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Rock Paper Scissors Games for PE: 12 Timeless Activities for Fun and Conflict Resolution

For physical education teachers, fostering an environment of active learning, fun, and sportsmanship is a top priority. This can be achieved by incorporating timeless and simple games into their curriculum, one of which is the universally beloved game of Rock Paper Scissors. This humble game, with its straightforward rules and unique ability to resolve conflicts, can make PE class more engaging and educational.

Rock Paper Scissors: A Timeless Tool for Fun and Conflict Resolution w/ 12 Physical Education Games

At its core, Rock Paper Scissors is a game that requires no equipment, making it an ideal tool for use in PE activities. Not only can it serve as a quick method for decision-making and conflict resolution, but it also provides a plethora of opportunities for teachers to create fun games that enhance strategic thinking, physical agility, and teamwork. Let’s explore how we can make the most of this classic game in our PE classes.


The Journey and Mechanism of Rock Paper Scissors

Tracing the Origins of Rock Paper Scissors

Tracing the Origins of Rock Paper Scissors

Contrary to popular belief, Rock Paper Scissors isn't just a product of modern times. Although the precise origin of Rock Paper Scissors is shrouded in historical conjecture, the most accepted theory suggests it originated in China during the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). The game, known as "Jan-ken" in Japan, was introduced there and eventually disseminated to the Western world. Since then, it has been employed as a fair and unbiased decision-making tool in a variety of contexts, ranging from childhood games to professional disputes.


Mastering the Game of Rock Paper Scissors

Playing Rock Paper Scissors is a straightforward process. It's a two-player game where each player simultaneously forms one of three gestures with their hand on the fourth count - Rock (a closed fist), Paper (an open palm or flat hand), or Scissors (index and middle finger extended and separated, resembling a pair of scissors). The outcome is determined by the rules: Rock crushes Scissors, Scissors cuts Paper, and Paper covers Rock.

Rock Paper Scissors Instructions

  1. Start Position: Players start by facing each other, typically with one hand flat representing the stage and the other hand ready to display their chosen symbol.

  2. Countdown: Both players chant, "Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!" or a similar variant on the "shoot," they both display their hand symbol.


Determining a Winner

The first player who chooses the stronger symbol—according to the rules mentioned below—wins the round

RPS - Determining a Winner

  • If one player forms Rock and the other Scissors, the player with Rock wins, symbolizing 'rock blunts scissors'.

  • If one player forms Scissors and the other Paper, the player with Scissors wins, symbolizing 'scissors cut paper'.

  • If one player forms Paper and the other Rock, the player with Paper wins, symbolizing 'paper wraps rock'.

  • scissors beats paper, rock beats scissors, paper beats rock

  • If your opponent throws the same gesture (i.e. you both choose rock), it's a tie, and you play again.


Best Practices for Incorporating RPS in PE Classes

Integrating Rock Paper Scissors into PE classes extends beyond conflict resolution. Its simplicity and flexibility allow it to be morphed into numerous interactive games and activities that can be customized according to the age group and skill level of the students.

Below is a list of best practices for integrating RPS in physical education lessons:

1 - Teaching the Basic Rules: The first step in utilizing Rock Paper Scissors in PE is ensuring all students understand how to play the game. Take the time to explain and demonstrate the rules so that everyone can participate equally.

Best Practices for Incorporating RPS in PE Classes

2 - Use as a Conflict Resolution Tool: Conflicts, however minor, are common in a lively PE class. Determining who goes first in a game or resolving small disagreements during gameplay can be done smoothly with Rock Paper Scissors. Serving as an unbiased decision-making tool, it ensures fairness and eliminates room for further disagreements. When students know they have a quick, fair way to resolve conflicts, it reduces tension and helps in maintaining a positive atmosphere.

3 - Incorporate into Warm-up Activities: Use Rock Paper Scissors as a part of warm-up routines. It can serve as an engaging way to get students moving and thinking before diving into more intensive physical activities.

4 - Utilize for Team Selection: Instead of traditional methods of selecting teams, use Rock Paper Scissors. It ensures a random, unbiased selection process and can help avoid feelings of exclusion or favoritism.

Best Practices for Incorporating RPS in PE Classes

5 - Infuse into Existing Games: Integrate Rock Paper Scissors into traditional PE games to add a new level of strategy and excitement. This can bring a fresh perspective to familiar activities and challenge students in different ways.

6 - Promote Healthy Competition: Use Rock Paper Scissors tournaments or league play to promote healthy competition. This can help students understand the concept of winning and losing gracefully and foster good sportsmanship.

7 - Encourage Strategic Thinking: While Rock Paper Scissors is a game of chance, it can also involve some level of strategy. Encourage students to think about their opponent's possible moves and make their choices accordingly.

Best Practices for Incorporating RPS in PE Classes

8 - Use for Cool-down Activities: Just as it can be used for warm-ups, Rock Paper Scissors can also be a part of cool-down routines. It provides a less physically intense activity that still engages students while they're catching their breath.

9 - Reinforce Rules and Fair Play: Regularly reinforce the rules of Rock Paper Scissors and the importance of fair play. It can help to create a more respectful and inclusive PE environment.

