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Cup Stacking Fun: 20 Cup Stacking Games and Activities for PE Classes

If you’re looking for some fun and active ways to get your PE class working on their coordination and reaction time, cup-stacking activities and games are the perfect solution! Incorporating movement experiences involving cup stacking into physical education lessons can help you improve student engagement while developing physical and cognitive abilities iconic to hand-eye coordination sports. It's an exhilarating and enjoyable experience that will have your students hooked!


Cup Stacking in Physical Education: 20 Fun and Engaging Speed Stacking Ideas and Activities for PE

Pics by @CodyBonhamPE and Mrs. Hochman & Mr. Ramlow @CopelandD70PE


Not only is sport stacking fun and exciting, but it can encourage teamwork and cooperation among the students. It also encourages improvement in motor skills such as hand-eye coordination, balance, agility, and reflexes. The objective of cup stacking is to build a predetermined pattern of cups as quickly as possible. It can be done individually or in teams and it challenges each participant to develop their skills in order to complete the task. Cup stacking games also provide an opportunity for students to practice strategies for problem-solving and communication, which are important skills for success in physical education.


Delve deep into the fascinating realm of cup stacking and its countless benefits in physical education with me. I'm here to cover how to properly execute this activity, as well as suggest ways for you to incorporate it seamlessly into your PE class curriculum. Plus, prepare yourself for a staggering 20 patterns, activities, and relays that can be implemented immediately - no prior knowledge or experience required!


Video by Cindy Obrien @coacho27


 

Why should I include cup stacking in PE?

Participating in cup stacking during a physical education class offers numerous benefits to students, such as:


1. Increased Focus

Cup stacking can help to increase focus and concentration. The act of stacking and unstacking cups requires a great deal of coordination and precision, which can help to improve focus and concentration.


2. Improved Motor Skills

Cup stacking cups can also help to improve fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are the ability to perform small movements with the hands, such as picking up small objects or threading a needle. Improving fine motor skills can be beneficial for activities such as writing, drawing, and sewing.

3. Increased hand-eye coordination

Cup stacking can also help to increase hand-eye coordination. Hand-eye coordination is the ability to coordinate the eyes and hands in order to perform a task. Improving hand-eye coordination can be beneficial for activities such as sports, playing musical instruments, and using computers.

Large Group Cup Stacking

Pic from TBK8 Elementary PE @TBK8ElemPE


4. Enhanced memory and recall

Cup stacking can also help to enhance memory and recall. The act of stacking and unstacking cups requires the use of both short-term and long-term memory, which can help to improve memory function. Additionally, the act of performing the same task repeatedly can help to embed the task in long-term memory, making it easier to recall.


5. Improved social skills

Cup stacking can also help to improve social skills. The activity is often performed in groups, which provides an opportunity for social interaction. Additionally, cup stacking requires teamwork and cooperation in order to be successful, which can help to promote social skills such as communication and collaboration.


Cup Stacking Benefits

6. Boosted self-esteem

Cup stacking can also help to boost self-esteem. The act of successfully completing a cup stack can provide a sense of accomplishment, which can lead to increased self-esteem. Additionally, cup stacking is often performed in groups, which provides an opportunity for positive social interaction and feedback from others


Does implementing cup stacking activities help address PE standards?

Cup stacking is not only enjoyable for students, but also a great way to help them meet the requirements of SHAPE America's Standard 1 which states: The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.* The stacking cups activities and games you choose to use during your PE lessons can easily meet any national, state, or district standards.


SHAPE America Standard 1- Cup Stacking

 

Competition Patterns for Cup Stacking


Cup stacking (sometimes referred to as sport stacking) offer students several patterns to attempt. I have included some in the activities section below, but two of the most practiced formations are 3-3-3 pattern for beginners competition setup and the advanced competitive configuration - the 3-6-3 pattern.


3-3-3 (Beginner Stack Pattern)

3-3-3 Cup Stacking Pattern
  1. To begin, gather 3 groups of 3 colored cups each and stack them in a nested formation.

  2. Begin building the stacks from the left, progressing to the right (up stack)- you end up with 3 pyramids of 3 cups

  3. Finally, start back at the beginning and work your way to the right to down stack the cups - you end back up with 3 sets of 3 cups in a nestled formation.

