The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


FitnessGram Testing with Large Groups

Written by
Posted in

Tuesday, Feb 14, 2017

Administering the FitnessGram® assessment when you have a large number of students may seem overwhelming at first, but thoughtful preparation greatly reduces challenges on test day.  The systems or routines you use daily will promote better classroom management and efficient use of your testing time.  In addition, it maximizes physical activity time and minimizes transitional time between testing.  To become effective at testing large classes, our objectives are to:

  • Identify strategies to assess student fitness efficiently
  • Identify potential resources available
  • Organize systems and routines that promote efficient classroom management
  • Create a safe environment that builds trust for students and respects their privacy


Identify strategies to assess student fitness efficiently

It’s important to think of breaking things down into bite size chunks to make the job easier to manage. Having students do a pre-test early in the year allows for practice and improvement of the skill and a formal assessment at the end of the year is adequate evaluation.

Provide opportunities for students to practice the test and condition to prepare for the actual testing.  Teach and practice a fitness skill item that you can build into your lessons and then do small group assessment for one test item a week. It is not necessary to shut everything down and give all test items on one day. 

Teach a little and test a little.  This also allows you to teach the health concept associated with the test item and a fitness focus during the instructional period. Since the test is not set up to be a competition and never used as a grade, it takes the pressure off having to perform. It is also an opportunity to learn to be honest and responsible for your own health.

Guidelines include: 

  • Limit the number of assessments during the year  (pre- and post-tests)
  • Establish an atmosphere for self-testing for informal assessments
  • Provide multiple practice opportunities prior to assessing
  • Spread assessments out over a time period (test one or two items per week)
  • Use technology for recording data
  • Test small groups and have the other students rotate in and out when not being assessed to ensure the whole class is engaged in physical activities
  • Develop and train a cadre of volunteers who can assist you on testing days

Identify potential resources available to help assess.

  • Protocol Videos:  There are videos in the FitnessGram® software that can be used to help students learn.  Set them up to be successful by explaining, demonstrating and giving them time to practice.
  • Technology:  Many schools have iPads/tablets on that will enable you to directly input the results into the software. 
  • Gym Setup:  Make sure your gym or facility you will use is pre-set for the assessments and if necessary additional areas can be reserved ahead of time. This also needs to include a sound system for instructions or to play cadences used during testing.
  • Volunteers:  Finding personnel to help you can come from many different places.  One of the best resources can be a local college or university where future physical education teachers are being trained.  Contacting the professor in charge of their program could give you many invested testers.  The PTA from your school often has many parents that want to be involved in their children's programs and would be an asset with some training.  Also, recruiting some teachers on their off hour to come and help out can build support. 

If you are unable to secure trained personnel to help you then the best strategy is to test small groups and have the rest of the class engaged in a favorite physical activity or to prepare students to self or partner test.


Organize systems and routines that promote efficient classroom management.

Establishing routines and procedures in your classes at the beginning of the school year is key to making your classes run smoothly and your lessons flow.  It establishes an atmosphere of trust so students know they will be safe to learn and move. It is also critical in maximizing physical activity time and minimizing your transitional times.

Guidelines include:

  • Set up and establish daily routines that facilitate maximum physical activity and minimize transitional time
  • Pre-set equipment and facilities and have an instant activity
  • Practice and foster student self-direction daily
  • Plan lessons that flow from one activity to the next that build on skills
  • Know what your students can do and work with them to build them up skills and confidence in their abilities


Create a safe environment that builds trust and respects student privacy.

A community of learners is more likely to buy into the activities and participate with effort and a sense of pride when expectations are clearly defined.  Many elementary teachers use the first several weeks of the school year to cover all the rules, organizational procedures and routines.  This systematically puts students through a variety of activities to ensure each student knows and understands the rules and can follow how the class operates.  One of your major steps should be to plan ample conditioning to prepare students to participate safely in fitness activities by gradually building them up to prevent injuries, illness, or lack of success in the activity.

Guidelines include:

  • Establish rules, boundaries, and limitations
  • Set students up to be successful
  • Give challenges by choice
  • Responsibility to help for the good of the class
  • Develop a class community where each child feels supported and part of the class (buy in)
  • Expectations of respecting the rights and feelings of others
  • Give your best effort and participate

What does test day look like?

In preparation for the day of testing, having a team of volunteers who you have trained will be very helpful if you choose to try and do all testing on one day.  Since you have conditioned and prepared your students for the test, and they know and understand the expectations and protocol your test day will go smoothly.

Sample FitnessGram® Test Day

  • Pre-set your gym in FitnessGram® stations and mark them by number
  • Have your core volunteers at a pre-assigned station with a visual cue card with reminders for correct performance criteria, and tablet for recording results or students charts with pencils
  • Students enter and do a warmup for the activity
  • On a signal, students will split into pre-determined groups according to their group color
  • On a signal, groups rotate to the next station (time limit of 5-10 minutes per station).  Students can practice for the next station if they finish early
  • Rotate clockwise around the gym
  • Upon completion of the assessment, the teacher should have a cool down planned and reflect on the class successes


Checklist for Success

FitnessGram provides us with grassroots information about where our students’ fitness begins and how it improves with our lessons throughout the year.  We can set our students up for success by conditioning them, teaching them the proper way to perform, and providing multiple opportunities to practice.  Teaching students to value their fitness and its importance in their lives is a great skill that will enable them to build healthier lives. The skill of knowing and understanding how to develop and improve fitness is a truly a gift that will keep on giving throughout their adulthood.


Checklist for Success:

  • Establish clear rules, boundaries and limitations for your classes
  • Work with your students to be self-directed and develop an honor system
  • Train a core of volunteers to help you administer test
  • Prepare and condition students for your fitness assessments by conducting a pre-assessment and post assessment with lots of practice of the skills
  • Teach a little and test a little

Kathy Goodlett is a Texas native with over 30 years of teaching, coaching, and administrator experience.  After being inducted into the Texas A &M Commerce Athletic Hall of Fame, she turned her skills to coordinating the health and physical education program for Mesquite ISD.  A strong believer in measuring student fitness, Kathy has used FitnessGram® since its inception.