10 - Keep it Fun: Above all, remember the essence of Rock Paper Scissors – it's a game and it's meant to be fun! Encourage laughter, cheerfulness, and enjoyment as students engage in this simple yet captivating activity.

Before introducing games based on Rock Paper Scissors, ensure that the students understand how to play it. Simulate a few rounds if necessary. Encourage them to use the game for quick decision-making and make it an integral part of other games and activities, thereby fostering a sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship.


12 Fun and Engaging Rock Paper Scissors Games for PE

In this section, I'll explore twelve fun games that revolve around Rock Paper Scissors, perfect for both elementary and middle school students. These games enhance physical fitness, strategic thinking, and teamwork.

1 - Rock Paper Scissors "Hoop Challenge"

Rock Paper Scissors Hoop Challenge is a FUN activity for a large group of students. Participants navigate their way through a course of "downed" hula hops spread out across a paying area.

Video by Matt Dykstra @MRD4PE-2


  • Place a large maze of "downed" hula hoops (connecting to each other" around a gym floor or classroom.

  • Students begin by jumping (2 feet to 2 feet) through the maze, attempting to get as far across the course as possible.

  • If they encounter another person in front of them, they must play RPS.

  • The winner is allowed to continue through the maze and the loser must bein at their starting area and repeat the process.

  • See the video above


2 - Rock Paper Scissors "Train"

In this rock paper scissors game, students form "trains" of players as they win rounds of Rock Paper Scissors, fostering teamwork and camaraderie.


  • Everyone finds a partner and plays Rock Paper Scissors.

  • The loser follows the winner, forming a train.

  • The winner of each pair then looks for a new opponent.

  • As players win or lose, they either add to the length of their train or join the train of their victor.

  • The game ends when one player leads the entire class in a train.


3 - Rock Paper Scissors "Levels"

In Rock Paper Scissors "Levels", players go through different body position levels by winning rounds of Rock Paper Scissors. It's a fun game that gets kids moving through a variety of height levels capping off with a student doing pushups at the end of a round.

Video by Jimmy Grassano @CLESPhysEd


  • Students find an opponent in a group to play RPS with.

  • Each pair starts in an upright position playing RPS (first round).

  • Winners stay in an upright position as long as possible.

  • If a person loses a game, they must go down 1 level.

  • 2 Feet-1 knee-2 knees-pushups

  • See the video above


4 - Rock Paper Scissors "Treasure Hunt"

This game combines the classic treasure hunt with Rock Paper Scissors. It engages students both physically and mentally, promoting strategic thinking.


  • Hide "treasures" around the gym or field.

  • Students must find these treasures, but before they can claim a found treasure, they must win a game of Rock Paper Scissors against another student.

  • The student with the most treasures at the end of the game wins.


5 - Rock Paper Scissors "Fitness Style"

Rock Paper Scissors "Fitness Style" is a more energetic and athletic form of RPS. It encompasses full body movements incorporating strength. endurance and flexibility.

Video by Larissa Aradj ,OCT @MrsGeekChic


  • Students find an opponent in their PE class or group.

  • They engage in a game of RPS with a fitness twist.

  • The partner group bounces up and down 3 times and then does the following movement pose for RPS.

  • Rock - Squat down and put hands over head, Paper - Arms and legs out wide, Scissors - Arms out; legs crossed.

  • Students find another partner and play again.

  • See the video above


6 - Rock Paper Scissors "Relay"

Rock Paper Scissors Relay is an exciting combination of a classic relay race and Rock Paper Scissors. This game not only promotes physical activity but also encourages quick decision-making and team spirit.


  • Divide the class into small groups that play against each other.

  • Have them line up on opposite ends of the gym or field.

  • On 'Go!', the first person from each team races to the middle to play Rock Paper Scissors.

  • The winner continues to the other end, while the loser returns to their team to tag the next player.

  • The first team to get all their players across the finish line wins.


7 - Rock Paper Scissors "Touchdown Derby"

Rock Paper Scissors "Touchdown Derby" is a fun football related Rock Paper Scissor related game in which small group teams of students try and advance a football across the gym by playing RPS against opponents as they move.

Video by Jimmy Grassano @CLESPhysEd


  • 2 small groups of students (2 to 4) stand on side lines in a gym or large classroom facing each other.

  • A player for one team runs a ball towards the other team's touchdown goal line.

  • A person from the other team runs to meet them in the playing field (they must tag them for them to stop their advance).

  • The player with the ball must put it on the ground between them.

  • They play RPS and whoever wins picks up the ball to advance it towards the other teams' goal line.

  • Once a RPS game is played and a winner is established, the other team can sed someone out to tag them and play another game of RPS.

  • The game continues until a team scores a touchdown and gets 7 points.

  • The process is repeated.

  • See the video above


8 - Rock Paper Scissors "Fitness Movement Challenge"

In this game, Rock Paper Scissors dictates the type of fitness movement a student performs, making it a fun way to incorporate different exercises.


  • Divide the class into pairs.

  • Each round of Rock Paper Scissors corresponds to a specific exercise (e.g., rock = 5 jumping jacks, paper = 3 push-ups, scissors = 4 sit-ups).