Note: Make sure you go back to the beginning (left side stack) to down stack the cups


Time to Shoot for: Beginner -10 seconds; Intermediate -6 seconds; Expert -under 4 seconds


3-6-3 (Competition Stack Pattern)

3-6-3 Cup Stacking Pattern
  1. Begin your session with three cups in one stack, six in the other and a third stack of three (go left to right).

  2. Begin by stacking three cups, followed by six cups in the 3-2-1 method. Then finish with another stack of three cups.

  3. Then go back to the first stack of 3 cups (on the left) to down stack in the same order.

Note: Get someone to time you as you up stack and down stack the pattern (speed stacks).


Time to Shoot for: Beginner- 10 seconds; Intermediate- 7 seconds; Expert- under 5 seconds

 

Tips for implementing cup stacking in a PE lesson

1. Choose the Right Equipment

When choosing equipment for your cup stacking activities, it is important to choose plastic cups that are the right size and shape for your students. Select cups that are specifically designed for stacking. Make sure that the cups are made from a durable material that can withstand being dropped or knocked over.

2. Teach proper technique

Once you have selected the right cups, it is important to teach your students proper cup stacking technique. The most important thing to remember is that each cup must be placed squarely on top of the other in order for the stack to be stable. Students should also be encouraged to use both hands when stacking the cups.


Cup Stacking- Peer Assessment

3. Start with a small stack

When first introducing cup stacking activities to your students, it is important to start with a small stack of cups. This will help to prevent frustration and will allow your students to get a feel for the activity before moving on to taller stacks. Once your students have mastered a small stack, you can gradually increase the number of cups in the stack.

4. Use a timer

To add an element of competition to cup stacking activities, you can use a timer to see who can build the tallest stack in a certain amount of time. This will help to motivate your students and will also allow you to keep track of their progress over time.

5. Modify the Activity as Needed

As your students become more skilled at cup stacking, you can modify the activity to make it more challenging. For example, you can increase the number of cups that they have to stack or decrease the amount of time that they have to complete the task.

6. Reward progress

Finally, be sure to reward your students for their progress in cup stacking activities. This can be done by giving out prizes or certificates for those who achieve certain milestones, such as building the tallest stack or improving their personal best time


Video from Randy Spring @MrSpringPE



PE Cup Stacking Patterns and Activities


There are a variety of ways your students can engage in the stacking activities listed below:

  1. At stations set up in and around your playing area- great for stacking patterns

  2. As a larger group, teacher or student-led activity- great for stretches and exercises, if you have enough space and cups

  3. In small group relay lines- great for move and stack activities


Stimulate your students with a friendly competition! Have them time themselves, encouraging each other to beat their own best times and go head-to-head for some extra fun. Students stand opposite of their opponent's stack.


10 Ways to Stack Cups Visual

Closed Stack Patterns (gym stations or classroom centers)

(Cups are all up-side-down)

  • Double 2-1 Closed (3-3)- Upstack and downstack 6 cups in two, 2-1 pyramids.

  • Single Tall Closed (1x6)- Upstack and downstack 6 cups in one, 6-high stack.

  • Single 3-2-1 Closed (1x6)- Upstack and downstack 6 cups in one, 3-2-1 pyramid.

  • Single 4-3-2 Closed (1x6)- Upstack and downstack 9 cups in one, 4-3-2 pyramid.

Closed Stack Patterns

Mixed Stack Patterns (gym stations or classroom centers)

(Cups are stacked in a mix of up-side-down and right-side-up)

  • Double 2-1 Mixed (3-3)- Upstack and downstack 6 cups in two, 2-1 pyramids.

  • Triple 2 Cup Mixed (2-2-2)- Upstack and downstack 6 cups in three, 2-high stacks.

  • Single 4-3-2 Mixed (1x9)- Upstack and downstack 6 cups in one, 2-2-1-1 pyramids.

  • Single 2-2-2-2-1 Mixed (1x9)- Upstack and downstack 9 cups in one, 2-2-2-2-1 stack.

Mixed Stack Patterns

Stretch and Stack (teacher or student-led activity)

  • Lunge Stack (3-3-3)- Perform three forward lunges to upstack three, 2-1 pyramids (one each lunge). Repeat to downstack.

  • Runner's Stretch Stack (3-2-1)- Perform a runners stretch to the left and upstack one, 3-2-1 pyramid. Stretch on the right to downstack.

