Classroom Activity

Obstacle Course


This large and small group activity builds an increasing understanding of spatial sense through the use of location and position words. Students will be invited to move through an obstacle course created by the teacher. Later the students can create their own obstacle courses in the block area.

From the Virtual Pre-K: Ready For Math toolkit

Related Home Activities

Treasure Map

Up, Down, All Around: Location Words



  • 4.B.EC: Communicate needs, ideas, and thoughts.
  • 5.C.EC: Communicate information with others.
  • 9.B.EC: Find and name locations with simple words such as “near.”
  • 17.A.ECa: Locate objects and places in familiar environments.
  • 19.A.ECa: Engage in active play using gross motor skills.
  • 19.A.ECb: Engage in active play using fine motor skills.
  • 31.A.ECd: Show some initiative and independence in action.


  • LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT: Listening and Understanding; Speaking and Communicating
  • LITERACY: Book Knowledge and Appreciation
  • MATHEMATICS: Geometry and Spatial Sense
  • SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Self-Concept, Self-Regulation and Cooperation
  • ENGLISH LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT: Expressive English Language
  • PHYSICAL HEALTH & DEVELOPMENT: Gross Motor Skills and Fine Motor Skills

Lesson Objectives

  • Participate during the reading of a story by repeating familiar phrases
  • Use location/position words while going through the obstacle course and while creating an obstacle course in the block area
  • Use gross and fine motor skills while creating and walking through an obstacle course
  • Cooperate and work constructively in a small group to build an obstacle course using materials in the block area

Literature Suggestions

  • As The Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps
    by Gail Hartman
  • Rosie’s Walk
    by Pat Hutchins
  • Secret Birthday Message
    by Eric Carle
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
    by Paul Cauldon
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
    by Michael Rosen


  • "We’re Going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen
  • Sentence strips or a white board
  • Items for your obstacle course: cardboard boxes, classroom furniture (chairs, tables), hula hoops
  • Rebus pictures or signs to represent the location words you want to encourage
  • Blocks
  • Small figures, such as animals or people, to place in student-created obstacle courses

Lesson Description

  1. Before your students arrive, create a simple obstacle course with objects you have available.
  2. Many books will work with this activity, however the repetition in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen is a great way to engage the students and encourage their participation. Read the story at least once on a day prior to this activity so the students can enjoy the story and illustrations.
  3. After reading the story, review the location/position words with the students. Have the words on sentence strips, and place them where the students can see them. Explain that these words are very important because they let the reader know where to go. Examples of location/position words: on, off, on top of, over, under, in, out, into, out of, top, bottom, above, below, in front of, in back of, behind, beside, by, next to, between, same/different side, upside down.
  4. Explain to the class that they will be going through an obstacle course using these words. They will also be making their own obstacle courses in the block area.
  5. Explain that an obstacle course has several stations of activity that the children will need to complete before moving on through the course. Label each station with a rebus picture or sign that represents how the students should proceed through that station.
  6. Start at the beginning of the obstacle course and model how to move through it using location vocabulary such as over, under, and through. Then have students move through the obstacle course. As they are going through the course, encourage them to describe their movements using the location words.
  7. Give the students a few minutes to share their experiences in the obstacle course. You may be able to elicit other location/position words that your students are familiar with. “Can you think of some other ways that we could move through the course?” If there is time and enthusiasm, you might try the course again with the new location words the students suggested.
  8. In small groups, invite your students to create their own obstacle course in the block area. Let them know that they will have a limited time. Set the timer for fifteen minutes. Have other centers for students to explore as you are rotating the small groups through the block/obstacle course activity.
  9. Work together with the students to create a block obstacle course, and encourage them to move small figures through the course they have created. Provide rebus pictures or signs for the students to use to indicate how to complete their obstacle course. Invite each child to talk about and explain the obstacle course using location/position words.

Teacher Tip

Other location words can be added depending on the students’ language abilities, conversations and literature you are reading with your class. Some other spatial vocabulary to consider:
Movement words: up, down, forward, backward, around, through, to, from, toward, away from, sideways, across, back and forth, straight/curved path
Distance words: near, far, close to, far from, shortest/ longest path

Extension Ideas

You may want to take pictures of the block obstacle courses that your students create to display later, and/or use a voice recorder to document the students' responses.