Three great #PhysEd games using playing Cards


Card games are something I have grown up with. Playing ‘snap’ and ’21’ with childhood friends and relatives was always fun. I still have wonderful memories of playing ‘500’ with my family on our caravan holidays around Australia and now occasionally participate in card nights with friends and always end up losing my money 😦

As a teacher I have seen classroom teachers use playing cards really effectively to facilitate learning (mostly in mathematics) which got me thinking… There must be a way to utilise playing cards as a PE teacher?

The randomness of playing cards and the element of surprise is something that children seem to enjoy. It’s funny how incorporating playing cards into basic activities somehow energizes students and engages them more actively in the game/activity. The following three games involve activities that are not particularly exciting, but the introduction of playing cards and the anticipation of the unknown that they create really brings the games to life!

Card Catches

Card Catches

Card Catches is a passing and catching activity with a twist. Organise your class into pairs and give them a ball to share. Each pair is to find their own space to work in and stand a few metres (passing distance) apart. The teacher stands in the middle holding a few decks of cards. To start the game, each pair must complete 10 passes back and forth. After the first set of 10 passes, the student that doesn’t have the ball runs to the teacher and gets a card to take back to his/her partner. The number on the card determines the number of passes that the pair must complete next. Eg, if they get a “7” card, they must complete “7” passes. At the completion of this set of passes the partner that doesn’t have the ball runs to the teacher to collect a new card and the game continues until the teacher runs out of cards.

Picture cards = 11 passes.

Variation: Black card = Bounce pass / Red Card = Chest pass.

Numeracy Links: At the end of the game, each pair adds up how many passes they completed by adding the numbers together on each of their cards. Younger students can simply count how many cards they have in total.

Download a PDF of the game here…Card Catches

Shuffle the Deck

Shuffle the Deck

Shuffle the Deck is a fitness / exercise game that incorporates playing cards to randomise the exercises and repetitions.

The first step is to assign a “workout area” for each student. I use flat spots or yoga mats to do this. It is important to ensure that students are spread out for safety sake. The next step is to assign an exercise to each card suit. It can be anything you like but I go with…

Diamonds = Star Jumps

Clubs = Push Ups

Hearts = High Knees

Clubs = Burpees

The number on the card determines the repetition of each exercise that needs to be completed. I usually go with ACE = 11 reps and King/Queen/Jack = 12 reps.

Here is a poster that I have made which I display in the gym during the game for students to refer to…

Shuffle Poster

Here is an A4 PDF version of the poster… Shuffle the Deck

The teacher needs to situate themselves in the middle of the playing area, holding a few decks of cards. Before commencing the game, provide each student with their fist card. This will be their first exercise. Eg, if a student has a 7 of spades, they need to complete seven burpees.  Students complete their own exercise according to their own card. After completing their exercise, they run to the teacher and get a new card. They then run back to their spot and complete that exercise and repeat the procedure again and again. This continues until the teacher runs out of cards which means the game stops.

Joker: I assign an activity called “Tag Ten” to the Joker card. This means that if a student draws a Joker, they need to run around and tag 10 different students before collecting a new card.

Numeracy Links: At the end of the game, get each student to add up how many reps they completed by adding the numbers together on each of their cards.

Full House

Full House

Full House is essentially a giant version of the “memory game” crossed with relay running.

Divide the class into 4 teams (Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds & Spades). Place 20 cones or discs in the middle and place one card under each. Must have a 10, Jack, Queen, King & Ace (Full House) of each suit. Players from each team take it in turns to run to the middle and turn over a disc. If the card suit matches the team, they take it back to their team, if not, they leave it in the spot. The first team to collect all 5 cards from their suit shout out “FULL HOUSE” and they win.

Full House also incorporates elements of teamwork and communication as players need to work effectively to ensure they don’t keep turning over the same disc.


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