  • The winner of each round performs the exercise corresponding to their winning move, while the loser watches.

  • Switch partners after a set amount of time.


9 - Rock Paper Scissors- "Basketball Dribbling"

Rock Paper Scissors Basketball Dribbling incorporates hand dribbling with RPS games! Students dribble and go head-to-head on Rock Paper Scissors as they travel around a play area.

Video by Matt Dykstra @MRD4PE-2


  • Students start dribbling around a play area with a basketball.

  • They look for an opponent to play RPS with.

  • They play a game with one hand, while they dribble with the other.

  • After the game, they find a new opponent and switch dribbling hands.

  • See the video above


10 - Rock Paper Scissors "Warriors"

This game is a large-scale version of Rock Paper Scissors where teams battle each other in an epic showdown.


  • Divide the class into two teams.

  • Each team secretly decides on Rock, Paper, or Scissors.

  • Teams face each other and reveal their choice simultaneously.

  • The winning team chases the losing team back to their safe zone. Anyone tagged joins the opposing team.

  • Continue until one team has all the players.


11 - Rock Paper Scissors "Aerobic Tic-Tac-Toe"

RPS Aerobic Tic-Tac-Toe is an engaging game where students play in small groups, attempting to beat other teams in classic games of tic-tac-toe.

Video by Jimmy Grassano @CLESPhysEd


  • 2 small groups of students (2 to 4) stand on side lines in a gym or large classroom facing each other.

  • A player from each team meet in the middle where a tic-tac-to board has been laid on the ground.

  • They play RPS and whoever wins places an X or O marker on the tic-tac-toe board.

  • Each team tries to get 3 in a row first.

  • Repeat the process after each complete game.

  • See the video above


12 - Rock Paper Scissors "Islands"

Rock Paper Scissors Island is an adventurous game that requires strategic thinking and encourages physical activity. It creates an enjoyable atmosphere while promoting the principles of Rock Paper Scissors.


  • Designate various spots in the gym as “islands.”

  • Divide students into two teams and assign them to their respective “islands.”

  • The objective is to conquer the opponent's island by winning at Rock Paper Scissors.

  • A player can move to an opponent's island only if they beat an opponent's player in Rock Paper Scissors.

  • The team that successfully invades and occupies the opponent's island wins.


Final Thoughts

Rock Paper Scissors, a game that has persisted through the centuries, proves to be an incredible asset in physical education. From conflict resolution to being the core of exuberant PE activities, its simple concept of Rock crushing Scissors, Scissors cutting Paper, and Paper covering Rock, can be morphed into an endless array of applications. The adaptability and wide appeal of this game make it a potent tool for fostering a lively, engaging, and educational environment.

At its heart, physical education is about teaching students to value physical activity and sport for lifelong fitness and wellbeing. By incorporating simple yet effective games like Rock Paper Scissors into PE activities, we can achieve these goals while also keeping the fun alive. The game ideas outlined above showcase how PE teachers can infuse excitement, competition, and collaboration into their sessions using this simple yet versatile game. It's time to breathe new life into your PE curriculum with Rock Paper Scissors. By incorporating it into your lessons, you're not only making PE fun but also instilling important values such as sportsmanship and fair play.


FREE Visual for Your Learning Space!

Have you ever needed an attractive and practical visual to help reinforce your instruction on how to play Rock-Paper-Scissors? If so, Cap'n Pete's Power PE has you covered! The information is easy to understand, and the animation is attractive to help draw the students' eyes to the visual.

FREE Visual for Your Learning Space!

Fill out the form below to download a "Rock-Paper-Scissors" visual that you can use to reference when teaching your students in a classroom or gym. RPS is a great decision making game of wits, speed, dexterity and strategy for students to use to decide small disputes or to settle ties/draws. It is also a FUN game to use for fitness-based games in the gym and activities in the classroom.

The Rock-Paper-Scissors Poster: A Visual Guide (in 5 color schemes) displays the 1. Elements, 2. Throws, and 3. Methods for Winning Rock-Paper-Scissors. The animated pictures serve as a kid-friendly visual that students can easily relate to. It works as a great tool for giving students problem solving skills without repeated, direct teacher intervention.

This freebie poster will be sure to enhance your PE program for years!


Need more visual resources to help with your teaching?

Teaching physical education can be difficult. There are so many different things to cover, and it's hard to know what is the most important. I can help you make teaching PE simpler with engaging, student-friendly graphics that you may utilize on your gym wall or via a monitor. Visual aids can assist make physical education instruction much more simple. They break down complex topics into easy-to-understand visuals that will engage your students and help them learn.

If you're looking for high-quality visuals to help you teach PE and health, go with the Cap'n Pete's PE Poster Bundle: Physical Education and Health: 12 Reference Posters.

Cap'n Pete's Top Physical Education Posters - 25 Set Super Bundle.

You can download the bundle (or individual resources) from either of the following platforms: Cap'n Pete's Power PE Website or Teachers Pay Teachers- Cap'n Pete's TPT Store

Below are links to the visuals (downloaded individually) that make up this PE Poster Bundle:



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