  • Straddle Stack (4-3-2)- Perform a straddle stretch and upstack 6 cups in one, 4-3-2 pyramid. Repeat and downstack the cups.

  • Butterfly Stack (1x6)- Perform a butterfly stretch and upstack 9 cups in one, 6-high stack. Repeat and downstack the cups.

Stretch and Stack

Exercise and Stack (teacher or student-led activity)

  • Push-up Stack (3-2-1) - Perform 2 or 3 pushups before each cup you stack, while you upstack 6 cups in a 3-2-1 pyramid. Repeat and downstack the cups.

  • Curl-up Stack (3-3)- Perform 2 or 3 curl-ups before each cup you stack, while you upstack 6 cups in two 2-1 pyramids. Repeat and downstack the cups.

  • Mountain Climb and Stack (3-3 Mixed)- Perform 4 mountain climbers before each cup you stack, while you upstack 6 cups in two 3-cup stacks. Repeat and downstack the cups.

  • Jumping Jack and Stack (2-2-2-1)- Perform 3 jumping jacks before each cup you stack, while you upstack 9 cups in one, 2-2-2-2-1 stack. Repeat and downstack the cups.

Exercise and Stack

Travel and Stack (small group relay lines with at least two teams)

  • Crab and Stack (3-3)- Start at a cone and crabwalk to the cups to upstack 6 cups in two, 2-1 pyramids. Travel back to the cone and repeat to downstack the cups.

  • Scoot and Stack (3-3)- Start at a cone and ride a scooter board to the cups to upstack 6 cups in two, 2-1 pyramids. Ride back to the cone and repeat to downstack the cups

  • Skip and Stack (3-2-1)- Start at a cone and skip to the cups to upstack 6 cups in one, 3-2-1 pyramid. Skip back to the cone and repeat to downstack the cups.

  • Hop and Stack (3-2-1)- Start at a cone and hop to the cups to upstack 6 cups in one, 3-2-1 pyramid. Hop back to the cone and repeat to downstack the cups.

Travel and Stack

 

Final Thoughts


Cup stacking in PE provides a fun and exciting way to get your students active while developing their hand-eye coordination, reaction time and cognitive abilities. No matter the amount of space you have or how many students are in your class, cup stacking activities can be tailored to fit any situation. Whether it’s a large group activity with teacher-led exercises and stretches, small groups working together in relay lines, or individual stations working on stacking patterns, there is a way to make cup stacking work for you and your situation. So don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Get your students involved in the fast-paced world of cup stacking and watch them have a blast. You might just be surprised at the results!

Here's to successful stacking!

Are you incorporating stacking cups into your physical education classes? Share some of the activities and/or games that have been successful in your classroom! We would love to learn about all of your ideas, so leave a comment below for everyone to see.

*SHAPE America. (2013). National Standards for K-12 Physical Education. Reston, VA: Author.


If you need some cup stacking visuals like the ones referenced in the PE Cup Stacking Patterns and Activities section above you can find them here on Cap'n Pete's website.

 

Need resources?


Do you need some PE Equipment-Based Challenge Cards that can easily help you teach activities like the ones discussed in the equipment-based article above? Would it help to have easy-to-implement visuals that include detailed instructions and state-of-the-art graphics? Cap'n Pete's Power PE has you covered!


24 FREE PE Equipment Challenge Cards

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The set is a PDF digital download that includes four visuals (cards) from each the following equipment-based, skill, and movement challenge card sets: 1. Balloon Challenges, 2. Beanbag Challenges, 3. Pool Noodle Challenges, 4. Hula Hoop Challenges, 5. Playground Ball Challenges, 6. Jump Rope Challenges, and 7. Cup Stacking Challenges.

This freebie set will be sure to enhance your PE curriculum for years!

 

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20 Set PE Equipment Challenge Card Super Bundle

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This comprehensive visual collection will help you teach your students a plethora of movement and manipulative skills using 20 traditional pieces of physical education equipment that include: most balloons, beanbags, stacking cups, pool noodles, juggling scarves, hula hoops, tumbling mats, long jump ropes, short jump ropes, scooter boards, cones & poly spots, dice, Lummi sticks. long-handled implements, short-handled implements, basketballs, beachballs, footballs, playground balls, and soccer balls.



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