.

Introduce the Activity

  • Tell your students the name of the activity and why they’re doing it. Say something like, “Sometimes it’s good to run fast—for example, when you’re playing a tag game or a relay game. And sometimes it’s better to run slower, especially if you’re going to be running for a long time. So today we’re going to see how it feels to run at different speeds."
  • Explain that you’ll be naming different animals that represent different speeds: some animals will call for walking; some for jogging; some for running; and some for sprinting.
  • Demonstrate what you mean. Call out “Turtle!” and walk. Then, call out “Pig!” and slowly jog. Then, call out “Horse!” and run, and finally call out “Cheetah!” and sprint. Return to your students and make sure they understand how to respond when you call out the different animals.

Conduct the Activity

  1. Have your runners spread out so they have some room to run and then call out the first animal. As they run, if some are having trouble with the speed (going too slow or too fast), help them to adjust their speed.
  2. Call out a new animal every 10-30 seconds.
  3. For sprinting, limit their time to a maximum of 15 seconds.
  4. Be mindful of allowing them to recover from their sprints or runs, mixing in plenty of jogs and walks.
  5. Use four main animals for the different speeds (e.g., turtle, pig, horse, cheetah) as your primary examples, but occasionally mix in a different animal, as long as it's clear what speed that animal denotes.

Assess the Students

What to watch for:

  • Clear differentiation between speeds.
  • Appropriate effort for each speed (i.e., hard effort for sprinting, medium effort for running, and easy effort for jogging).

Direction cues to share with students:

  • “Slow down! You should be running like a horse, not sprinting like a cheetah!” (For students who are sprinting when they should be running)
  • “Pick it up a bit! This speed should feel a little bit hard.” (For students who are jogging when they should be running)
  • “Fast as you can!” (For students who are running easily when they should be sprinting)
  • “Nice and easy! When jogging you should be able to talk to your friend without being out of breath.” (For students who are running when they should be jogging)

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


After the activity, talk to the students about their experience. Here are some questions to consider asking:

  • What did you need to do to run like one of the faster animals? (Take longer strides, take quicker steps, lift knees higher, swing arms more)
  • How hard was it to adjust from a slower speed to a faster speed?
  • What speed would you run if you had to run a long way? Why? (Jogging or running because they use less energy than sprinting so you can keep going longer)


  • Designate different students (one per lap, perhaps) to call out the animal names.
  • For younger runners you can read "Tortoise and the Hare" to demonstrate animals that have different speeds.
  • Print out pictures of animals.  The pictures can be placed around the area where the students are running or on cones as a cue for the runners.  When the student passes a new picture they have to run like that animal.
  • If you have a large class, you can create samll groups of runners (5 to 10 runners each) and send one group out at a time. This creates a less chaotic running environment and gives runners a chance to rest.

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.

  • Use visual aids that match the animal to the speed (e.g. cheetah/fast vs. sloth/slow).
  • Have students practice the different animal speeds multiple times in their own space. Along with a verbal cue, have a picture of each animal and a written walking speed underneath. Place the pictures throughout the gym so if a student is confused about the speed they can look anywhere in the gym and know how fast they should be going.
  • Consider having the students use sign language to make the “sound” of the animal or simply have students make the noises of the animals verbally.
  • Use multiple mats (gymnastics mats, wrestling mats, and the gym floor) as different sections for running. For example, if you want to walk like a pig, you walk on the gymnastics mats; if you want to jog like a horse, use the wrestling mats; and if you want to run like a cheetah, use the gym floor. This allows children to choose how they want to move. If you notice a child at the pig section for too long encourage them to move to the horse or cheetah section.


Ten Seconds and Counting
Like a car going through the gears, kids get to see how their form changes while slowing or increasing speed

What Is My Time?
Rather than seeing who can run the fastest, students see who has learned the most about measuring their pace

In a Heartbeat
Students get in touch with the most important muscle of all—the heart—learning to take their pulse after exercise.

Out and Back
Students deepen their understanding of pacing by attempting to run a given distance back and forth at the same pace

Continuous Relay
With plenty of team cheering, students run fast repeatedly, building strength and endurance

The Centipede
Teamwork, endurance, and spurts of speed come into play in this baton-passing game

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